In last week’s entry, I posted a list of questions that I plan to answer for my collaborative project with Richelle. The first question I focused on this week was about finding Purkinje patterns in nature. A Purkinje pattern is something that starts as one main channel and branches out many times, each time branching into smaller and smaller divisions. I think one of the best examples of a Purkinje pattern in macroscopic nature is seen in tree branches.
In the photo below, the tree trunk branches off into several main sections, then divides further into tiny branches. Similarly, a Purkinje cell has a main dendrite that usually branches into two large dendrites. The two large dendrites quickly split into tiny little branches, where most dendritic spines are found. Dendritic spines look like little stubs that stick out from dendrites. Often, when I see trees decorated with Christmas lights, the lights remind me of dendritic spines.
Can you recognize the pattern that resembles Purkinje cell dendrites in the two trees with Christmas lights in this photo? Note: Though the tree has lights around the trunk, it’s important to remember that Purkinje cells have most of their spines in the small dendritic branches, not the large primary branches. I took this picture yesterday in Chicago’s Federal Plaza. The red sculpture is Alexander Calder’s “Flamingo”, and the buildings in the plaza were designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
For comparison, here’s one of my new photos of a Purkinje cell from the lab:
Here’s a new Purkinje cell photo I collected at the end of my experiments last week. Can you see the tree branch structure in this neuron?
In addition to answering neuroscience questions, I’ve been working on printing some dendrites. I first trace a printed image of some of my dendrites onto foam, creating a printing plate. Then I will roll ink onto the template and press the foam into paper to print my dendrites. I’ll post a photo next week with some of the prints after I finish making the foam plate.
Here’s the foam printing plate I’m working on (bottom) along with two printed images of dendrites I imaged under the microscope.
Check back next week for news about my collaboration with Richelle!
Opening reception of Kala Artist’s Annual at Kala Gallery on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015.
The selected drawing for exhibition is “Intertwined-4,” which combines various network forms including neural imagery contributed by Dana. It was exciting to share this work to more people and hear their input. Some gallery visitors suggested this drawing be enlarged into a giant mural or made into a puzzle to promote connectivity through interactions. Others were very interested in seeing the complete set of drawings because they are interrelated and visually link together.
Intertwined-4 is the second from the left on the wall.
YOU’RE INVITED! If you find yourself in the Bay Area in the coming months, take a look!
Kala Artists' Annual Exhibition December 17, 2015 – March 26, 2016 Gallery Hours: Tue-Fri, 12-5:00pm; Sat, 12-4:30pm Gallery location: 2990 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702 510-841-7000