This week for The Bridge, I am working on the series of prints that Richelle and I are creating. My part is to write a series of questions about autism and the cerebellum, and then provide answers in a couple of short paragraphs. I can’t wait to see the images Richelle creates to bring my text to life! Our goal is to add one entry per week for the rest of The Bridge residency, meaning that in total we’ll have about fifteen entries at the end. So far I’m up to twelve questions and five answers.
I’m excited to see how these prints turn out, and looking forward to seeing them both as an e-magazine and limited run print edition. If you have a question about autism and/or the cerebellum, tweet it to me @dhsimmons1.
Anyway, this week, I tackled questions about whether or not there’s more autism than there used to be and what causes autism. Let me start by stating that vaccines absolutely do not cause autism. Not even a little bit. Numerous studies (go Google them) have shown that there’s no connection between autism and vaccines. In fact, the original paper linking them has been retracted by the journal (The Lancet), and the author of the study has been discredited. You can still look up the original paper, but now it has large red letters over the text that reads, “retracted”.
In between preparing some text for these questions, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the lab doing experiments to examine the physiology of the cerebellum in autism. I took a few more photos of really nice Purkinje cells (neurons in the cerebellum) and some dendrites. Enjoy!
Image: Dendrites on a Purkinje cell from the cerebellum of an autistic mouse. I added false coloring to the image using calcium imaging Zen 2008 software. In nature, dendrites, and all neural tissue, have a pale pink or white-gray-ish color. In this image, the red/orange “glow” around the branches is where the dendritic spines stick out. These spines are where important processes such as learning and memory happen at a molecular level.
Image: This is a photo of a Purkinje cell that is filled with dye. Near the upper left corner (circled), you can see a light cone shape, which is actually the shadow of a glass pipette with an electrode in it. During the experiment, I use this electrode to deliver small electrical pulses to the Purkinje cell, and I measure how the cell responds in order to learn about how Purkinje neurons are affected by autism. Can you find the square section of dendrites in this photo that I used for the close-up false color image of the dendritic branching?
Check back in one week for our next update!
Getting ready to work with Dana to create a series of artworks generated in response to her short questions and answers about the brain. Together we will fuse text responses with visual imagery to comprehend many aspects of the brain. For example, we will ponder how it functions, what is inside, why we think and act certain ways and the various mysteries that make up our brain.
Image from www.img.webmd.boots.com
This project is an attempt to fuse art and neuroscience to understand our own inner workings. We hope that by showing imagery paired with textual explanations it will enable us to more closely understand the complexities of the brain. Our brain! And, our ability to interpret information. I anticipate the artwork will serve as visual poetry to the content Dana sends to me.
As promised in my previous post, below are some close-up images of the Intertwined mixed-media drawings that incorporate Dana’s neuron imagery.
Intertwined-1, charcoal, ink, watercolor on Stonehenge, 30 x 24 inches, 2015
Intertwined-2, charcoal, ink, watercolor on Stonehenge, 30 x 24 inches, 2015
Intertwined-3, charcoal, ink, watercolor on Stonehenge, 30 x 24 inches, 2015
Intertwined-4, charcoal, ink, watercolor on Stonehenge, 30 x 24 inches, 2015
Intertwined-5, charcoal, ink, watercolor on Stonehenge, 30 x 24 inches, 2015