Speed Demons

This acrylic painting (18×24″) shows neurons with a focus on the axons (brown) and glia. These glia are called oligodendrocytes and their main role is to support neurons, at least that is the classical thinking.

Neurons send electrical signals through their axons. The speed of the electrical signal is determined by the myelin sheath which is made from a glial cell called an oligodendrocytes (blue). The oligodendrocytes wrap their processes around the axons and can do this to up to 50 axons.

The myelin is considered insulation. Signals are transmitted between myelin, with the signal jumping between these nodes (nodes of Ranvier). Yes nodes of Ranvier are named after the guy who discovered them.

Multiple sclerosis is a central nervous system disease that Of the nervous system associated with inflammation and damage to the oligodendrocytes.

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Spinal Cord

This is an 24×36″ acrylic painting of the spinal cord from the area that controls the legs and lower half of body.

The spinal cord is divided into the dorsal horn-upper part, and the ventral horn-lower half. The dorsal horn receives input from sensory fibers in green. It sends input through interneurons, in pink, to the spinothalamic tract cells, in blue. These cells are important for transmitting pain and temperature signals to the brain for perception of pain.

The purple cells in the ventral horn are motor neurons. Their axons send signals out to muscles through the ventral root, purple fibers/lines. These are important in control of movement. Lou Gehrig’s disease, known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a condition where the motor neurons die leaving significant weakness.

Below is the full painting with 4 sections of the spinal cord and several close ups showing the intricate details of the neuron structure. Neurons in the spinal cord have a lot of branches giving them significant coverage of area. This means they can receive a lot of information from a wide range of sensory fibers and other neurons. This makes them quite moldable, and responsive to changes throughout the body.

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Poppy Brain

This multimedia collage, 16×20″, pasted the chemical formula for morphine on a foam brain. I then painted a poppy field across the brain to illustrate all the areas involved in opioids effects.

Morphine is derived from the opium poppy. Due to the opioid epidemic there is a much greater awareness of the potential dangers of opioid use for pain control. However, opioids still remain an effective treatment for some, particularly in the short term.

The National Institute for Drug Abuse has a nice overview of the opioid problem in America. https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis

I response to overprescribing of opioids the Centers for Disease Control releases opioid prescribing guidelines in 2016. CDC Guidelines

There have been books, documentaries and numerous journal articles on the subject in recent years.

Tendonitis

This is a colored pencil sketch for how I envision tendonitis. Tendonitis is a common problem that occurs in multiple places of the body and leads to pain and loss of function. The tendon is made up of collagen fibers – shown in this drawing as blue tubes. It is produced by local cells called fibroblasts – shown in green- which live in between the collagen fibers. The pink area represents the part of the tendon that is inflamed and injured. Immune cells -spiked balls in purple- are found at the site of injury and contribute to the inflammation, pain, and healing process.

Alzheimer’s Brain

This is a brain set to represent Alzheimer’s disease. This is a relatively common and devastating disease that affects a person’s memory.

In the brain there are plaques and tangles that are indicative of Alzheimer’s. These two abnormal structures are thought to contribute to killing neurons.

Plaques are made up of beta amyloid protein that builds up between neurons.

Neurofibrillary tangles are made up of tau protein that accumulated inside the neuron.

It is generally thought that the plaques and tangles block communication and promote death of neurons. This leads to loss of memory characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.

This brain is an experiment with modeling past. I cut out a foam brain, added a layer of past and textured it. That was followed by adding paste to give the neurons a 3D structure. The color theme is purple, the “official” color for Alzheimer’s disease. The background of the brain is dark purple. The light purple neurons are uninjured, normal neurons. The darker purple neurons that are smaller with a pink glow are the dying neurons of the disease. There are strings on the neurons to represent tau protein and neurofibrillary tangles. The light whitish strings structures between the neurons represent beta-amyloid plaques, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s.

Neural Circuits

Neural Circuits

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This brain I made with the background using old IBM computer punch cards to represent the computing power of the brain. I then used resisters, capacitors, and transistors connected with wire to represent the capacity of neurons to transmit and process information.

The outer edges of the brain are an organized pattern to represent cerebral cortex cell organization. As you move towards the inside of the brain the connections get more complicated and less organized to represent a more complicated network that occurs between brain areas particularly in limbic structures.

Basic neuroscientists use a number of techniques to examine the circuitry and connectivity in the brain to better understand complex neural processing in normal and diseased states. Interneurons create neural local neural circuits to communicate between systems in the central nervous system (CNS). These neurons can connect between themselves locally in a brain region or can connect different brain regions to ultimatley result in a functional response. The circuits are complex and mediate sensation, motor function, learning and memory, and emotions.

Life Vessels

This is a colored pencil drawing showing connections between arteries and veins, called arteriovenous anastomosis. The red vessels are arterioles that take blood and nutrients to tissue and the blue vessels are venules that take blood and waste away from the tissue. The circulation is a closed and continuous system. FYI -red is used to depict arteries because it is oxygenated giving it the classical bright red color, and venous blood is depicted as blue because it is deoxygenated giving it a reddish blue color.

Pain Brain

This is a mixed media artwork showing areas in brain involved in processing pain. The background is a collage of brain images from published papers using brain imaging. The yellow and white map pins represent areas involved in pain processing. Colored strings represent connections between neurons. The red and pink strings around the yellow and white map pins show active the areas involved pain in the prefrontal, cingukate, insular, and sensory cortex, and the temporopareital junction.

Rainbow brain

This painting shows a brain with neurons colored across the visual spectrum. I chose to use the variety of colors to represent the diversity of function across the brain which includes decision making, learning and memory, emotion, sensation, motor control, speech, heating and vision.

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