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.

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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.

Meeting Doodles

I just attended the annual meeting of the orthopedic section of the American Physical Therapy Association. Got to give a talk on the science of Pain and how to implement this into clinical practice. During the meeting, the hotel gave us black paper and silver gel pens to take notes. Not a great idea, especially for an artist. I usually doodle during all meetings but these may have been my best doodles yet. I did a cross section of muscle, a group of immune cells, a neuron, and action potentials from myelinated and unmyelinated neurons.

The Amazing Shrinking Fat

This is a series of four different paintings showing fat cells, called adipocytes in obese individuals and how they lose their size with regular exercise. Note the size of the fat cell shrinks with decreasing weight, but the number of fat cells do not. I have put a silhouette on each figure to show how increasing activity decreases weight, and changes size of fat cells.

I also show macrophages in white and purple. Note the white macrophages are more prominent with increased fat and the dark purple cells are more prominent in the normal weight individual that is running. These two types of macrophages have different functions. The white ones, called M1s, release chemicals, called cytokines, that produce inflammation and pain. The purple ones, called M2s, release chemicals that reduce inflammation and are analgesic. Regular exercise can change these macrophage types to increase the chemicals that reduce pain and inflammation.

Obesity is associated with a number of other diseases including chronic pain, heat disease and diabetes. Systemic inflammation contributes to these conditions, and regular exercise is an effective treatment for these conditions.

Differentiation

This acrylic painting shows stem cells in black and white and the cells they can differentiate into in the body. This includes neurons in blur, endothelial cells that line the walls of blood vessels in red at top, epithelial cells lining the gut in green, fat cells (adipocytes) in Light brown, muscle cells in red at bottom of picture, chondrocytes that make up cartilage in orange and immune cells in purple.

Pain Wars

This cartoon I call Pain Wars. It represents the balance between inhibition and excitation that goes on in the central nervous system to modulate pain. I show neurons with their axon terminals shooting out neurotransmitters. Excitatory neurons are red and inhibitory are blue.

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