Brain 101

Photo credit Hey Paul Studios

Photo credit Hey Paul Studios

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It weighs just three pounds but neuroscientists say the brain is as complicated as the universe itself.

There are 86 billion neurons making trillions of connections. And brain scans allow neuroscientists to peer inside the brain to see those connections as they form incredible networks that work together to make us who we are. But it wasn't always that way. 

This week on Think About It, medical historian Dr. Jock Murray tells the tales of times past, when we once thought of the brain as a place where demons crept, a pump that sent fluids coursing through the body, an organ separate from the mind. Neuroscientist Dr. Alan Purdy introduces us to the bouquet-like structure of the brain. Then Dr. Bill Reichman, the President and CEO of Baycrest Health Sciences delivers up his knowledge on how we can work with the plasticity of our brains as we get older ... we are sculptors of our own "synaptic density."

We even take a trip to the Maritime Brain Tissue Bank where Dr. Sultan Darvesh shows us the valuable flesh in his vaults. Join our host Roberta Walker on Think About It: A User's Guide to the Brain as she talks with neuroscientists about the checkered history of brain science and its promising future.

Web exclusive - Brain Portraits 

The interplay between brain, mind and body is a fascinating part of what makes us human and its complexity easily fills us with awe. It often obscures the precision of scientific measurement, and finds itself fitting appropriately with the big picture questioning that art can call home. 

For some of us, complex changes in this brain, mind and body interplay alter the ways in which we are our own selves, and pull expression out of our minds from deeper within to explore what that might mean. Elizabeth Jameson a lawyer who was diagnosed with MS in 1991 offers beautiful artwork from her own brain that not only explores what's inside of it and how it is connected to her larger self, but aims to make the conversation around medical imagery more accessible. 

Jameson took inspiration from the medical scans she was having done on an ongoing basis with an MRI machine. Her reinterpretation of what started out as medical data turned the inward looking magnetic gaze of the MRI into an outward facing portrait of her inner mind that others would otherwise have a difficult time seeing. Laced with beautiful colours and composition, Jameson's art of the brain shines a light on science while creatively exploring her individuality within it.  Elizabeth Jameson's MRI brain art is displayed in the permanent collection at Harvard University's Center for Mind and Brain and the University of California, Berkeley's Li Ka Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Services. 

Find images at her site http://www.jamesonfineart.com/index.php.

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