Art and neuroscience

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Last night, I had the honor of being featured at a Portland State University event. It was sponsored and organized by Scholars for the Awareness of Neuroscience Education (SANE) at the university. They asked me to show my film, “Friending with Brain Injury!,” because it shows how people with brain injuries are stigmatized and misunderstood. It also shows how we sometimes misunderstand each other but can come together as peers without being judgmental anyway!

I love that neuroscience students are intrigued by the art that disabled folks make. After the film, a student asked what I want people to take away from watching it. I was frightfully unable to answer. But the answer was actually in her question. What do I want? I want you to watch and ask questions just like you did. I want you to wonder more about us. I want you to wonder more about yourself and how you feel when you interact with disabled people and folks from other marginalized communities. I want you to see us, hear us, get to know us, walk beside us, respect us just like you did. So I answered it 12 hours later. Better late than never.

The colors in this painting are bright and highly saturated blue, green, pink, burgandy, orange, yellow, and red. There are many shades of each color. The painting style looks like everything in the picture is made from cut-out paper or puzzle pieces. Everything fits together perfectly but is very jarring to look at. The painting is of a barn. Visual confusion, overlaying and flattening of images, pulsating kaleidoscopic colors.
[Credit: Debbie Ayles, Wellcome Images Painting of a barn showing the visual phenomena the artist experiences during a migraine.]

Here’s more art by folks with neurological conditions. These presentations are also sponsored by folks who work in neuroscience. I like that they include the artists’ perspectives. They could just show the art and talk about us, for us. They could treat the art like the results of some testing or experiment. That would feel like a circus freak show. They don’t do that. They treat the art like beautiful, expressive work made by interesting people.

Click here for Culture Lab’s article called “Art of neurological conditions fosters empathy,” which talks about a UK arts exhibit.

Visit to find out more about the art from the Culture Lab article.

In July, I will host an exhibition at the Splendorporium gallery. I’m doing this so we have also arts shows in the art world, sponsored by artists, that feature art by folks with brain injury. After all, we may have a neurological condition, but we are more than just patients or examples of medical diagnoses. So I hope very much that we can do both: show off our work to and with scientists and show off our work to and with other artists and arts appreciators.