If Parkinson’s were Art
What would the experience and effect of Parkinson’s disease look like if it were art? Muscle rigidity. Resting tremors. Soft speech. Cognitive dysfunction. These are some of the symptoms described by neuroscientists who study this degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. As the disease process kills dopamine-generating cells in the brain, it yields motor and neuropsychiatric disturbances. So how would an artist capture what it means to have Parkinson’s? How would an artist create what it means to have Alzheimer’s disease? To go even further into the embodiment of neuroscience, how would an artist represent brain cells? And what’s the point of having an artist do these things anyhow?
To address these questions and more, the Brain Health Research Center at Otago University and the Dunedin School of Art at Otago Polytechnic (both in New Zealand) teamed up to produce “The Art and Neuroscience Project”. This endeavor paired neuroscientists with artists to encourage the public’s re-thinking of brain scientists, their research, and the people they’re hoping to help. While there doesn’t appear to be a slideshow of the resulting artworks (darn!), you can listen to an 8-minute interview with two participants who covered Parkinson’s disease:
You’ll want to turn up the volume at the halfway mark; just as they’re discussing the mask-like facial expression and associated communication problems that are inherently interesting to therapists, the recording suddenly falls soft. But despite this and even without the artwork to refer to, the interviewees’ account paints a picture in the mind’s eye. A few images from “The Art and Neuroscience Project” are actually alive on the internet through articles at http://www.otago.ac.nz/otagobulletin/news/otago050874.html and http://www.odt.co.nz/campus/university-otago/260990/neuro-art-brain. They’re worth a look, and perhaps “The Art and Neuroscience Project” will inspire you to create art about the work you do and the people—and brains—you’re hoping to help.
With appreciation for the important work you do,
Megan October 2014