Monday, October 27, 2014

Smithsonian Magazine

Ok, so today I want to share with you one of the most fun and fascinating assignments I have done this year. On the stands this November you can find an image we created for Smithsonian Magazine. The assignment was to create a composite image of two scientists who work on brain research at MIT. The art director wanted us to craft an image that depicted the scientists manipulating a brain and pretty much gave us free rein on what we could produce, so we decided to have some fun with it.

A composite images of two scientists, Dr. Xu and Steve Ramirez, reach into and manipulating a glowing virtual brain .
This is the original image we submitted.

Dr. Xu and doctoral student Steve Ramirez have been conducting research related to memory. It almost seems like something from a science fiction movie. Their research focuses on implanting memories that are not there. Scary right? But the motivation driving these scientists is benign. As the magazine states, "Their research has launched a new era in memory research and can someday lead to new treatments for medical and psychiatric afflictions such as depression, post traumatic stress disorder and Alzheimer's disease".

They conducted tests on mice that showed the mice reacting to situations in a way they would have if they had lived the experience before. They placed a mouse in a box and instead of sniffing around as it normally would, the mouse froze in terror, recalling the experience of receiving a foot shock in the same box. The thing is, the memory was fictitious; the mouse had never received an electric shock in the box before. Rather, it was reacting to a false memory implanted by the scientists. Not only were they able to identify the brain cells involved but they could also manipulate those cells in order to create a whole new fictitious memory. There are certainly a lot of ethical questions when it comes to this kind of scientific advancement. You can read more about it in the November issue of Smithsonian Magazine.

What are your thoughts on all of this?

Tearsheet from the Smithsonian Magazine featuring the composite image, created by Irvin Serrano Photography, representing scientest studying and working with the human brain and memory loss.
Here is how it ran in the Magazine.
A black and white portrait of two scientists, Dr. Xu and Steve Ramirez, in lab coats.
Dr. Xu (right) Steve Ramirez (left)

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