Come and experience the power of brain art. Experience how art is used to explain the brain and, vice versa, how artists are inspired by the beauty and fascination of the brain. Stimulate your senses, reflect, watch dance performances, and delight in colourful videos and images that bring the brain to life.
Fun activities:
See the beauty of the brain in 2D, 3D and even 4D! ● Join in with dancers, as they enter and interact with brain cells! ● Help us wiring up a large 3D brain model ● Learn how artists can model the brain in many forms: ● See the making of an oil painting of the brain, from its very early beginnings ● View embroidered images of different brain cells ● Watch videos zoom through the connections of the brain and watch how they trumpet out! ● Guess which brain belongs to which animal!


Discovery zone 1: A journey through a brain’s life
Find out about the journey of the artist Jacob Smith when he created a large oil painting, featuring the earliest forms of brain cells through to those that we see at the end of life. See the process come together. The work will be on display in the Great Hall.

An oil painting by Jacob Smith

An oil painting by Jacob Smith

Discovery zone 2: Helps us to wire up a giant brain

Reconstruction of the axon wiring in a human brain (Photo/Human Connecttome Project)

Reconstruction of the axon wiring in a human brain (Photo/Human Connecttome Project)

Nerve cells form cable-like processes called axons which wire our nervous system and form the paths through which our thoughts flow.  Using woollen threads as axons we wired up a 2m long 3D brain structure assembled by Paul Smith and placed on the landing in front of the Great Hall during the Brain Box event. We asked visitors to join in by adding their personal connections to that brain, choosing their own colour to connect across as ever they liked! We wondered whether people would follow existing paths or choose their individual directions? Whether patterns would develop, connections cluster or distribute evenly across the sculpture? The wiring process was documented by Florin Nica and Keith Myers as part of the Connected Explorers project which will be on display in the British Pavilion at the Olympic Games in Rio [LINK1][LINK2].


What a success the brain wiring activity was! Hundreds and hundreds shared in! The wiring turned out to be refreshingly chaotic, clearly more dense in the upper brain regions and concentrated on the sculpture’s surface. The time-lapse documentation is now available (see below), and the sculpture is now on permanent exhibition in The University of Manchester’s AV Hill neuroscience building (see the FBMH news blog).



Discovery zone 3: The MND Dance Group
Emma Hodgson-Tole and the MND dance group will be staging an interactive performance. See them enter a motor neuron and make it become active. Join in as their performance explores the functions of these vital brain cells in health and motor neuron disease. Watch performances at 11.30, 2.30 and 4.30 in the Great Hall and find more detail here.

Discovery zone 4: Embroidology
Experience the embroidery of the Coventry artist Stephanie Bowen which explores the shape and forms of different brain cells. For Brain Box, she has created images of brain cells from the cerebellum and ‘glue’ cells (glial support cells). The art work can be seen in the Banqueting Hall.

A "Purkinje cell" - embroidery by Stephanie Bowen

A “Purkinje cell” – embroidery by Stephanie Bowen

Discovery zone 5: ‘Your Brain on Art’
Luca Ticini  will talk you through the brain science of creating and appreciating beauty in pictures. Why are some people more creative than others? What happens in your head when you see pictures that you like? Come and listen to Luca in Committee Room 3 at 3 pm.

Discovery zone 6: A brainy float joins the Brain Box

The brainy float

The brainy float in preparation.

Inspired by this year’s theme of Eureka, Venture Arts (visual arts charity working alongside learning disabled artists) [LINK] and the Leonard Cheshire CanDo (volunteering for disabled people) [LINK] have joined forces with Walk The Plank artists Fi Smith and Jo Foley to create a brain-themed float. In preparation, a young people’s group discussed the theme, including ideas of the brain, neurons, Alan Turing’s Enigma machine, and science fiction films including Jonny Pneumonic or Men In Black!  From this, the group decided to dress up as “Men In Black” with sci-fi visors that give the impression of viewing straight onto the person’s brain, to accompany a float with a giant brain. This brain is ~2.5 metres tall made of 5 brain-shaped slices, with holes cut out that are filled with colourful cellophane. The brain structure sits on a base covered with letter keys inspired by the Enigma machine, and it has neurons, tubing and wires attached, some held and moved by members of the group whilst walking in the parade. The float joins The Brain Box after the parade, so watch out for their brain sculpture in front of the Town Hall and spot Men in Black exploring the exhibition!

Venture Arts joining the Brain Box during the event.

Venture Arts joining the Brain Box during the event. Click to enlarge.

Discovery zone 7: Beauty of the brain
One of the leading neuroscientist-artists Greg Dunn from Philadelphia will be displaying images of his work on screen.  His work brings forth the fascinating microscopic images of brain cells with striking colours. This art work will be on display in Committee Room 3 accompanied by videos shown inbetween talks and presentations.

An image from the brain by Greg Dunn

An image from the brain by Greg Dunn

A brain image by Cox and Muhlert

A brain image by Cox and Muhlert

Discovery zone 8: Spooky brain trumpets!

See ghostly, spooky brain images by the neuroscientists Dan Cox and Nils Muhlert which will be on display in the Banqueting Room. Come and watch the brain ‘trumpet’ created by Alex Leemans from detailed images of brain connections. They are on display in Committee Room 3 inbetween talks and presentations.

Discovery zone 9: Experience your sense of touch
Helen Marie-Newman is the artist in residence at the Whitworth Art Gallery. She made some sculptures for you to consider the sense of touch. Feel your way round the lumpy, bumpy objects before going on to learn how your brain processes this information. Come and experience Helen’s objects in the Banquet Hall and learn more about her objects here.

Objects for your senses by Helen Marie Newman

Ojects for your senses by

Discovery zone 10:  STROKE – Stories of Self Through Art and Science    &    The Stroke Choir
Come and view the personal and collective stories of life before and after a stroke as told through the survivors’ artistic interpretations – through creative writing, visual arts and photography.  The exhibits provide a personal insight into a complex and often devastating condition, but also show that there is potential for an enriching and positive life after stroke. Come and see our exhibition in the hall way in front of the Reception and Banqueting Halls.

The NW Stroke Community Choir is based in Greater Manchester and is made up of stroke survivors and family members, Stroke Association Staff and volunteers and health professionals and students working in the field of stroke.  They just love to sing together. Come and enjoy their performance at 5.30 pm in the Great Hall.

Discovery zone 11:  Brainy quotations
Lucy Burke has compiled quotations about the brain stretching back over 400 years. Read how scientists describe their quest to figure out the workings of the human brain. See how these quotes come to life when paired with historical and modern brain images. Look out for text from the literature about the brain scattered throughout the Town Hall.

When the Apollo astronauts went to the moon and brought back pictures of our planet of oceans and clouds hanging over a grey moonscape in the middle of a black nowhere, it changed the way we saw ourselves. We knew already that we inhabited the surface of a small spinning sphere that rolled around an ordinary star, at the edge of an unremarkable galaxy, just one of indeterminate billions in a vast, indifferent cosmos. But now, occupying a few degrees of retinal space, comfortably absorbed in the folds of the visual cortex, a mere portion of the visual field, we saw our home in its true colours. It was precious and vulnerable, a small fragile object, a thing we should take care of. It was, indeed, our home … Something similar happens when you see a brain. Imagination infiltrates intellect. You get a sense of location and vulnerability. Our home (From Paul Broks, Into the Silent Land: Travels in Neuropsychology, 2003, p.54)



Contributing artists and research groups:

  • Nils Muhlert, School of Psychological Sciences, Univ. of Manchester — [LINK]
  • Jacob Smith, Devon — [LINK][email]
  • Lucy Burke, Manchester Metropolitan Univ. — [LINK]
  • Alex Leemans, Utrecht, Netherlands — [LINK]
  • Stephanie Bowen, Coventry — [LINK]
  • Greg Dunn, Philadelphia, US — [LINK]
  • Paul Smith, Manchester — [email]
  • Venture Arts, Hulme, Manchester — [LINK]
  • Fi Smith — [LINK]
  • Jo Foley — [LINK]
  • Leonard Cheshire CanDo project — [LINK]
  • Dan Cox, School of Psychological Sciences, Univ. of Manchester — [LINK]
  • Emma Hodson-Tole, Manchester Metropolitan Univ. — [LINK]
  • MND Dance Team — [LINK]
  • Luca Ticini, School of Psychological Sciences, Univ. of Manchester — [LINK]
  • Helen Marie-Newman, Whitworth Gallery, Univ. of Manchester — [LINK]
  • Stephanie Snow, Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, Univ. of Manchester — [LINK]
  • Stroke Research Group, Univ. Manchester — [LINK]
  • The Stroke Association — [LINK]