Fields Notes 17:3 - Page 13

Narrating Neuroscience ON OCTOBER 20, SCIENCE and art enthusiasts gathered at the Fields In- stitute for a discussion on the role of storytelling and art in communicating complex and often abstract concepts in neuroscience. The four speakers each presented their perspective on neuro- science communication, painting a di- verse and multifaceted picture. Art can help explain neuroscience concepts and sometimes, neuroscience can even dictate art. Matteo Farinella, PhD, Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience – Columbia University Matteo Farinella had two passions in his life, neuroscience research and comics. He never once considered that the two could be combined. That is, un- til a post-doc named Hana Ros joined his lab. She saw the potential, and what started out as an inside joke between the two of them soon became a beauti- fully illustrated story called Neurocom- ic. Supported by the Wellcome Trust, Neurocomic is a graphic novel journey through the human brain. Farinella’s goal was not to try and write a textbook in comic form – good textbooks with beautiful illustrations already exist. Rather, he wanted to fo- cus on the narrative component. In his story, the main character gets trapped inside a brain and must learn about it to find his way out. Shelley Wall, AOCAD, MSc, PhD – Assistant professor, Biomedical Communications Graduate Program and Department of Biology, UTM Shelley Wall is a certified medical il- lustrator with a PhD in literature and a Masters in biomedical communication. Maybe it was this combination of quali- fications that drew her to comics about medicine. Similarly to Farinella, Wall’s work fo- cusses on the narrative component, but rather than purely educational, Wall is interested in more of a memoir-style comic where patients and caregivers share their personal experiences. When someone is diagnosed with a serious neurodegenerative disease, they are rarely interested in the mechanism or history behind the condition; they want to know what kind of treatment they can get, how long they have, and what ef- fect this will have on their family. Alfonso Fasano, MD, PhD, Associ- ate Professor – University of Toronto Clinician Investigator – Krembil Re- search Institute Movement Disorders Centre – Toronto Western Hospital Fasano’s presentation was unique, in that it didn’t focus on using art to com- municate neuroscience, but rather on how neuroscience, more specifically brain disorders, can affect art. Fasano showed examples of artists diagnosed with Parkinson’s and how their art changed before and after di- agnosis, and also after starting a medi- cation regimen. He also explained that patients on Parkinson’s medication can sometimes develop a condition called punding, where they are compelled to perform a task, seemingly a form of art, over and over again. Tahani Baakdhah, MD, MSc, PhD candidate – University of Toronto Baakdhah’s presentation was different not because of the topic, but because of the medium. Baakdhah is the talent behind Knit-A-Neuron Toronto, where she teaches participants how to crochet various types of brain and retinal cells using homemade patterns. You may have seen her colourful and cuddly cre- ations on Instagram or Twitter. Baakdhah, who is completing her PhD in retinal stem cell biology at the Uni- versity of Toronto, says she loves how engaged people become at these types of events.  — Malgosia Ip 13