How do you feel about your brain?
As individuals, we live inside our heads. As societies we live in cities.
In both of these, millions of potential connections and interactions exist simultaneously; a web of possible outcomes that is so complex it almost defies our ability to imagine it.
The Cerebral City project explores affinities between the structure of the brain and the landscape of the city, and one specific part of the brain in particular: the fornix, where our powers of memory and navigation are centred.
But the fornix is also the location of the seizures that cause epilepsy.
We wondered whether there might be a connection between memory, spatial awareness and epilepsy. And, building on current research into walking therapies for other conditions, whether there might be a benefit to sufferers of epileptic seizures.
We created navigable ‘pathways’ across London by transposing data from MRI scans of living human brains onto maps of the city.
These psycho-geographic pathways formed the score for a series of walking performances by three subjects: artist Matthew Maxwell, neuroscientist Dr Eugenio Abela and photographer Jason McGlade, who has a history of epilepsy.
Each subject recorded the experience in their own way, capturing an impression at each of 23 points along their route.
Creating art using a scientific method allows us to look outside the visible spectrum of both traditions. Art is subjective. Science seeks to remove all subjectivity. What would happen if we used both techniques together?
Results from this pilot were encouraging and we now aim to expand the sample base and refine the process, making it available to a wider audience, generating more data.
A cross-discipline team aligning arts with science
Graduating in 2010 with a BA in Anthropology from Goldsmiths College, London, Amber has coordinated a number of epilepsy research projects involving patients and their families. She is interested in the social aspects of clinical research, specifically research ethics and patient-public-engagement; recently completing her Masters degree in Bioethics and Society at King’s College London.
Dr. Eugenio Abela
A clinical neurologist and European Union funded Marie Curie Fellow at King’s College London. After obtaining his medical diploma and doctorate from the University of Zurich, he was a resident at the Departments of Neurology of the Kantonsspital St. Gallen and the University Hospital Bern. Eugenio is interested in using advanced neuroimaging techniques in neuroscience research to better understand, diagnose and treat epilepsies.
Jason is a photographer and creative director with projects featured in multiple publications including Vogue, Elle and Tank magazines, as well as the self-published Freestyle magazine reflecting his love of the sport of freestyle frisbee, and is currently working to gain its acceptance as an Olympic demonstration sport. He developed a form of epilepsy at the age of 26 and now lives and works in Berlin and London.
Artist & Designer
Matthew Maxwell studied Fine Art at Oxford University and has work in private and public collections in France, UK and the USA. Originally a painter, his artistic practice now explores affinities between language and technologies. This has included virtual and augmented reality, music composition and film making. In his spare time he works as a creative director at Sapient, an interactive marketing agency
The Cerebral City is a collaboration between King’s College London’s Department of Basic & Clinical Neuroscience and Matthew Maxwell brokered and supported by the Cultural Institute at King’s.