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The gold at the end of rainbow coloured brain maps. Are we seduced by neuroimages?

The image above was made from my brain data by the Hong Kong radiology expert and artist, Dr Kai-Hung Fung

Are we seduced by rainbow coloured images of human brains? Do we think that neuroscientific explanations are ‘gold’? As new neuroscientific instruments such as MRI and EEG have made it possible to safely image living human brains, there has been a concurrent significant increase in data from neuroscientific research, in particular neuroimaging, and a proliferation of the use of brightly coloured neuroimages in the popular press.

Scholars of rhetoric have problematised the ‘seductive allure’ of both neuroscientific explanations (Weisberg et al. 2008). Psychologist, Deena Skolnick Weisberg  found that  non experts judged that explanations with logically irrelevant neuroscience information were more satisfying than explanations without neuroscience information. In other words, they claim that to non experts (most of us) neuroscientific explanations for human behaviour are more convincing than explanations that do not refer to neuroscience.

Scholar of neuro-humanities and rhetoric, David Gruber, questions associated claims, specifically, that neuroscientific  images have a seductive allure (Gruber et al. 2011). Gruber and his co-authors concluded that “images alone may not have a strong effect upon evaluation, that no image is necessarily more persuasive than another as implied by earlier studies that are often used in conjunction with such explanations.”

Against this background, a better understanding of neuroimages, which are referred to repeatedly in the debates and practices of neuroscience, became important for the realisation of my artwork. This is because neuroimages are central to the way that Neuro Memento Mori because  is produced.

When I make art as a result of neuroscience experiments, is the art work seductive or compelling because it relates to neuroscientific explanations about brain activity?  If so, who finds it seductive? What is the impact of using neuroimages to make the art works? What kind of neuroimages might I use and what do they mean? The image above is from my brain data, made by a radiologist and artist, Dr Kai-Hung FungHis processing of my MRI data results in a highly coloured ‘seductive’ image. How do these images fit into debates within contemporary art that problematise beauty in art? More on that soon.

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