INI Visualizations Featured in Keck School of Medicine Exhibition

Elegant visualizations of neuroscience data and phenomena are meant to help researchers better understand the brain, but these eye-catching images also have artistic value. This quarter, two of the USC Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute’s (INI) visualization specialists, Jim Stanis and Tyler Ard, contributed images to an on-campus exhibition, Neurological System Art.

Stanis, INI’s in-house medical and scientific animator, created “Synaptogenesis,” an image that shows neurons in the brain forming new connections: axons of each neuron grow to synapse with the dendritic spines on the dendrites of other neurons. Stanis used 3DS Max—an animation software package originally built to create visual effects for TV and film—to create 3D models of neurons and to animate the growth of dendrites and axons.

Ard, assistant professor of research at INI, created “Connected Self” using data from fellow INI assistant professor Yonggang Shi. The image shows two different MRI scans of the same subject, highlighting the axons that connect various parts of the brain to one another. Connectivity was measured with a technique called diffusion MRI tractography; different colors represent the orientation of axons in the brain.

Their work appears alongside two featured artists: J. Frederic May and Jane Szabo. In 2012, May suffered a severe stroke during open heart surgery, leaving him legally blind and experiencing visual hallucinations. He uses a data corruption software to create blurry and fragmented images that simulate his visual experience. Szabo has prosopagnosia, or face blindness, and explores self-portraiture and identity through her work. She received her MFA from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.

The exhibit is currently on display at the Hoyt Gallery in the Keith Administration Building (KAM).

"Synaptogenesis" by Jim Stanis

"Connected Self" by Tyler Ard