by Sally Salomonsson
In a sense, we all have an Inner Cinema – networks of brain cells that through their intricate electrochemical communication evoke the sensation of pattern recognition and emotions, and underlie all other aspects of cognition. Making brain cells in a dish in the lab is practically real-life sci-fi, and an important part of what I do for my PhD project, investigating a genetic form of neurodegenerative disease. Through digitally manipulating microscope photos of fluorescent dye-labelled cellular subcomponents of real neurons, which I’ve personally grown in the lab, I’ve created ambiguous and self-recursive dreamscapes. One may find eyes and other recognisable objects upon closer examination. This “pareidolia” arises from the fact that we’re hardwired to pay attention to certain things in our environment which carry large amounts of salient information for us. The human environment is remarkably social, making us experts at recognising the presence of eyes and reading intention in them. However, because we are also constantly inferring all kinds of patterns from minimal information, we often make false positive errors, which becomes evident when we become absorbed by the cryptic stimuli from the Inner Cinema project.
Sally Salomonsson grew up roaming the ancient and wild forests of rural Sweden, but decided to make a temporary home for herself in London, UK, where she is working towards a neuroscience PhD at University College London, among other adventures. “My PhD project investigates a genetic form of neurodegenerative disease, for which I make living brain cells in a dish to study in detail in the lab, with the ultimate goal of understanding the disease better to design therapeutics for patients. After completing the PhD next year, I hope to commence graduate medicine studies to become a neurologist. My dream is to produce artwork alongside and donate profit to brain research.”