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The Tagliatelle Brain 

Movie: music credit Art of silence by Uniq-CC By 4.0 

Place of Origin

The Netherlands 



Inspiration and composition


Using diffusion MRI (an in vivo non-invasive imaging technique), Leemans wanted to illustrate the complexities of the human brain both at a global and local level. ‘Seeing is believing, and I really wanted to show as clearly and as concise as possible this complicated underlying tissue architecture’. Images are one way that this can be done, ‘but a video can allow us to explore this architecture’. Using MATLAB, Leemans built his own software tool called ExploreDTI, which allows him to reconstruct brain pathways from a scanned image. The Tagliatelle Brain shows a virtual reconstruction of the different shapes of brain fibre pathways: ‘sheet-like shapes can be observed along the trajectory of these complex pathways reflecting the intersections with other white matter tracts’. The colours represent the orientations of the fibre tissue (red=left-right, green=front-back, blue=up-down). ‘These allow the viewer to see and appreciate the complexity of the brain’s circuitry, not only in terms of its global interconnectivity, but also with respect to its local geometrical embedding’.

The fly-through perspective accentuates this complexity but also showcases its awe-inspiring beauty. Navigating the viewer through the pathways of the brain, Leemans overlade the video with ambient music (Art of silence by Uniq-CC By 4.0), creating a truly breathtaking and mesmerising experience. He hopes when visitors see his work it challenges them to see how complicated the brain is and that there is a need for more research to fully understand this organ. ‘The more we learn about it the more we realise what we don’t know’. When asked about the role of creativity in his work, Leemans responded: ‘It is everything. It is the ability to think outside the box’, which he explains is important for understanding the world around us. ‘Knowledge is one thing, but a deep understanding is a lot more, and that requires creativity and exploration’.  

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The artist

About Alexander Leemans

Alexander Leemans is an Associate Professor in Medical Imaging at UMC Utrecht. He obtained his PhD from the University of Antwerp, where he focused on the modelling and processing of diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) data for improving the analysis of brain connectivity. His current research includes modelling, processing, visualising, and analysing diffusion MRI data for investigating microstructural and architectural tissue organisation. He is also the director of PROVIDI Lab and the developer of ExploreDTI; a graphical toolbox for investigating diffusion MRI data. 

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