NEW ORLEANS - As brain neuroscientists at LSU Health Sciences Center look for answers to illnesses and conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, strokes, TBI (traumatic brain injury) and epilepsy, an artist is now at their side.
Her paintings, and a new film shot here in New Orleans, are part of the research team.
In LSU neuroscience center labs, Ph.D.s are making discoveries to fight brain illness such as Alzheimer's. And looking at neurons through the microscope with them is artist, Taryn Moller Nicoll.
"Just as the greatest artists drew from life, for me working with the body, it's an incredible opportunity for me to really pull from real life observation, and take what I see in a medical sense and translate it in to an aesthetic field," explained LSUHSC Artist in Residence Taryn Moller Nicoll.
The first of a dozen or so works will be a large oil of a study she has done of Rita Hayworth. She died of Alzheimer's, initially misdiagnosed as alcoholism-induced dementia. The progression of what changing and dying neurons look like under a microscope, is interpreted to show what slowly strips a person of memories and personality.
"I really want there to be a message of hope, kind of captured with in each painting. Whether it's feeling like comfort, company, that there's common ground between the viewer and the subject within the painting, or just to remind them that there are people consistently working towards finding a cure," said Moller Nicoll, who hopes to have five to 15 works when the collection is completed in a year.
This collaboration is the brainchild of Dr. Nicolas Bazan, director of the LSU Neuroscience Center of Excellence. Along with his M.D. and Ph.D., he is an artist too, as a musician and novelist. His latest book 'Una Vida: A Fable of Music and the Mind' is about Alzheimer's and was recently made into a film and has been submitted to Sundance Film Festival.
"It's terrible to see the progression of all of these brain diseases that we have no cure, and we need more research and we need more funding. We need more support and the only way to do that is creating awareness," said Dr. Bazan.
Awareness, he says, is important, as his work with German scientists is proving.
"The reason that Germany did this big investment (in research) is that if this is not conquered in four decades, Germany will have to spend 4.5 percent of the GDP in the care of the patients with Alzheimer's," he explained about the future costs of patients if money is not spent now on research to find treatments and cures.
This new program is art imitating life, in hopes that we will help neuroscientists extend quality of life.
Dr. Bazan says films accepted in Sundance will be announced in December.
The art exhibit of Taryn Moller Nicoll will be sometime next year.
For more on Dr. Bazan:
For more on the book Una Vida: