The Stone Age Institute
Brain Sculpture:
Community Arts Project We Can Learn From


Brain Sculpture

The SAI Brain on display at 744 E. 3rd Street in Bloomington, Indiana.
The sculpture will remain on display from May 1st through October 15th, 2012

The Brain Extravaganza is a cummunity arts project that is the "brain child" of Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. Jill is a brain scientist who suffered a stroke in 1996 and went on to write the book Stroke of Insight after her recovery. Jill is a neuroanatomist by profession, and she planned this project in order to promote awareness, appreciation, and education of the brain by bringing together sponsors and artisans to create large fiberglass models of the brain. Once completed, the brain creations would be publicly exhibited as works of art all over the town of Bloomington, Indiana.

When Stone Age Institute co-Directors Kathy Schick and Nicholas Toth were invited to participate as a sponsor of The Brain Extravaganza project, they knew it would be a great way to support the community while furthering the Stone Age Institute's science and education mission.

Kathy and Nick's vision for the Stone Age Institute-sponsored brain was for it to be a vital tool for science education, to help people learn about human brain evolution and how evolution has shaped our brains. Nick and Kathy met with local artists Jon and Patricia Hecker to discuss thier vision for the science education aspect of the SAI-sponsored brain. Together the four brainstormed about different artistic directions that might be taken.

After much discussion, a plan was decided that promised to be hugely informative about human brain evolution and also richly artistic and visually dynamic. The plan was to represent human brain evolution with an underlying color palette to show which areas of the brain have expanded the most (and the least) in the past 30 to 40 million years of human evolution. On top of these shaded areas, the artists would apply stamped images and words to reflect and evoke many of the richly diverse functions and activities of the human brain. To aid in this process, Kathy and Nick provided the artists some "maps" of human brain function to help guide and spur this creative process. The artists began their artwork on the giant brain in February and completed the project in April of 2012.

Brain Sculpture

A close-up of showing details of the brain sculpture

About the Stone Age Institute Brain Sculpture

“The Evolution of the Human Brain”

Sponsor: The Stone Age Institute, Drs. Kathy Schick and Nicholas Toth, Directors.
Artists: Jon and Patricia Hecker
Theme: “Evolution and Science Education.”

Which neural areas have expanded the most over the course of human evolution?*

The color shading on the Stone Age Institute brain reflects evolutionary changes undergone by the human brain according to the color code below:

Yellow: The most expansion relative to a "primitive" brain.
Light orange: Significant expansion
Dark orange: Less expansion
Blue: Little or no expansion (the more “primitive” areas of our brain)

The areas of the human brain that have expanded the most in our evolution (shown in yellow) are up to 32 times larger in humans than in a more "primitive" brain! These yellow areas are involved in higher cognitive functions in humans, and include areas of the frontal (front), parietal (upper side), and temporal (lower side) lobes of the brain.*

The artists, Patricia and Jon Hecker, illustrated the SAI Brain with images and words that artistically reflect functions of the brain in the various regions.

*For more information about evolutionary changes in the human brain, see “Similar patterns of cortical expansion during human development and evolution,” by Jason Hill, Terrie Inder, Jeffrey Neil, Donna Dierker, John Harwell, and David Van Essen. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Volume 107, July 20, 2010, pp. 13135-13140

The Brain Extravaganze project resulted in 22 brain creations which were unveiled in a grand launch party at the Bloomington South High School Gymnasium. After the public unveiling, the brains were placed in strategic locations around the town of Bloomington, Indiana, including several on the campus of Indiana University (including the SAI sculpture), where they will be on display until mid-October, 2012.