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Arts - using film to explore neuroscience

Hugo Spiers, a Wellcome Trust Advanced Training fellow at UCL, first became involved in public engagement after writing a short article for the BBC on how memory works. Since then, Hugo has become involved in many types of public engagement activities and has been a recipient of two Wellcome Trust Arts Awards.

Hugo finds public engagement events rewarding because of the feedback from the audience, but he also enjoys working with artists because of their different take on scientific concepts. "I find it fantastic to discuss ideas with artists and through working with them it has been possible to engage the public in ways not possible by conventional discussion of the science."

For Hugo, the most positive aspect of working on an Arts project has been the public's reactions to the film installation that he and artists Bettina Vismann and Antoni Malinowski created. "We held a sequence of public lectures alongside the film installation and it was wonderful to have so many visitors participating in discussions."

"As a scientist, my ability to work creatively with images and think beyond the basic scientific model is suppressed for scientific 'truth' and simplicity. Collaborating with Antoni Malinowski and Bettina Vismann with the financial support of the Wellcome Trust has allowed me freedom to think creatively and forced me to consider my scientific research in a new light. The questions they ask in their own fields intrigue me. A core element of the collaboration is the attempt to meet at a shared understanding of the nature of space and our relationship to it, rather than creating an artistic illustration of scientific data. Thus, our resulting film 'Neurotopographics' is an attempt to explore the phenomena rather than explain it. Because of our different, yet related, backgrounds our discussions often follow unusual twists and open new avenues for thinking about space."

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