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Photograph of a living human brain is the overall winner of Wellcome Image Awards 2012

21 June 2012

A visceral photograph of a living human brain has been announced as the overall winner in this year’s Wellcome Image Awards.

Taken by Robert Ludlow of UCL's Institute of Neurology during a surgical procedure to treat a patient with epilepsy, the image depicts the beauty and fragility of this enigmatic organ.

Professor Alice Roberts, who was a member of the judging panel, said: "This is a remarkable image of a human brain. What makes it so different from most images of the surface of the brain is that this organ is living - this is a brain as it is encountered during neurosurgery.

"Through the skill of the photographer, we have the privilege of seeing something that is normally hidden away inside our skulls. The arteries are bright scarlet with oxygenated blood, the veins deep purple and the 'grey matter' of the brain a flushed, delicate pink. It is quite extraordinary."

The Award was presented at a ceremony at Wellcome Collection in London last night. Sixteen Wellcome Image Awards were presented in total, and this marks the first time that an overall winner has been selected.

Catherine Draycott, Head of Wellcome Images and a member of the judging panel, said: "The Wellcome Image Awards are unique in that the winners are chosen for their scientific and technical merit as much as for their aesthetic appeal. They offer people a chance to get closer to science and research and see it in a different way, as a source of beauty, as well as providing important information about ourselves and the world around us."

Medical photography is a notoriously difficult practice: photographers have to work around clinicians to capture images with no control over lighting or conditions. But the images are essential for helping doctors to make diagnoses, to track and record treatments, and for education purposes.

Other Wellcome Image Award winners include a vibrant, false-colour magnification of a caffeine crystal and a hair-raising close-up of a moth fly. The Awards will be on display at Wellcome Collection until December 2012.

Image: Intracranial recording for epilepsy. Credit: Robert Ludlow, UCL Institute of Neurology, London.

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