Hello Brain! At The Crick Probes Secrets Of The Mind... With Knitting

M@
By M@
Hello Brain! At The Crick Probes Secrets Of The Mind... With Knitting

For more from London's art world, sign up for our new (free) newsletter and community: Londonist: Urban Palette.

Hello Brain exhibition at the Crick

A new exhibition right next to St Pancras station looks at the cutting edge of brain research... with bonus needlecraft.

If you've never been inside the Francis Crick Institute, this new exhibition is the perfect opportunity to correct that. It's a doddle to find. The mammoth biomedical research centre sits behind the British Library, right opposite the western exit to St Pancras Station. Here. This place ⬇️

Francis Crick Institute

You can freely wander in Wed-Sat to use the public cafe, and to see this excellent new exhibition.

"You have 10 times more neurons in your head than there are people on Earth," says the opening splash. Their connections, called synapses, run into the trillions. It's the first of many reminders of the complexity of the human brain... and how difficult it is to study.

The small exhibition packs a lot in, focussing on key areas under investigation by the Crick's researchers. It's all very quickfire. One minute we're'studying a panel about how a fly can smell; the next we're probing the cause of hallucinations; and then we discover how the brain changes during pregnancy. I can't say I've given any of these topics much thought before... it's a dizzying rush of ideas.

Another section looks at attempts to understand the 'connectome', or how various bits of brain communicate with one another. The concept is illustrated using the unexpected combo of an impaled skull and a wheel of embroidery.

The connectome of a damaged brain at Francis Crick Institute

Here we learn the remarkable tale of Phineas Gage who, in 1848, survived an horrendous pole-through-head incident suggested by the display. The accompanying embroidery shows the various trunk connections in a healthy brain (top) and the much depleted network that Gage would have struggled on with.

It's not the only bit of needlecraft in the room. Far from it. We're greeted by hundreds of knitted and crocheted neurons, which dangle from the ceiling and open the exhibition. Indeed, I'm told that patterns and materials to create your own yarn-based brain cells will be available in the cafe throughout the show's run.

Knitted and crocheted neurons
Neurons come in many shapes and configurations... as ably shown by these yarn-based models created by Neural Knitworks

The exhibition itself is something of a patchwork quilt. The brain is an infinite topic and we're only gifted insights into a handful of research areas. Still, it's a tightly curated, well-explained and fascinating dip into the some of the themes under investigation at the Crick. Keep an open mind, and enjoy the brain dump.

Hello Brain! is on at the Francis Crick Institute from 2 March until 7 December 2024. It's free and you can walk in Wed-Sat. The recommended age is 12+ but the place is very child friendly with a cafe and play equipment.

All images by Matt Brown.

Last Updated 29 February 2024