A healthy neuronal circuitry between the different control centres of the brain involved in appetite and food intake is important to maintain a healthy body weight. There are, broadly speaking, three control regions. The fuel sensor, formed of the paraventricular (PVN) and arcuate (ARC) nuclei in the hypothalamus; the visceral centre in the hindbrain, which signals fullness and illness; and the reward centre, which makes eating feel nice. In this sculpture, the coloured lattice represents the overlapping layers of neuronal projections to these centres that occur in our brain.
From the fuel sensor in the hypothalamus, red threads represent neurons that stop eating (anorexigenic), green threads those increasing food intake (orexigenic). Yellow threads represent neurons projecting from the hindbrain to the reward centre signalling a spectrum from pleasant to unpleasant. Purple threads represent neurons projecting from the reward centre to the rest of the brain.
This textile sculpture was attached to a dissolvable starch-based cloth, which was sewn and embroidered onto, including wild carrot flowering heads to represent the neuronal cell bodies. Dipping the whole sculpture into water dissolved the starch, leaving a lattice of thread and connected textiles. After drying on a mould the remaining starchy threads formed a stiff structure. This process reflects a scientific technique called CLARITY where neurons are fluorescently tagged and then the brain is ‘cleared’ of lipids, leaving a 3D lattice of neuronal projections, which you can image using a high-powered microscope.
Giles Yeo is a programme leader at the MRC Metabolic Diseases Unit in Cambridge and his research currently focuses on the influence of genes on feeding behaviour and bodyweight. Jane Goodall is also a Cambridge scientist who researches the mechanism of unwanted weight loss during heart failure and its link to neurones involved in brain control of food intake. Clare Goodall is a medieval storyteller and historical costumer who worked on this unusual project with hand sewing and a sewing machine.