Behold an Anatomically Correct Replica of the Human Brain, Knitted by a Psychiatrist

Our brains dic­tate our every move.

They’re the ones who spur us to study hard, so we can make some­thing of our­selves, in order to bet­ter our com­mu­ni­ties.

They name our babies, choose our clothes, decide what we’re hun­gry for.

They make and break laws, orga­nize protests, frit­ter away hours on social media, and give us the green light to binge watch a bunch of dumb shows when we could be read­ing War and Peace.

They also plant the seeds for Fitz­car­ral­do-like cre­ative endeav­ors that take over our lives and gen­er­ate lit­tle to no income.

We may describe such endeav­ors as a labor of love, into which we’ve poured our entire heart and soul, but think for a sec­ond.

Who’s real­ly respon­si­ble here?

The heart, that mus­cu­lar fist-sized Valen­tine, con­tent to just pump-pump-pump its way through life, lub-dub, lub-dub, from cra­dle to grave?

Or the brain, a crafty Iago of an organ, pos­ses­sor of bil­lions of neu­rons, com­plex, con­tra­dic­to­ry, a mys­tery we’re far from unrav­el­ing?

Psy­chi­a­trist Dr. Karen Nor­berg’s brain has steered her to study such heavy duty sub­jects as the day­care effect, the rise in youth sui­cide, and the risk of pre­scrib­ing selec­tive sero­tonin reup­take inhibitors as a treat­ment for depres­sion.

On a lighter note, it also told her to devote nine months to knit­ting an anatom­i­cal­ly cor­rect repli­ca of the human brain.

(Twelve, if you count three months of research before cast­ing on.)

How did her brain con­vince her to embark on this mad­cap assign­ment?

Easy. It arranged for her to be in the mid­dle of a more pro­sa­ic knit­ting project, then goosed her into notic­ing how the ruf­fles of that project resem­bled the wrin­kles of the cere­bral cor­tex.


Not like­ly. Espe­cial­ly when one of the cere­bral cor­tex’s most impor­tant duties is deci­sion mak­ing.

As she explained in an inter­view with The Tele­graph, brain devel­op­ment is not unlike the growth of a knit­ted piece:

You can see very nat­u­ral­ly how the ‘rip­pling’ effect of the cere­bral cor­tex emerges from prop­er­ties that prob­a­bly have to do with nerve cell growth. In the case of knit­ting, the effect is cre­at­ed by increas­ing the num­ber of stitch­es in each row.

Dr. Norberg—who, yes, has on occa­sion referred to her project as a labor of love—told Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can that such a mas­sive crafty under­tak­ing appealed to her sense of humor because “it seemed so ridicu­lous and would be an enor­mous­ly com­pli­cat­ed, absurd­ly ambi­tious thing to do.”

That’s the point at which many people’s brains would give them per­mis­sion to stop, but Dr. Nor­berg and her brain per­sist­ed, push­ing past the hypo­thet­i­cal, cre­at­ing col­or­ful indi­vid­ual struc­tures that were even­tu­al­ly sewn into two cud­dly hemi­spheres that can be joined with a zip­per.

(She also let slip that her brain—by which she means the knit­ted one, though the obser­va­tion cer­tain­ly holds true for the one in her head—is female, due to its robust cor­pus cal­lo­sum, the “tough body” whose mil­lions of fibers pro­mote com­mu­ni­ca­tion and con­nec­tion.)

via The Tele­graph

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Mas­sive, Knit­ted Tapes­try of the Galaxy: Soft­ware Engi­neer Hacks a Knit­ting Machine & Cre­ates a Star Map Fea­tur­ing 88 Con­stel­la­tions

Jazz Musi­cian Plays Acoustic Gui­tar While Under­go­ing Brain Surgery, Help­ing Doc­tors Mon­i­tor Their Progress

How Med­i­ta­tion Can Change Your Brain: The Neu­ro­science of Bud­dhist Prac­tice

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her in New York City for the next install­ment of her book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain, this April. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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Comments (10)
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  • Margo Peryea says:

    How awe­some! Is a pat­tern avail­able? I’d love to have one!

  • patricia hinton says:

    I’d love a pat­tern as well!…how fab­u­lous!.,.

  • Debra-Jean LeBrun says:

    I would love the pat­tern if it is avail­able!

  • Jane Elizabeth Williams says:

    Great work, I would love a pat­tern xx

  • Alan R. Henderson says:

    If any­body has a pat­tern please post or explain where to find it.
    I worth­while project to under­stand the brain and it parts and func­tion.

  • Rosemarie M Buchanan says:

    I rather doubt there’s a pat­tern, but it would cer­tain­ly be an adven­ture to try to dupli­cate this amaz­ing piece of knit­ted art!

  • Kate says:

    This is awe­some. Def­i­nite­ly shows new per­spec­tive. Would make a great, inter­est­ing learn­ing tool and home dec­o­rat­ing piece. The human brain, tru­ly is a beau­ti­ful thing, isn’t it?

  • Confucius says:

    Per­haps the three pound homuncu­lus that author Ayun Hal­l­i­day fash­ion­ably imag­ines is dri­ving “us” around like a shop­ping cart is less impor­tant than the “us” that she care­ful­ly ignores or the author who is imag­in­ing such things.

  • Confucius says:

    The pat­tern for this artis­tic cre­ation can be found next to the paint by num­bers ver­sion of the Mona Lisa in your local Wal~Mart.

  • Roger says:

    Dr. Nor­berg seems a bit wooly-mind­ed.

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