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Subcortical Matters

A movement space for neurosurgical voxel inquiries in mixed reality

Published onOct 25, 2022
Subcortical Matters

Prototype by Vanta (2021), concept by Brain Roads team (Avenati, Fekonja, Picht, Le Calvé, , Simatic and their students, 2020) ©MoA

As the resolution of MRI scanners continues to improve and as spatial computing technologies becomes more commonplace in clinical and media landscapes, we envision a future where users can interact more directly with information. We want the neurosurgeons to be able to interact spatially with the brain data voxels1, placing them in multimodal sensory configurations with the information. We intend to redefine the current model, which represents brain-tumor topologies through smooth shapes, instead emphasizing the use of the voxel as a visual unit. This new approach highlights the importance of the embodied aesthetics of clinical knowledge production in data visualization.

Subcortical Matters is the flag-ship project of the Speculative Realities Lab, an important output of the Cutting project, building on results of the first phase of the cluster “Matters of Activity” (see in particular Brain Roads). A first prototype was produced by creative coder Vanta in 2022 (cf. video). Our new cross-disciplinary team is now developing the new immersive interface for brain data. For this, we rely on the activation of companionships that were consolidated through previous collaboration between design anthropology and creative coders (cf. stretching senses school).

We are using a design anthropology method, bringing the artistic skills of the virtual crafts in dialogue with the neurosurgical art and science of the healing cut. How can we create an installation that is, at the same time, an experimental interface for surgical planning, a significant research-creation piece, and an exciting challenge for programmers? We are especially attentive to the needs of all involved parties to ensure they are acknowledged and addressed within their own domains of knowledge, within an inclusive and intercultural team. The art and science of design anthropology will serve as a conduit for these conversations and related explorations. Through speculation, we attempt to co-navigate the discrepancy between the embodied surgical act with the data worlds generated by neuroscience. We are attending to the following question: How can we offer a sensible experience of tumour borders and their relation to the uncertain mappings of speech-related networks?

Team: MoA/SpecLab

Design anthropology: Maxime Le Calvé

Neurosurgery: Thomas Picht (Charité)

HCI: Paulina Stefanovic Greta (HTW Berlin)

Design: Nayeli Vega (KHB Weissensee)

Creative Coder: Warja Rybakova (DOCK11/DOCKdigital)

Visualist / coder: Baris Pekcagliyan (DOCK11/DOCKdigital)

Sound designer: Nico Daleman (UdK Berlin)

HCI developement student : Mauro Risso (HTW Berlin)

Project Assistance: Milena Burzlaff (Charité, Berlin School of Mind and Brain)


The project is supported by the project Cutting at the ExC “Matters of Activity.”

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