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The University of Southampton

Explaining neuroscience through fashion

Published: 12 March 2013

Neuroscientists from the University of Southampton will be exchanging their laboratories for the catwalk for a unique project to explain neuroscience through fashion.

Over the last three years, the Changing Minds project has challenged second-year fashion design and knitwear students from the University’s Winchester School of Art to design garments inspired by research into conditions such as stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia. The unique clothes have already attracted attention at events and exhibitions and brought biological science to new audiences.

Dress on a theme of schizophrenia

Dr Shmma Quraishe, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University, says: “People are fascinated by the garments and want to find out more about their connections with neuroscience and our research. It is also a great opportunity to remove the stigma associated with mental illness.”

The dress on a theme of schizophrenia was designed by Nikki Day who researched the morphology of different classes of cortical neurons and then embroidered images to convey the emerging idea that this is a disease of aberrant connectivity. The classic histological drawings of Ramon Y Cajal also inspired her. “The dress is tight and slightly restricts movement to reflect the effect these brain cell malfunctions can have in limiting people with the disease in everyday life,” she says.

Cecilia Langemar, Programme Leader in Fashion and Textile Design at Winchester School of Art is also involved. She says: “The project links in with a project that I have been running since 2008 called 'Make A Change' where the students are asked to consider how they can make a change through their fashion design ideas and concepts. It has always been a very successful and interesting project as the students expand their perception and understanding of what fashion design can be and the changes you can achieve as a designer when joining design and a particular cause.”

The scientists will be showcasing their exciting collaboration with Winchester School of Art at the University tomorrow afternoon from 4.30pm, with presentations about neuroscience research at Southampton, the fashion show and a free talk from Professor Hugh Perry about ‘How common infectons affect the healthy and diseased brain’.

Notes for editors

Lindy Holden-Dye, Professor of Neuroscience at Southampton, started the collaboration with colleagues Dr Bina Nausheen and Dr Catherine Cowan in 2009 through the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Excellence with Impact scheme.

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