One day, while looking at a brain slice through the microscope, I observed something unexpected - I saw some of the most beautiful cells in the brain.
I study Purkinje cells, a type of neuron that resides in the back of the brain in an area called the cerebellum. While observing these neurons, I immediately realized that they bear a striking structural similarity to trees. In fact, this "Purkinje Pattern" - larger branches subdividing into smaller branches - is present all throughout nature on both microscopic and macroscopic scales. These neurons are about 100 microns (µm) tall, but a similarly shaped tree could be 50 meters (~150 ft) tall.
The characteristic structure of these neurons always draws me in, and I often ponder why this shape has developed so many times in nature. You can find examples of the Purkinje Pattern in tree branches or roots, coral, antlers, lightning, capillary networks, river tributaries, phone tree networks, veins in a leaf, social media networks, and even in our own consciousness as we make decisions. Below, you will see my science-art, which shows Purkinje neurons in all their branched glory.
Each image below comes in a variety of colors. Order science-art prints here.