Brain Amulet: Maria Jost ’05
By Stacey Cook
Last fall, artist and high school neuropsychology instructor Maria Jost ’05 was engaged in an interactive art project that involved walking around the Tacoma Mall neighborhood distributing mini art prints with brain care exercises printed on the backs. The goal of her Brain Amulet project is to address “the shortage of brain health resources available to the public and the existing stigma toward seeking mental health support,” Maria says.
The illustration itself explores the relationship of interconnected components in an ecosystem: substrate, primary producers (flowers), consumers (hummingbirds), and decomposers (mushrooms). The mushrooms are printed on paper and physically collaged onto the piece, as are the flower stamens and hummingbird feathers, using layered mushroom collage pieces.
What do mushrooms have to do with the brain? Maria was inspired by the way the branching hyphae of a mushroom’s mycelium resemble the connected branches of a neuron network, visually and scientifically. Neurons explain a lot about mental health. “All thoughts, feelings and behaviors are generated by the brain through the activity and arrangement of neurons,” Maria says. “As we grow older, our brains prioritize efficient and survival-oriented pathways over those that encourage wonder, empathy, and self-awareness. The result can lead to r rumination, anxiety, and other self-harming brain patterns.”
But there’s good news. “Current neuroscience research suggests that our brain circuitry is malleable, and certain activities can help to rewire the way our neurons connect and change the way we interact with the world,” Maria says. That’s what propelled her to create and hand out Brain Amulets. She hopes that practicing the simple exercises on the back can change a person’s brain function and promote positive mental health outcomes. If nothing else, the project gives recipients something beautiful to look at when they’re feeling stressed.
A Brain Amulet is a 3” x 3” mini art print with a neurophysiology-inspired watercolor-and-ink illustration on the front, and printed brain care exercises on the back. Learn more and try the brain exercises at brainamulet.com.