Arden’s Brain Awareness Week Art Competition

Brain Awareness Week is a global campaign to foster public enthusiasm and support for brain science. This year's Brain Awareness Week and Neurodiversity Celebration Week both take place between March 13-19.

As a part of Arden University’s celebration of brain awareness and neurodiversity, we’ve invited Arden staff and students to submit artworks in line with the theme ‘communication, emotion, and my brain’ with complementary text explaining how the artwork fits the theme. You can see some of the submitted pieces below.

Three winners will be chosen from the submissions under the following categories:

  • Most creative interpretation of the theme
  • Best scientific representation of the theme
  • Most aesthetic appeal

Student Submissions

Shaheda Khandokar entry

Shaheda Khandokar

Winner of most creative interpretation of the theme

People with ASD can often have difficulty to integrate fragments of useful information or filter out the meaning from huge information sources to make sense for the brain. The rain represents ‘overloaded informations’ and the rain drops from the umbrella that are big visible and less is symbol of ‘understand’ shown by touch and feel,
Jokes, sarcasm, metaphors like ‘cats and dogs’ in the picture may appear misinterpreted to them because they generally are verbatim, often seem not having attention, avoiding or head in the clouds but infact making eye contact while listening or speaking or mind reading could be a big deal to their sensory network. ASD nerves can receive impulses with over or under sensitivity.
Autism is a condition where neurodevelopment occurs in a unusual form and affects much more the part of the brain that deals social behaviours. the maple trunk represents development, the person represents any gender, mere trifle leaf and maple leaf represents vaste geography and finally the cloud represents all the untold fact that can feel one of us, having the greater skill, many to say and wishing a lot to be together from their isolation! That they might express in a diverse way.
Laura Barbo

Laura Barbo

"A recurring thought"

Winner of best scientific representation of the theme.

This drawing depicts the path of a recurring thought. Neurologists believe that the more times a thought or some other neurological event happens, the more quickly it moves through the neurons. This suggests that it gets increasingly difficult to change obsessive thought patterns with time passing.
My journey towards better mental health has a lot to do with trying to change old thought patterns. From time to time, I discover some new attitudes or beliefs that are not helpful for the well-being of me or others. For example, I tend to believe the worst of others and myself, which might suggest I lack trust or self-confidence. I have tried to be less negatively critical of myself and others, but it’s challenging to catch myself criticising and then diverting my thoughts in a more positive and helpful direction. It is getting a bit easier with each time, so there might be hope for me :)
Klaudia Magdalena Karczewska entry

Klaudia Magdalena Karczewska

Winner of most aesthetic appeal

Toxic cloud
People suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often experience negative emotions and intrusive thoughts. Some may have difficulties recalling particular aspects or have sudden flashbacks of traumatic events. Additionally, PTSD patients tend to isolate themselves from people, places, or objects that may recall negative memories. Therefore, having PTSD can feel like hiding in a toxic cloud that separates the sufferer from the outside world.
Ella Cartmell entry

Ella Cartmell

I drew these aliens as a representative of emotions and specifically how colours are connected to emotions for example pink= love for many people. This was aimed to show how different people might read each character based on the emotion they relate to a colour. Coming from each alien is a series of dots which is meant to represent how these creatures communicate through thoughts, this is a play on human communication of their emotions as even if we don’t necessarily state how we feel, those around us can read it from our expressions, actions and other factors.
Kelly Snipe entry

Kelly Snipe

I created this poem when I was going through a tough time. I released often people did not understand what I was feeling and would get told to ‘just stop worrying’ and ‘have a bath’. It is not as easy as that and I created this poem to describe how my anxiety affects me. Due to my anxiety, I ask more questions even when I know the answer, I will think about the worst-case scenario, and will be feeling on edge a lot of the time. Many people suffer from anxiety and other mental health conditions, and many people might understand what I mean by this poem. 
Kat Stanislawek entry

Kat Stanislawek

The work represents the neurodiversity of survivors of traumatic events who often struggle to express themselves verbally and listen actively. The very nature of trauma shutters individuals' trust in the world, which makes communication difficult. An example is the experience of feeling trapped( freeze response) and unable to escape from social situations. The survivor might believe that the problem with communication is their fault which, in time, could create unhealthy patterns of behaviour harming future relationships.
Sarah Crowley entry

Sarah Crowley

This is a portrait of my cousin Jacquie who is Neurodivergent. It wasn’t until her son George was given a diagnosis, that she was assessed. I know that for many females like my cousin, it can take years to get the right support. I wanted to make the piece abstract by using five words to describe what it means to the Neurodiverse community. I did some research by asking other friends “What Neurodiversity means to them?” because I feel that it’s important to see things from their perspective and to avoid Conformation Bias. The common words I found were; Communication, Intense, Process, Focused and Sensory. “Communication” is the longest word and yet this is what I have noticed to be the most challenging for Neurodiverse people, hence why it is in the centre and fades into the background. The way I have broken the background up is so I could create a sensory feel to the piece, which is why I used a green highlighter to colour the centre of the background. I put the word “Intense” above my cousin’s head within the green section as I’m aware that the world can overstimulate the mind of those with Neurodiverse conditions.
Fawn Lavina entry

Fawn Hunkins-Beckford

Neurodiversity (Single, 1980) refers to the neurological diversity amongst all humans, and encourages us to avoid medical models of understanding difference. The Rainbow infinity symbol represents autism, the colours representing the vast diversity within the autism spectrum. Autistic individuals communicate and express emotions differently to Neuro-typical individuals. Listening to lived experience helps us better understand one another and improves the lives of the wider community. 
This piece communicates that difference is beautiful and (neuro) diversity needs no cure!
Gemma Pearson entry

Gemma Pearson

Depression and anxiety are conditions which affect the neurotransmitters associated with emotion and communication. The neurotransmitters are colour coded to the parts of the brain they mainly originate from (light blue, dopamine; purple, serotonin; dark blue cortisol). Serotonin and dopamine are often low or underutilised in depression. Serotonin seeking is something I often do, hence the pictures of medications, vitamin D and chocolate to show ways of getting more serotonin. Dopamine is known as the happy hormone. I gain my dopamine by going to the beach and appreciating nature, hence the nature surrounding dopamine. Cortisol is often high in people with anxiety and can manifest in either anger or withdrawal which is shown surrounding the cortisol chemical structure.
Molly Tosh entry

Molly Tosh

The piece of Art represents ‘fight or flight’ commonly displayed within anxiety disorders. The threat activates the sympathetic nervous system and triggers acute stress responses. The physical aspects can be shown through dilated pupils and a flushed complexion which is shown within the drawing. The bird represents the ‘flight’ and the clouds represent thinking and the brain.
Joseph Mcinerney entry

Joseph Mcinerney

Bipolar disorder sufferer: This contest allows me a voice; my best analogy to explain this condition would be a volume control dial fluctuating from maximum to low. When my mood is high at maximum, I feel invincible, and all is good and wholesome with the world. And I am virtually capable of anything. Whether deluded or not, this elated feeling is a period of significant creativity and thought that could lead to great things. I am faster, funnier, sharper, and livelier than everyone else. I feel like a Superstar. But this can also be destructive as total confidence in my abilities can be very reckless and risky for all concerned. When my mood has crashed, and I am low, you are in darkness., I am the exact opposite of the other version of me. Although this will sound a bit corny, it is like going from Superman back to Clarke Kent. I take on the woes of the entire world to the point that I ban myself from even watching the news, as it will plague me with intrusive racing thoughts, and nothing makes sense anymore. It is crippling, and I loathe myself. It is an endless emotional rollercoaster ride. 
Srwe Rasolzadah entry

Srwe Rasolzadah

This is a piece of art of mine and I really like it because it represents my feeling walking down alone in a calm and peaceful jungle specially in the fall. When I am looking at it, I can hear the birds chirping and the sound of water which comes from the river beyond the trees, and I can even smell the rain well.
Mikayla Cropper entry

Mikayla Cropper

As someone who suffers with OCD, I created this piece to show the areas of the brain that are associated with OCD as flowers. Flowers grow in different ways, colours, shapes, and sizes. OCD comes in different ways as well, so I wanted to express this disorder in a bright way. Although, OCD is one of my biggest struggles it’s part of me and that doesn’t have to be an ugly thing.

Staff Submissions

Nicholas Baker entry

Nicholas Baker

People with synaesthesia have an association between sensation in one perceptual pathway to another perceptual or cognitive pathway. For example, linking a certain sound with a certain colour (Chromesthesia). This could mean seeing a colour when a sound is played (projective synaesthesia) or having a strong association between a sound and a colour (associative synaesthesia). In this piece an individual with synaesthesia has a covered a popular song with the colours they experience when hearing it to depict their experience.
Karina Hanson entry

Karina Hanson

The rainbow colours across this cross-stitched brain represent neurodiversity – from neurodevelopmental conditions such as ADHD and Autism, to Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and other specific learning differences to brains affected by disease or trauma - we experience life in our own unique way.
Finola Farrant entry

Finola Farrant

This photo of a dandelion clock and forget-me-not flowers is for Kevin and represents early onset dementia.
The dandelion clock is in full bloom, but it is delicate, at any point something - a blow, a bump, a bash - could cause it damage. The dandelion clock also measures, with puffs of breath, time passing. In the background, slightly blurred and out of focus, small and colourful forget-me-not flowers can be seen.
Symptoms of dementia include losing track of time, disorientation, becoming forgetful, increasing difficulty in communication, confusion, and behavioural changes that can include aggression.
The World Health Organisation estimate 55 million people around the world are living with dementia which results from a variety of diseases and injuries that primarily or secondarily affect the brain. It is the seventh leading cause of death globally, and not only impacts the person with dementia but their families and carers, psychologically, socially, emotionally and economically.
This photo is a reminder to live life fully.
Zuzana Pinkosova entry

Zuzana Pinkosova

The rainbow colours of the 3D-printed handpainted earrings represent the diversity of thought, emotion, and communication we experience. The brain shape of the earrings serves as a reminder of the complexity and diversity of our brains and the many ways in which we communicate and express emotion.
Sophie Ward entry

Sophie Ward

I created this art piece to highlight the link between neuroscience and mental health disorders.
The art piece represents mental health, which is close to my heart.
Mental health conditions such as depression, bipolar and borderline personality disorder can have a significant impact on the person diagnosed and those around them. This impact is not always visible to others through laughter or tears shown in this painting, but sits beneath the surface. Likewise, the cause of mental health conditions and the way in which we can prevent and treat them is not always visible to the human eye. While social and environmental factors may play a significant part, neuroscience can also be a key contributing factor and can help us to understand why some people are more vulnerable and/or resilient than others in the face of adversity.
Leanne Rowlands entry


My neurodivergence is a superpower. To see beauty in every flower. To be moved by mountains and meadows, and each and every feeling. This painting represents the brain basis of exploration – the system knows as SEEKING (Panksepp, 2011) . From ventral tegmental area to nucleus accumbens, to the amygdala. The colours and patterns represent a surge of Dopamine through the system – which drives our sense of motivation. The SEEKING system drives enthusiasm, and a sense of ‘wanting’ – what I feel when I am exploring.