Artist and scientist paint picture of depression in stop-motion film

Naomi Ackerman
Promoting awareness: artist Emma Allen paints the head of Dawn Craddock: Josh Shinner

An artist has teamed up with a scientist to create a short film revealing the brain chemistry behind depression – and it has already racked up 1.5 million hits online.

Emma Allen, a body art and stop-motion animation expert, and Daisy Thompson-Lake, a neuroscience PhD candidate at Queen Mary University of London, spent four years creating Adam, a minute-long film using varying painted images on the surface of a human head to explore the mental illness and its associated emotions.

Frames range from a person holding their head in their hands in despair to PET scans of various spheres of the brain, such as the hippocampus, which is ignited or dulled by the illness. The pair, who met on holiday, aim to promote awareness of depression as a medical condition and not a choice.

Ms Allen said: “Presenting science as an art piece puts it in another context and makes it more accessible.

Still from Adam, an example of the PET scans of various spheres of the brain which is ignited or dulled by the illness.

“We are working in an interesting time because with videos on social media, we have a bite-sized way of getting information across which can also be art pieces.

“We didn’t put audio and subtitles over it as it would ruin the art side, but we put explanatory notes below the video online so that people can learn more if they want to.”

Emma Allen spent four years making the stop motion video to highlight issues around mental health (Josh Shinner)

The artwork, named Adam after a friend of Ms Thompson-Lake’s who took his own life in 2010, is part of their planned series called GreyMatters, supported through crowdfunding on Indiegogo and grants from Queen Mary and Artichoke arts group. It aims to remove the social stigma that accompanies mental health.

Their next film will focus on addiction, which is “far more difficult” due to the range of addictive behaviours and their different appearance in the brain.