Quarter 3 Reflection

Hello all! Since it is nearly the end of quarter three, here is my reflection on my progress so far!

Throughout my independent study, I have learned so much about the brain, the neurobiology of learning disabilities like dyslexia and ADHD, and how to translate what I’ve learned about the brain into illustrations. I have even learned new ways to create illustrations; I’ve learned how to use a Wacom Tablet to create digital art on Photoshop, and I’ve learned how to create some simple animations as well, which I was not expecting to learn when I began in the fall. Since I’ve been doing this study all year, I definitely feel like I have gotten in a good rhythm with my work and figured out how to manage my time well. 

I’ve actually stuck to my initial plan for this semester pretty closely; I’ve been putting together a draft of my digital illustration booklet about learning disabilities. Looking ahead, I’ll be working on refining my booklet. And I’m planning on presenting it to the faculty soon, so I’ll need to think about how to best present my project. I’m quite nervous about presenting my work and a bit stressed about getting everything together, but it’s also pretty exciting. I feel like one other thing I need to think about is tailoring my booklet to a specific audience. I feel like I want it to be useful for younger people (like middle schoolers) who might just be diagnosed with a learning disability, but I also want it to be useful for adults like parents and teachers, and figuring out how to make it accessible to both groups is challenging. For all these reasons, I’m working on getting some feedback from other people on my project.

Thanks for reading! Seeing all of my work from throughout the year finally come together feels very rewarding, and I’m super excited to share it with others!

Progress Update

Hello everyone!

Now that I’m (somewhat) getting back into the rhythm of school after spring break, I wanted to give an update on my independent study. This week and over spring break, I made a lot of progress on putting together my booklet draft. I want this booklet to be useful to people who might not know a lot about the brain, including kids, and so far it’s been quite challenging to figure out the most important pieces of information to include and to make everything super clear. Still, it’s exciting to see all of my work from the year come together!  

On a different note, I found some really interesting and useful new resources. I watched a fantastic Ted-Ed video that I think explained Dyslexia very well. Another useful resource I read is an article about “Putting Neuroscience in the Classroom” that describes the emerging field of “educational neuroscience.” It explained how understanding the brain is critical in schools and that collaboration between schools and neuroscientists can help create more effective and individualized teaching. Neurobiology can be beneficial for supporting students’ learning, creativity, and problem-solving skills and for helping teachers understand individual students’ learning needs. Especially for students with learning disabilities, tailoring educational support to how each kid’s brain works can lead to positive changes and significant improvement. I thought this was a really cool article because it connects what I’m interested in and care about– neurobiology and learning differences– in a really cohesive and factual way to explain why understanding the brain is such a relevant topic in schools.

Thanks for catching up with me this week. Check out the gallery in the sidebar to see my illustrations!

Working on my Booklet and New Illustrations

Hello all!

I just wanted to give you an update on what I’ve been working on for the past couple of weeks. Last week, I did my presentation for the independent study exhibition where I talked about this study as well as another one I did over the summer. Now, I’m working on my booklet! Last week and over the weekend, I worked on creating illustrations about ADHD (some of which you can see here). Although ADHD is not technically a learning disability, it connects with my exploration of learning disabilities, and I think it’s a very relevant and important topic in schools since so many students are diagnosed with it (about 1 in 10). 

Looking ahead, I’m now going to be putting all of my illustrations together into my booklet. I have a lot of illustrations to work with, so I’ll be getting everything I’ve done so far organized so I can see if I need to create any more drawings to fill in any gaps. I will also need to write some explanations to go along with my illustrations so that they’re super clear to even those who know nothing about neurobiology.     

I’m really excited to put everything together and see my project develop! I’ll continue to post updates along the way!

Mid-Quarter 3 Reflection

Hello all!

Since it’s already the middle of the third quarter, it’s time to reflect on my independent study! So far this semester, I’m staying on track with original my proposal– I’m continuing to work on my illustrations, and I’m still planning on composing a booklet with my art and research about learning disabilities. I feel like I’ve done a good job managing my time and working consistently on my study each week. Since I’ve already been doing it for a whole semester, I feel like I’ve gotten into a good rhythm. My free is C period, so I’ve learned that forcing myself to wake up every morning to work on my study during this time helps me carve out time for my study and stay on top of my work. 

I have really enjoyed the new path I’ve taken with digital art. I’ve made many illustrations with the Wacom art tablet, and I’m excited to continue working on them. I was originally struggling to figure out the best way to explore animations, but I’ve realized that creating these on Photoshop might be the best solution, and I’ve watched some tutorials about how to do this. I’m also looking forward to the independent study exhibition on February 22nd where I will be presenting on this independent study and Connecting Kids with Art, a program I created over the summer where I taught virtual art classes for kids with special needs. 

Through my study this year, I’ve learned that learning is not always about reading articles and studying facts. Instead, a lot of learning comes from actually doing and creating. I love art, and creating artwork in this study has allowed me to see art from a new interdisciplinary and educational perspective. Sure, lots of research and reading has also gone into my work in order to understand the neurobiology behind my illustrations, but being creative is what enables me to expand my thinking beyond what I could simply read in an article or find on the internet.   

Thank you so much for reading and for following along with my study!

Working on Digital Illustrations

Hello everyone!

For the past two weeks, I have been experimenting with the Wacom tablet, and I think I’m getting the hang of it! I actually really enjoy using it to draw. I’ve also learned that I can create stop motion animations in Photoshop, which is fantastic because I won’t have to learn a whole new program to do this! I’ve created a few illustrations so far, which you can read about below and check out in the gallery in the sidebar!

New digital illustration on Photoshop

I’ve recently been inspired to be more creative and artistic with my illustrations, which is why I put so much time and effort into this more creative interpretation of what it’s like to have a learning disability. I feel like medical illustrations don’t only have to be about conveying facts and anatomy. Instead, I think expressing a powerful feeling is sometimes equally important in describing what goes on in the brain or body, which is what I wanted to do with this illustration.  

For the past few weeks, I have also been working on another Desmos animation. This piece wasn’t originally intended to be for my independent study, but I decided to make it about the brain because I thought it would look really cool. I’m not quite done with it, but I will be sure to post the completed version when I am! Thanks for catching up with with I’ve been working on.

Desmos art project

Semester 2 Update

Hello everyone!

I’m thrilled to continue working on my independent study this semester! I just added my second semester proposal to the “Study Overview” page on my blog, and this is just an update on what I’m doing so far. I have so many new ideas that I’m excited to explore!

First of all, I have begun working on my digital booklet of the neurobiology of learning disabilities. Figuring out the design and organization of the book is exciting and also quite challenging because I want it to be both informative and engaging to those who read it, and I want to make it accessible to those who don’t have any background knowledge of neuroscience. 

Also, I just picked up a Wacom Tablet from the IT office, which is an art tablet that I’m going to try out to create digital illustrations. I already know how to use Photoshop at least, but this is still something I’m quite unfamiliar with, but I’m ready to explore!

I’m super excited to do all of this and share it with you all! I hope you’ll follow along with the second half of my journey!

Semester 1 Reflection

The opportunity to dive into medical illustration this semester has been incredibly exciting, and I have really enjoyed getting to explore a topic that interests me so much. The academic independence of an independent study is completely unlike a traditional class, so it has been rewarding to gain a deeper understanding of how I learn and work independently. I love finding connections across disciplines, and my independent study has allowed me to explore my interdisciplinary interests– I have been able to link art, psychology, human anatomy, and even math.

Even though it is the end of the semester, I don’t feel like I’m quite ready to say goodbye to my independent study. There are things I want to continue working on and more topics I want to explore. So, I’ve decided to continue my study in the second semester! I’m currently working on putting together my proposal for the next chapter of my study for the Academic Committee.

Future plans for my study:

Besides my proposal, I’m working on putting together a pamphlet about learning disabilities using my illustrations that will be a culmination of everything I’ve learned and created this semester. I want my pamphlet to promote neurodiversity and to benefit kids and parents to help people better understand learning differences. I initially wanted to get it finished before the semester ends, but I was much busier than I anticipated over winter break, so I would rather wait and give my project the effort it deserves rather than rushing to finish. Anyway, I would love to find people who could potentially benefit from this pamphlet, so I may reach out to doctors, practicing medical illustrators, and parents to find where this pamphlet might be useful. 

Another exciting development in my study has been my recent experimentation with animation on Desmos. I am not familiar with animation, but we use Desmos all the time in math class to graph functions, and my math teacher, Ms. McCain, created a Desmos animation to explain a new concept, which is what gave me the idea. Now, I think I would like to continue exploring digital art with my future illustrations– maybe I’ll try out some digital art programs like Procreate and even work on creating more animations of the brain. I think this is an important step in my independent study, not only because of how interdisciplinary it is, but also because modern medical illustrations are almost entirely digital.

I’m excited to explore this new path next semester, and I hope you’ll follow along with me on the next steps of my journey!

Learning in the Brain and Desmos Animations

Hello everyone!

This week, I have learned a lot more about learning. Thanks to Ms. Rogers, I had a bunch of new resources to look into to better understand learning disabilities and how the brain learns. One of the most important things I learned was in a study from Cambridge University, which found that learning disabilities, developmental disorders, and many mental health disorders do not directly correspond to specific brain regions. Instead, challenges with learning can be attributed to poor connections between numerous regions of the brain, which the study describes as “poorly connected ‘hubs.’” So, looking at brain connectivity rather than specific areas of “weakness” is most significant, and I would like to focus on exploring this idea in some of my future illustrations.  

I have also tried something completely different in my recent illustrations. When I was drawing neurons to illustrate synapses and neuroplasticity, I wanted to convey how neurotransmitters move between neurons. Animation is often a significant part of medical illustration, but I’m quite unfamiliar with it. However, I do know how to use Desmos since we use it so frequently in math class, and I’ve created lots of “desmos art” in the past. So, I had the idea to create animations on Desmos where I combined my drawings with digitized neurotransmitters using math! I created two animations on Desmos, and I’m really happy with the effect of merging drawing with little animations.

Here is the link to my synapse animation and my neuroplasticity animation. The first animation zooms into a synapse in the brain where neurotransmitters move between two neurons. Because neurotransmitters carry information throughout the brain, synapses between neurons are how different regions of the brain are connected. Thus, synapses play a significant role in learning. The second animation depicts the brain’s neuroplasticity, which is the idea that since the brain is so adaptable, with practice, it can build up strength in areas of weakness. This is important for all types of learning in the brain but also in individuals with learning disabilities because with practice, kids with LDs can often retrain their brains or develop compensatory techniques using alternative areas of the brain to improve skills such as reading.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy my animations!

Update!

Hello all!

For the past two weeks, I have been working on my illustrations of learning differences, so make sure to check them out in the “illustration gallery” in the sidebar!

I have been researching and diving into many different scientific papers on learning disabilities to more deeply understand the specific neurobiological components to help with my own illustrations. However, even when I find the information, I still have to figure out a way to translate what I’ve researched into illustration form. This is probably my biggest challenge, but this is also what my independent study is all about– visually communicating information about the body that cannot be seen simply using our eyes or visualized from words. Even though I think medical illustrations can be extremely beneficial, there are not many medical illustrations of learning disabilities that already exist that I can find, so I feel like I’m often trying to put together a puzzle from many separate pieces without much to go off of. A lot of research on learning disabilities and scientific studies as well as brainstorming and exploration of professional medical illustrations and techniques go into my drawings. One of my biggest focuses is to create illustrations that are clear and informative for anyone to be able to understand whether or not they have any knowledge of neurobiology. I’m focusing on finding a balance between simplicity while still conveying the important information to create illustrations that are both informative and engaging.

Recently, I have also gotten in touch with Dr. Holmes at Duke thanks to Mrs. Whiting about setting up a visit to the cadaver lab to learn about the human body and practice creating illustrations directly from life. Dr. Holmes also happens to have some contacts who are professional medical illustrators, and she has offered to reach out them, so hopefully this will work out!

Also, here are some of the studies studies I have found that have been quite helpful:

Dyslexia in the Brain

Hello everyone!

This week, I’ve been focusing on planning out and creating medical illustrations of learning differences. I began researching a variety of learning disabilities such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia as well as ADHD and processing disorders. I have decided to first focus primarily on dyslexia, and I’ve learned a lot about what dyslexia really means on a neurobiological level and researched how the brain is involved in reading. 

Here is some of what I have learned so far:

Defining the specific roots of dyslexia is very complex because it involves so many different neural networks and unique variations between individuals. However, Dyslexia does involve certain intrinsic biological characteristics. A few consistent characteristics of a dyslexic brain include increased myelination in the left perisylvian cortex, which includes Broca’s and Wernicke’s area, as well as hypo-activation in the occipitotemporal region in the left hemisphere. The left hemisphere has primary control over language, so it is most affected in individuals with dyslexia. The occipitotemporal region is responsible for recognizing letters and spelling. Wernike’s area (temporoparietal region) is responsible for phonological processing of written and spoken language (retrieving and translating sounds into words). Then, Broca’s area is responsible for language comprehension. All of these parts of the brain are connected in a language and reading network that is impaired in those with Dyslexia. However, this network can become stronger in many dyslexic individuals over time with intervention, practice, and resilience, which can boost hyper-activation (neural connectivity and activity) of these regions. Additionally, because of the brain’s neuroplasticity, it can actually build stronger connections in other areas of the brain to compensate for weaknesses in reading. Because of this, individuals with dyslexia often have very strong 3D visualization, pattern recognition, creativity, intuition, and problem-solving abilities.

Below is my initial brainstorming for my illustrations of  Dyslexia as well as an illustration I did recently about learning in the brain. Thank you for reading!