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Glass art of Dale Chihuly, Twisting Dendrites Chandelier
“Twisting Dendrites” is the brainchild of glass artist Dale Chihuly, whose work has been displayed in more than 160 museums worldwide.

HarborScope blog

‘Twisting Dendrites’

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Spiraling down from a skylit ceiling, “Twisting Dendrites” is the artistic focal point of CSHL’s Marks building. The blown-glass chandelier was crafted by American artist Dale Chihuly. Its name comes from the brain’s dendrites. These tree-like protrusions help pass incoming information to the brain’s neurons.

This magnificent work of art hangs at the epicenter of the Laboratory’s neuroscience and NeuroAI research programs. CSHL scientists Florin Albeanu, Arkarup Banerjee, and Anthony Zador walk past it every day.

The three labs have collaborated on several pioneering discoveries. Professor Albeanu and Assistant Professor Banerjee recently showed how a group of neurons called tufted cells help the brain’s olfactory bulb process odors. Professors Zador, Albeanu, and Alexei Koulakov also teamed up to map the neural pathways smells follow in the brain. These discoveries have helped researchers shine a light on the most mysterious of our five senses.

Chihuly's Twisting Dendrites
Left: “Twisting Dendrites” hangs in Dale Chihuly’s Seattle studio prior to being shipped in pieces to CSHL in 1999. Right: A closeup reveals the sculpture’s intricate, interwoven glass tendrils.

“Chihuly’s ‘Twisting Dendrites’ is the little-known mascot of the Marks building,” Albeanu says. We asked the neuroscientist to play art critic, and he came back to us with this vivid description.

“Brightly colored, curved, and playfully twisted glass prongs bask in the sunlit stairwell. They bring to mind marine creatures and the tightly packed, yet far-reaching wires of the brain. Hard to miss at first, and invisible as one gets into the daily routine, ‘Twisting Dendrites’ has become part of the Marks building, matching its gregarious spirit.”

How’s that for a critique?!

Dale Chihuly 2000
The artist at his Seattle studio in 2000.

Born in Tacoma, Washington, Dale Chihuly has been creating mesmerizing glass art for over 50 years. His works have graced the canals of Venice, the Tower of David in Jerusalem, and London’s Royal Botanical Gardens. They are on permanent display in six U.S. states and Toyama City, Japan.

“Twisting Dendrites” first arrived at CSHL in pieces. It was then carefully assembled here at the Laboratory. The final product was installed in the vaulted, skylit stairwell of the Marks building in 1999. It has been a quiet source of inspiration for scientists and students ever since.


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