Nikon Instruments Inc. has just announced the much-anticipated winners of its 13th annual Nikon Small World in Motion video competition. If you’ve ever thought visual art and cutting-edge science can’t be combined, this contest will convince you otherwise.
This year’s first-place prize went into the hands of Dr. Alexandre Dumoulin. His pioneering 48-hour time-lapse video shows the development of neurons within a chicken’s central nervous system. Not only is it hypnotizing to watch, but it’s also scientifically groundbreaking!
The winning video of the Nikon Small World in Motion 2023
Dr. Dumoulin’s award-winning video was developed at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. It provides a rare and insightful glimpse into neurons as they forge connections across the central nervous system. As I mentioned, the video is scientifically significant – it helps to understand deviations seen in neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia.
Neurons, the biological couriers of our bodies, are connected by extensive extensions named axons, which navigate across the nervous system to form synapses. The video by Dr. Dumoulin beautifully illustrates these extensive axons projecting across the midline, the demarcation between the two hemispheres of the central nervous system. This demonstration is particularly significant in comprehending neurological disorders where axons fail to fulfill their destined paths.
Dr. Dumoulin commented on his research:
“My research focuses on investigating the developmental processes of neurons in chicken and mouse embryos. By studying these organisms, I aim to enhance our comprehension of how the nervous system functions and identify potential factors contributing to neurodevelopmental disorders.”
He further added that “the nervous system is an immensely complex and intricate system composed of a myriad of units that are connected to one another.” In his winning video, “we see single units and how they behave.”
Capturing the winning video
Capturing this groundbreaking video required the use of innovative imaging techniques to visualize the live transfer of information from cells. Dr. Dumoulin explained:
“The biggest challenge was to discover a feasible method to access these neurons and capture images over an extended period of time. A combination of precise dissection skills and adapted microscopy techniques proved to be the key.”
Dr. Dumoulin sees this competition as a medium to expose the public to the marvels of neurodevelopment. “I wanted to share these mesmerizing developing neurons with the public,” he said. “To me, that’s the essence of this competition, highlighting the beauty of nature through the lens of scientific research.”
Runner-ups and honorable mentions
As always, the competition recognizes the second and the third place, as well as honorable mentions. In the 2023 competition, the second place was awarded to Fabian J. Weston of Protist Lab Films. His extraordinary video depicts the blood flow in a small fish’s tail fin, recorded under meticulous conditions to maintain the organism’s liveliness.
As for the third-place award, it belonged to Nell Saunders from the Institut Pasteur. Her impactful video portrays the fusion and subsequent demise of human cells under the attack of SARS-CoV-2.
Nikon Small World in Motion remains a testament to the incredible fusion of science and artistic endeavor. I’d say that it shows the beauty and importance of both. Other than the overall winner and runner-ups, we bring you a selection of honorable mentions below. Make sure to visit the contest website to check out the entire gallery.