NW Noggin art project illustrates the feelings of homeless youth
Author: John Kirkland, PSU Media and Public Relations
Posted: October 16, 2017

What does your brain look like on homelessness?

Homeless youth were given a chance to answer that question through an art project called Homelessness and the Brain, organized by NW Noggin, and their works will be on display Thursday, Oct. 19, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 338 NW 6th Ave. in Portland.

NW Noggin is a nonprofit group of scientists, artists and students that combines art with neuroscience research. In this latest project, NW Noggin and the nonprofit group p:ear supplied homeless youth with paints and other art materials and invited them to express themselves on plaster models of human brains.

“We asked them to re-imagine the landscapes they inhabit, and experience,” said Jeff Leake, Portland State University instructor and Arts Coordinator for NW Noggin.

Bill Griesar, Portland State University psychology instructor and Neuroscience Coordinator of NW Noggin, pointed to a recent survey showing there are nearly 4,200 people in Portland living on the street or in temporary shelters – a 10 percent increase from two years ago. 

“Not having a safe place to rest your head affects your brain,” said. “We talked to the participants about how a lack of sleep, chronic stress, inadequate nutrition and social isolation can undermine anyone’s physical and mental health.”

The art project by homeless youth also involves graduate students from PSU, OHSU and other area institutions studying sleep, stress, anxiety, depression, emotional regulation, racial bias, methamphetamine, alcohol, adolescent brain development and resilience. Visitors will have the chance to see some real human brains and speak with researchers, clinicians and members of the homeless community.

The event coincides with a PSU public forum on homelessness: “Can We Solve Portland’s Homeless Crisis,” Tuesday, Oct. 17, from 7p.m. to 8 p.m. at PSU’s Smith Memorial Student Union Ballroom. The event will be televised on KATU-TV (Channel 2) and webcast on and audience members will have an opportunity to engage in discussion. 

Contact John Kirkland at