TOPIC: Addiction
ARTIST:  Gil Castro


Scientific Background:

IMPOSTER is an abstract, ever-evolving visual simulation of how drug abuse affects our neural connections. Situated at the base of the brain is a collection of neurons, about the size of a rice grain, that utilize dopamine as a chemical messenger to control rewards and addiction. This rice-grain sized collection of neurons is part of the mesolimbic dopamine pathway, or more commonly, our ‘rewards circuit, ‘ as dopamine is the chemical the brain produces to elicit positive feelings. 

Under normal conditions these specific neurons signal to the rest of the brain when we experience something rewarding or aversive. Addiction focuses on control of these dopamine neurons, which in turn can be interpreted as the control of our reward system. 

The mechanisms in our brain for both drug and non-drug addiction, (such as video games, social media, overeating, etc.) overlap. The main difference lies in the speed and amount of dopamine delivery. Appreciating the nice weather, feeling how pleasant it is to lie in bed, or enjoying a bite of food all involve the same brain functions seen in addiction. However, the effects of drugs far exceed the magnitude and duration of the effects of more natural, everyday rewards. This is why addiction is often explained in the context of drug usage.

Creative Approach:

The real-time simulation mimics the blocking or producing of neurotransmitters, which are all connected to our reward system. By registering all visitors as a “drug” through a lidar camera, the installation presents an artistic representation of the impact continued drug use can have on the neural connections. The screen immediately to the left when entering represents a healthy neural network, and each subsequent one shows a progressively worse level of addiction with an ultimately damaged brain at the end, as the simulation becomes more ‘addicted’ with the addition of more visitors.


Gil Castro is a media artist and director from Mexico City. His work is focused in the fields of interactive and immersive multimedia installations. Inspired by anthroposophy and the relationship between sciences and art, his work explores new forms in which we can communicate through art and technology. 

Castro designs his own tools and systems of real-time and generative 3D visuals, creating motion graphics with algorithms and creating new worlds to transform perceptions of nature and space. He has directed and led both large-scale national and international projects.
Eric J. Nestler, MD, PhD is the Nash Family Professor of Neuroscience, Director of the Friedman Brain Institute and Dean for Academic and Scientific Affairs at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Dr. Nestler was President of the Society for Neuroscience from 2016 – 2017 and is a member of the National Academy of Medicine. His research explores the neurobiological basis of drug addiction and depression and seeks to understand how stress and drug abuse changes brain circuitry. Dr. Nestler collaborated with ARTECHOUSE to advise the development of the exhibition piece describing how addiction affects neurons, synapses, and circuits.