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For the art-loving neuroscientist: From Scientific American – Michelangelo’s secret message in the Sistine Chapel: A juxtaposition of God and the human brain

Douglas Fields has a very interesting post at Scientific American – seems Michelangelo has hidden in many of his Sistine Chapel paintings illustrations of the dissected central nervous system:

At the age of 17 he began dissecting corpses from the church graveyard. Between the years 1508 and 1512 he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Michelangelo Buonarroti—known by his first name the world over as the singular artistic genius, sculptor and architect—was also an anatomist, a secret he concealed by destroying almost all of his anatomical sketches and notes. Now, 500 years after he drew them, his hidden anatomical illustrations have been found—painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, cleverly concealed from the eyes of Pope Julius II and countless religious worshipers, historians, and art lovers for centuries—inside the body of God.This is the conclusion of Ian Suk and Rafael Tamargo, in their paper in the May 2010 issue of the scientific journal Neurosurgery.

The brainstem dissection looks convincing to me, and most especially the pons and medulla, but as Fields notes: ‘The mystery is whether these neuroanatomical features are hidden messages or whether the Sistine Chapel a Rorshach tests upon which anyone can extract an image that is meaningful to themselves. The authors of the paper are, after all, neuroanatomists. The neuroanatomy they see on the ceiling may be nothing more than the man on the moon.’

Concealed Neuroanatomy in Michelangelo’s Separation of Light From Darkness in the Sistine Chapel,” by Ian Suk and Rafael J. Tamargo in Neurosurgery, Vol. 66, No. 5, pp. 851-861.