Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel Frescoes: communications about the brain

Neurocase. 2020 Oct;26(5):293-298. doi: 10.1080/13554794.2020.1813477. Epub 2020 Sep 4.


In a 1990 JAMA cover story Frank Meshberger reported that Michelangelo's central composition on the Sistine Chapel ceiling (1508-1512), The Creation of Adam, portrays God in the form of a brain. The present report suggests that Michelangelo's images on the chapel ceiling depicting Creation describe the course of vertebrate brain development. Further, on the front wall of the Sistine Chapel, within the work titled The Last Judgment (1525-1541), the central ellipse, where Jesus is making judgments about good and evil, represents a mid-coronal cross-section of a human brain, implying that the brain is man's instrument for making decisions.

Keywords: Michelangelo; Renaissance; brain; decision; executive function.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Catholicism / history*
  • Famous Persons*
  • History, 16th Century
  • Humans
  • Medicine in the Arts / history*
  • Paintings / history*