Anatomy and Art

a blog by Sara Egner

Homunculus

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I confess, I’ve been fairly consumed with politics lately.  I may write more about some of that here at some point.  But for now, I thought I’d share something fun that I got to work on recently at Macmillan.  Some of you are familiar with the concept of the somatosensory homunculus.  There’s basically this part of the brain where the sensory and motor information signals come and go.  And it’s neat because things always go in a particular order, and there are a lot more neurons for things like the face, and hands than there are for things like your shin.  To help people remember the arrangement, it’s common to draw out a distorted human along that area of the brain.  And I recently got a request to create one of these for just the motor part (sorry, no giant genitalia for those of you who are familiar with the sensory side.)

 

homonculus illustration

I feel like I could have exaggerated the prominent features even more, especially the hands, but the idea is still clear.  We dedicate a lot of our neurons to the tongue and lips and overall face, and to each finger, and our wrists.  Comparatively we dedicate a lot less to our toes, our abdominal muscles, our upper arms….

When I was in grad school, a friend of mine once reached out about maybe getting a tattoo done of the homunculus on his head to line up with the part of the brain.  He thought since I was in medical art school, I might have some good ideas for that.  Alas, it was the first I’d heard of it and I was a little too swamped with grad school at the time to oblige him.  But now I got to make one at work.  And maybe someday, if that friend still wants it after all these years, I’ll help him out yet.

Written by Sara

January 15th, 2017 at 8:05 pm

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