cerebri anatome

in 1664, thomas willis published a book titled cerebri anatome.

this is commonly translated as ‘anatomy of the brain & nerves’. 

this text was considered groundbreaking at the time, as he attempted to correlate brain anatomy with mental function. one passage stood out:

“within the womb of the brain, all the conceptions, ideas, forces and powers whatsoever – both of the rational and sensitive soul  – are formed.”

read more on thomas willis and cerebri anatome here



a few months ago, whilst i was struggling for artistic inspiration, a friend requested a drawing.

she said, “draw me a bisected head with a foetus for a brain.”

[pencil+ink on paper. 29 april 2011]

it seemed like such an obvious idea – that there may be foetus/baby inside your skull, rather than a brain. it was a concept my friend, rach, had been thinking about for some time, but had never realised it in any medium. when i sketched it for her, a detail i included was that the umbilical cord was attached to the brain stem. a technicality she had always imagined, but hadn’t mentioned to me.

please, take a moment and think about this idea:

“a foetus in place of a brain.”

there are so many directions my mind spins off at this point: co-joined twins/ birth lineage/ reproduction/ evolution/ parasites /the unconscious mind/ the inner-child…

  • i mean, could this be some kind of foetal abnormality or mutation?
  • or maybe this is a new birthing process evolution has in-store to tackle population control: a strict one-in one-out policy?
  • and if we have babies for brains, what will the zombies eat?
  • did the brain change into a baby, or has it always been there – piloting the body that it is housed inside?
  • what if does the foetus have another foetus INSIDE it’s own skull? foetus fractals!

it was once believed that semen transmitted the soul into a new life. this drawing by da vinci [circa 1487] demonstrates this was accomplished by a thin tube connecting the brain to the penis, via the spinal cord.

i struggle to understand whether my interest in this idea of a brainchild is based on anatomical/medical interest, as some kind of carnival sideshow attraction, or if it is rooted much deeper within the psyche as this archaic connection between the brain and new life may suggest.

as i investigate this further, i suspect i will be forced to rethink my own philosophies regarding life and identity.