Research Article| Volume 378, P12-18, July 15, 2017

The brain of René Descartes (1650): A neuro-anatomical analysis

Published:April 20, 2017DOI:


      • With a computer process based on CT-scan data of a dry skull, it is possible to reconstruct the cerebral volume in 3D.
      • This process was successfully applied to the skull of the philosopher René Descartes.
      • It was thus possible to perform Descartes' neuroanatomical examination, and to make functional assumptions.


      The skull of René Descartes is held in the National Museum of Natural History since the 19th c. Up to date, only anthropological examinations were carried out, focusing on the cranial capacity and phrenological interpretation of the skull morphology. Using CT-scan based 3D technology, a reconstruction of the endocast was performed, allowing for its first complete description and inter-disciplinary analysis: assessment of metrical and non-metrical features, retrospective diagnosis of anatomical anomalies, and confrontation with neuro-psychological abilities of this well-identified individual.


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