The Italian master Leonardo da Vinci and his early understanding of the brachial plexus
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Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was born in the town of da Vinci, Republic of Florence, to a notary and a peasant woman. Although he is renowned primarily as a painter, and is still lauded today for works such as the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, and the Vitruvian Man, he also contributed considerably to the discipline of anatomy . da Vinci started his work in anatomy under the apprenticeship of Andrea del Verrocchio where he quickly developed skills in artistically depicting surface anatomy . His development of this skill allowed him to dissect cadavers, depict their likeness, and take numerous notes on his observations. From his observations, he produced the first accurate depiction of the human spine, created the earliest known description of cirrhosis of the liver and atherosclerosis, and made discoveries about cardiac output and the aortic valve . Being a skilled dissector and a detailed artist with an unquenchably curiosity made da Vinci a brilliant anatomist.
Da Vinci on the brachial plexus
…is the nerve which gives sensation. This having been cut the finger no longer has sensation even when placed in the fire.” “Following a cut in the hand, sometimes the sensation and not the motion of the finger is blocked, and sometimes the motion and not the sensation. Sometimes it is both motion and sensation.” .
“…describe the distances interposed between nerves in depth as well as breadth and thus the proportions of their sizes and lengths and the differences between their heights and descents from their origins. You will do the same for muscles, veins, and arteries; and this will be most useful to those who treat wounds.” .
Da Vinci’s illustrations and descriptions of the brachial plexus set the stage for future scholars to better understand this complicated nervous structure. The brachial plexus continues to be of significant clinical interest [8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13] and thus our current knowledge of this structure was begun by the works of da Vinci in the fifteenth century.
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Conflict of interest
The authors have no conflicts of interest.
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