What Descartes Existed

Rene Descartes began with doubts. “We cannot doubt our existence while we doubt. ... I think, therefore I exist, ”the 17th century philosopher and scientist wrote remarkably. For quite a long time, attempts have been made to establish whether the features of the brain of geniuses (especially the shape of their surfaces) have the key to unraveling the non-standard intelligence of their owners? The new work, published in the Journal of the Neurological Sciences, reached as far as Descartes himself: scientists from France and the Netherlands took on his brain (amusingly, among the affiliations there is also the famous Salpetriere Hospital, an outpost of the study of higher nervous activity in the XIX century).

Three-dimensional reconstruction of Descartes's brain
Usually, when scientists study the brain of an extraordinary person, for example, with the brain of Albert Einstein or Vladimir Lenin, they deal with the brain removed from the skull immediately after death. But what to do when there is a desire to get acquainted with the brain of a man who died hundreds of years ago? Scientists wanted to study Descartes’s brain, but unfortunatelydecomposed - for 367 years, then! What did the researchers come up with? They armed themselves with methods that are commonly used to study prehistoric people, namely, they created a three-dimensional image of Descartes's brain using the imprint he left on the inside of the skull, which has been stored for almost 200 years at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. And in order to do this, I had to do a very thorough computed tomography of an empty skull.
What turned out? Basically Descartes's brain was surprisingly normal — its dimensions were within the normal range, just like the brains of modern people. But one part still stood out: this is an unusual increase in the frontal cortex. The area that is responsible for handling the meanings of words.
However, scientists say that this feature does not necessarily indicate genius. And here, even Descartes could agree: “It is not enough to have a good mind,” he wrote. “The main thing is to use it well.”

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