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Concept: Leonardo da Vinci


The worldwide fascination of da Vinci’s Mona Lisa has been dedicated to the emotional ambiguity of her face expression. In the present study we manipulated Mona Lisa’s mouth curvature as one potential source of ambiguity and studied how a range of happier and sadder face variants influences perception. In two experimental conditions we presented different stimulus ranges with different step sizes between stimuli along the happy-sad axis of emotional face expressions. Stimuli were presented in random order and participants indicated the perceived emotional face expression (first task) and the confidence of their response (second task). The probability of responding ‘happy’ to the original Mona Lisa was close to 100%. Furthermore, in both conditions the perceived happiness of Mona Lisa variants described sigmoidal functions of the mouth curvature. Participants' confidence was weakest around the sigmoidal inflection points. Remarkably, the sigmoidal functions, as well as confidence values and reaction times, differed significantly between experimental conditions. Finally, participants responded generally faster to happy than to sad faces. Overall, the original Mona Lisa seems to be less ambiguous than expected. However, perception of and reaction to the emotional face content is relative and strongly depends on the used stimulus range.

Concepts: Louvre, Happiness, Florence, Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa


BACKGROUND: While single-port laparoscopy for abdominal surgery is technically challenging, the Da Vinci Single-Site® robotic surgery platform may help to overcome some of the difficulties of this rapidly evolving technique. The authors of this article present a case of single-incision, robotic right colectomy using this device. METHODS: A 74-year-old female with malignant polyp of caecum was operated on with a single-site approach using the Da Vinci Single-Site® robotic surgery device. Resection and anastomosis were performed extra-corporeally after undocking the robot. RESULTS: The procedure was successfully completed in 200 min. No surgical complications occurred during the intervention and the post-operative stay and no conversion to laparotomy or additional trocars were required. CONCLUSIONS: To the best of our knowledge, this is the first case of right colectomy using the Da Vinci Single-Site® robotic surgery platform to be reported. The procedure is feasible and safe and its main advantages are restoration of triangulation and reduced instrument clashes. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Concepts: Greatest hits, John Wiley & Sons, Laparotomy, Laparoscopic surgery, Leonardo da Vinci, Robotic surgery, The Da Vinci Code, Surgery


A portrait of uncertain origin recently came to light which, after extensive research and examination, was shown to be that rarest of things: a newly discovered Leonardo da Vinci painting entitled La Bella Principessa. This research presents a new illusion which is similar to that identified in the Mona Lisa; La Bella Principessa’s mouth appears to change slant depending on both the viewing distance and the level of blur applied to a digital version of the portrait. Through a series of psychophysics experiments, it was found that a perceived change in the slant of the La Bella Principessa’s mouth influences her expression of contentment thus generating an illusion that we have coined the “uncatchable smile”. The elusive quality of the Mona Lisa’s smile has been previously reported (Livingstone, 2000) and so the existence of a similar illusion in a portrait painted prior to the Mona Lisa becomes more interesting. The question remains whether Leonardo da Vinci intended this illusion. In any case, it can be argued that the ambiguity created adds to the portrait’s allure.

Concepts: Florence, Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci


Whether a small cell, a small genome or a minimal set of chemical reactions with self-replicating properties, simplicity is beguiling. As Leonardo da Vinci reportedly said, ‘simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’. Two diverging views of simplicity have emerged in accounts of symbiotic and commensal bacteria and cosmopolitan free-living bacteria with small genomes. The small genomes of obligate insect endosymbionts have been attributed to genetic drift caused by small effective population sizes (Ne). In contrast, streamlining theory attributes small cells and genomes to selection for efficient use of nutrients in populations where Ne is large and nutrients limit growth. Regardless of the cause of genome reduction, lost coding potential eventually dictates loss of function. Consequences of reductive evolution in streamlined organisms include atypical patterns of prototrophy and the absence of common regulatory systems, which have been linked to difficulty in culturing these cells. Recent evidence from metagenomics suggests that streamlining is commonplace, may broadly explain the phenomenon of the uncultured microbial majority, and might also explain the highly interdependent (connected) behavior of many microbial ecosystems. Streamlining theory is belied by the observation that many successful bacteria are large cells with complex genomes. To fully appreciate streamlining, we must look to the life histories and adaptive strategies of cells, which impose minimum requirements for complexity that vary with niche.The ISME Journal advance online publication, 17 April 2014; doi:10.1038/ismej.2014.60.

Concepts: Genome, Symbiosis, Genetics, Gene, Leonardo da Vinci, Bacteria, Organism, DNA


The science of self-assembly has undergone a radical shift from asking questions about why individual components self-organize into ordered structures, to manipulating the resultant order. However, the quest for far-reaching nanomanufacturing requires addressing an even more challenging question: how to form nanoparticle (NP) structures with designed architectures without explicitly prescribing particle positions. Here we report an assembly concept in which building instructions are embedded into NPs via DNA frames. The integration of NPs and DNA origami frames enables the fabrication of NPs with designed anisotropic and selective interactions. Using a pre-defined set of different DNA-framed NPs, we show it is possible to design diverse planar architectures, which include periodic structures and shaped meso-objects that spontaneously emerge on mixing of the different topological types of NP. Even objects of non-trivial shapes, such as a nanoscale model of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, can be self-assembled successfully.

Concepts: Systems theory, Vinci, Italy, Emergence, Leonardo da Vinci's personal life, Self-organization, Vitruvian Man, Nanotechnology, Leonardo da Vinci


Leonardo da Vinci’s self-portrait is affected by foxing spots. The portrait has no fungal or bacterial infections in place but is contaminated with airborne spores and fungal material that could play a role in its disfigurement. The knowledge of the nature of the stains is of great concern because future conservation treatments should be derived from scientific investigations. The lack of reliable scientific data, due to the non-culturability of the microorganisms inhabiting the portrait, prompted the investigation of the drawing using non-invasive and micro-invasive sampling, in combination with SEM imaging and molecular techniques. The fungus Eurotium halophilicum was found in foxing spots using SEM analyses. Oxalates of fungal origin were also documented. Both findings are consistent with the hypothesis that tonophilic fungi germinate on paper metabolising organic acids, oligosaccharides and proteic compounds, which react chemically with the material at a low water activity, forming brown products and oxidative reactions resulting in foxing spots. Additionally, molecular techniques enabled a screening of the fungi inhabiting the portrait and showed differences when different sampling techniques were employed. Swabs samples showed a high abundance of lichenized Ascomycota, while the membrane filters showed a dominance of Acremonium sp. colonizing the drawing.

Concepts: Vinci, Italy, Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci's personal life, Raphael, Fungus, Bacteria, Painting, Leonardo da Vinci


To describe the features of the novel, purpose-built da Vinci model SP1098 single-port (SP) robotic platform and describe a step-by-step approach for perineal prostatectomy and pelvic lymph node dissection in a cadaver model.

Concepts: William Gibson, Lymph node, Michel Houellebecq, The Da Vinci Code, Ibn al-Nafis, Novel, Lymphadenectomy, Leonardo da Vinci


Leonardo da Vinci’s detailed drawings are justly celebrated; however, less well known are his accounts of the structures and functions of the organs. In this paper, we focus on his illustrations of the heart, his conjectures about heart and blood vessel function, his experiments on model systems to test those conjectures, and his unprecedented conclusions about the way in which the cardiovascular system operates. In particular, da Vinci seems to have been the first to recognize that the heart is a muscle and that systole is the active phase of the pump. He also seems to have understood the functions of the auricles and pulmonary veins, identified the relationship between the cardiac cycle and the pulse, and explained the hemodynamic mechanism of valve opening and closure. He also described anatomical variations and changes in structure and function that occurred with age. We outline da Vinci’s varied career and suggest ways in which his personality, experience, skills and intellectual heritage contributed to these advances in understanding. We also consider his influence on later studies in anatomy and physiology.

Concepts: Leonardo da Vinci, Biology, Organ, Physiology, Circulatory system, Blood vessel, Blood, Heart


Single-incision laparoscopic cholecystectomy evolved from the traditional multiport laparoscopic technique. Prior trials have demonstrated improved cosmesis with the single-incision technique. Robotic single-site surgery minimizes the technical difficulties associated with laparoscopic single-incision approach. This is the first prospective, randomized, controlled study comparing robotic single-site cholecystectomy (RSSC) and multiport laparoscopic cholecystectomy (MPLC) in terms of cosmesis and patient satisfaction.

Concepts: Randomized controlled trial, Vinci, Italy, Evolution, Leonardo da Vinci, Surgery, Life, Cholecystectomy, Laparoscopic surgery


The goal of this cadaver study was to evaluate the feasibility and safety of da Vinci robot-assisted keyhole neurosurgery. Several keyhole craniotomies were fashioned including supraorbital subfrontal, retrosigmoid and supracerebellar infratentorial. In each case, a simple durotomy was performed, and the flap was retracted. The da Vinci surgical system was then used to perform arachnoid dissection towards the deep-seated intracranial cisterns. It was not possible to simultaneously pass the 12-mm endoscope and instruments through the keyhole craniotomy in any of the approaches performed, limiting visualization. The articulated instruments provided greater dexterity than existing tools, but the instrument arms could not be placed in parallel through the keyhole craniotomy and, therefore, could not be advanced to the deep cisterns without significant clashing. The da Vinci console offered considerable ergonomic advantages over the existing operating room arrangement, allowing the operating surgeon to remain non-sterile and seated comfortably throughout the procedure. However, the lack of haptic feedback was a notable limitation. In conclusion, while robotic platforms have the potential to greatly enhance the performance of transcranial approaches, there is strong justification for research into next-generation robots, better suited to keyhole neurosurgery.

Concepts: Leonardo da Vinci, Da Vinci Surgical System, Haptic technology, Performance, The Da Vinci Code, Robotics, Surgery