The Humongous Possibilities of the Homunculus

Man working at computer, struggling with back pain.

A cortical homunculus is a model of a human scaled to some feature, usually motor or sensory nerves, meant to provide a humorous yet powerful way to view the body. A typical homunculus for motor nerves, for example, shows a body with exaggerated eyes, ears, nose, lips, fingertips, and genitals … places in the body with the most sensory nerves.  

I started to wonder if I could create a homunculus for body part injury frequency. I used MEMIC’s data from injury claims over the last five years associated with a specific body part, filtering out illness claims such as mental stress and Covid. The greater the number of claims involving a specific body part, the bigger that part would be in the homunculus.

Based on this sample of MEMIC’s claims, my homunculus has a huge back, shoulders and hands. As you can see, the eyes are much bigger than the ears, owing to far more eye injuries than ear injuries. I call this model Memiculus (rhymes with ridiculous)!

Homunculus Color by Jay Wolgemuth

Other than being a striking image, what can we learn from Memiculus? Well, it emphasizes where we should be dedicating most of our prevention efforts. Simple, low-cost eye protection would go a long way to help shrink the eyes of Memiculus. Overexertion while lifting is a big factor in back injuries. By employing ergonomic principles, Memiculus’ huge back can be significantly reduced.

Ultimately, the question is whether you can tame your homunculus by reducing injuries. If injuries don’t happen, your homunculus will fade away to nothing! The goal is to transform Memiculus from a raging ogre to a tame, cute baby. If your Memiculus is already a sweet little thing, how do you prevent it from growing up into a huge, angry ogre with oversized back and eyes?

As you look at your work force, I hope you are haunted by the image of my homunculus. But as strikingly horrifying as it is, Memiculus will be happy and successful if it inspires you to explore and implement ways to reduce workplace injuries that are frighteningly common.

MEMIC policy holders have access to their loss trend information through the claim portal, or contact your loss control consultant.

Illustration credit: Homunculus Color by Jay Wolgemuth