Radiological Pareidolia: Christmas signs in x-rays

snowcap signFig 1 (Wiles et al., 2013). Snowcap sign.

BMJ is at it again with another festive Christmas article: We wish you a merry x-ray-mas: Christmas signs in radiology (Wiles et al., 2013). The abstract tells us that…

Radiological signs act as memory aids for clinicians and radiologists when attempting to recognise and recall how a particular radiological appearance relates to a condition. These signs are often associated with well known objects and several are related to Christmas. This article describes some familiar and more unusual Christmas related radiological signs that might be useful for trainees revising for examinations, as well as practising clinicians and radiologists.

But are the authors reading a little too much into these x-mas signs? Pareidolia is the phenomenon of perceiving a meaningful stimulus (such as the Virgin Mary) in random everyday objects or sounds. Let’s take a look at a few more images, and you can decide for yourself.

holly leaf signFig 4 (Wiles et al., 2013). Holly leaf sign.

And then things start to escalate…

snowman signFig 2 (Wiles et al., 2013). Snowman sign.


Christmas tree bladderFig 6 (Wiles et al., 2013). Christmas tree bladder.

A little silly, no?

Finally, I’ve saved the brain for last.

ivy signFig 5 (Wiles et al., 2013). Ivy sign. Selected coronal images of the brain. (A) Fluid attenuated inversion recovery and (B) T1 weighted image after administration of intravenous gadolinium. These images show increased signal intensity in the meninges, particularly overlying the right cerebral hemisphere. This is likened to the appearance of the ivy plant creeping over stones and walls (C)

I just don’t see it…


Further Reading


Elvis in potato chip neuroscience

The case of the haunted scrotum

Rorschach inkblots and the neuroscientific basis for pareidolia