God is depicted as an elderly bearded man wrapped in a swirling cloak while Adam, on the lower left, is completely naked. God's right arm is outstretched to impart the spark of life from his own finger into that of Adam, whose left arm is extended in a pose mirroring God's, a reminder that man is created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26). Another point is that Adam's finger and God's finger are not touching. It gives the appearance that God, the giver of life, is reaching out to Adam and Adam is receiving. The pink backdrop behind God is in the shape of a human brain.
The inspiration for Michelangelo's treatment of the subject may come from a medieval hymn called Veni Creator Spiritus, which asks the 'finger of the paternal right hand' (digitus paternae dexterae) to give the faithful speech, love and strength.
Several hypotheses have been put forward about the meaning of The Creation of Adam's highly original composition, many of them taking Michelangelo's well-documented expertise in human anatomy as their starting point. In 1990 a physician named Frank Lynn Meshberger noted in the medical publication the Journal of the American Medical Association that the background figures and shapes portrayed behind the figure of God appeared to be an anatomically accurate picture of the human brain, including the frontal lobe, optic chiasm, brain stem, pituitary gland, and the major sulci of the cerebrum. Alternatively, it has been observed that the red cloth around God has the shape of a human uterus (one art historian has called it a "uterine mantle"), and that the scarf hanging out, colored green, could be a newly cut umbilical cord.