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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2023  |  Volume : 12  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 66-67

Role of visualization techniques in learning anatomy

First year MBBS, Government Medical College, The Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Submission12-Oct-2022
Date of Decision08-Dec-2022
Date of Acceptance08-Jan-2023
Date of Web Publication21-Feb-2023

Correspondence Address:
A Riju Priyadarshini
Government Medical College, The Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/NJCA.NJCA_201_22

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Anatomy reveals the human body and its architecture. Right from the intricate turn of an artery, loop of a duct, fold of the skin to the microscopic change in epithelium are studied through anatomy. These nuances are appreciated in a precise and accurate manner when a scalpel is laid on one's body. Today, learning anatomy complemented with new age techniques, enables us to visualize a structure along with their surrounding environment.

Keywords: Cadaveric learning, digitization, neuroanatomy, telemedicine, visualization

How to cite this article:
Priyadarshini A R. Role of visualization techniques in learning anatomy. Natl J Clin Anat 2023;12:66-7

How to cite this URL:
Priyadarshini A R. Role of visualization techniques in learning anatomy. Natl J Clin Anat [serial online] 2023 [cited 2023 Mar 20];12:66-7. Available from: http://www.njca.info/text.asp?2023/12/1/66/370133

  Introduction Top

The study of anatomy necessitates an appropriate learning methodology paving the way for a precise and comprehensive understanding of the subject. Toward accomplishing this, existing practices supplemented by visualization techniques greatly enhance our understanding of the structural and organizational features of the human system.

Although teaching through cadavers is the most efficacious way discovered so far, new-age techniques continue to sprout in this domain. The experience we gain through dissection is unmatched, as it lets us feel the actual depth, texture, consistency, and the color of the part that is being learned. However, on the flip side, not all topics in anatomy could be learned through dissection. For instance, neuroanatomy is a segment that is extremely hard to dissect and visualize due to its complexity.[1]

  Technological Advancements Top

Evolving digital technologies augment the conventional anatomy, thus enabling a better learning experience. Today, three-dimensional (3D) printing methods have made it possible to create models that resemble the human body and its structures and thrive to be a cost-effective option amidst the fact that the above could only supplement but not entirely replace the cadaveric teaching mode. Software that simulates the human body in 3D form helps the learners to visualize the body parts anytime and anywhere with greater ease. Surface scanning technologies including 3D scanners and photometry software are employed to scan the brain specimen to simulate a 3D structure. This then gets digitalized into virtual reality or gets printed with suitable materials into a 3D model or even to an augmented reality simulation.[2]

  The Visible Humans and their Contribution Top

The Visible Human Project was one such pioneering initiative that proved to be a giant leap in medicine and laid the basis for three-dimensional learning of anatomy. It provides a public-domain library of cross-sectional cryosection, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and computer tomography (CT) images. This project sought to capture photographs of thinly sectioned frozen male and female cadavers to facilitate anatomical visualization. These slices of the cadaver are 1 mm thick cut along the axial plane, resulting in around 1871 slices. Interestingly, the digital analog of these slices added up to around 15 gigabytes of data. Finally, the data of Visible men and Visible women were published in 1994 and 1995, respectively.[3]

  Imaging Techniques Top

Radiological imaging modalities such as MRI and CT are extensively used by clinicians these days. They complement anatomical learning in clinical case studies. Various types of MRI include, functional MRI for visualizing cortical activity by measuring even the slightest change in blood flow, cardiac MRI for assessing the structure and function of heart, breast MRI [Figure 1]a, and magnetic resonance angiography throwing light on arteries specifically for stenosis, aneurysms etc., [Figure 1]b. There are several instances wherein the evidence provided by MRI and CT are of utmost importance.
Figure 1: (a) Breast scan, (b) Magnetic resonance angiography. Image source: Sourced internally from hospital

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  Digitization Top

An efficient way of gaining knowledge is via digital lessons prior to the actual practical session leading to a proper comprehension of the subject. Such lectures are now available online as recorded videos and can be accessed from every nook and corner of this globe. Integrating digital contents in classroom teaching in a judicious manner can enlighten the young minds in the field of anatomy.[4] Further, it is equally important for us to understand that digitization has not completely wiped out the conventional practice of diagnosing a pathology through thinly sliced, stained sections mounted on glass slides and they are here to stay with us in future. On the other hand, virtual staining technique excludes the laborious process of slide staining and other slide preparation steps which substantially reduce the overall cost involved.[5]

  Visualization in Neuroanatomy Top

Three-dimensional visualization of neuroanatomy is challenging for medical students, which is a much-needed talent for clinicians and researchers. A 3-year study took place at Boston University School of Medicine that tested the effectiveness of 3D neuroanatomy teaching.[6] Here, 101 1st-year medical students studying medical neurosciences courses were randomized into experimental (n = 51 students) and control (n = 50 students) groups. Groups were comparable in size, age, gender, and visual, aural, read, and kinesthetic, preferred learning styles. “Primary learning methodology” of learning, through inspection of the whole brain, and 2D cross-sections were common for all the students. The experimental group had a “3D review session” while the control group had a “2D review session” along with the traditional method. 3D review session made students construct color-coded physical models while 2D review session made students inspect cross-sections both of periventricular brain structures. Later, an anonymous quiz was conducted, the first part of which was tested on anatomical relationship between structures. The second part quantified the student's knowledge on 3D neuroanatomy that had photographs of unusual brain dissections that the students were not exposed to earlier. Finally, all the students were tested for 3D and 2D spatial relationships of structures. The overall scores of the quiz were significantly higher in the experimental group than the control group. However, as such, the questions were of two types: one that required 2D while the other 3D visualization. The experimental group scored higher than the control group in 3D whereas the scores measured almost the same in case of 2D visualization, like their regular year-end examinations. The results demonstrated the visualization of 3D neuroanatomy as a much-needed skill crucial for higher education in neurosurgery and neuroscience.[6]

  Future Scope Top

In the near future, “telemedicine” may be practiced for effective diagnosis across the globe. This could be made possible by virtual reality, where the patient need not even visit the doctor in person, rather he or she can have a virtual one on one conversation. The medicines too can be delivered to one's dwellings.[7]

  Conclusion Top

Visualization techniques greatly aid the conventional method of teaching anatomy through cadavers. The skill and knowledge gained through dissection and books along with the contemporary visualization techniques confer a robust foundation, building greater confidence among the young learners. Synergistically, the abovementioned approaches pave the way for a precise understanding of the science of anatomy.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Zargaran A, Turki MA, Bhaskar J, Spiers HV, Zargaran D. The role of technology in anatomy teaching: Striking the right balance. Adv Med Educ Pract 2020;11:259-66.  Back to cited text no. 1
Juan Pablo RG, César Joel VT, Víctor SU, Ismael HV, Diego PM, Garcia Galvez Agustin A. New technologies applied to the study and application of digital anatomy. HDM project (Human dissection models). 5 years of experience Ann Med 2019;51 (Suppl 1):56.  Back to cited text no. 2
Ackerman MJ. The visible human project. Proc IEEE 1998;86:504-11.  Back to cited text no. 3
Estevez ME, Lindgren KA, Bergethon PR. A novel three-dimensional tool for teaching human neuroanatomy. Anat Sci Educ 2010;3:309-17.  Back to cited text no. 4
Rivenson Y, de Haan K, Wallace WD, Ozcan A. Emerging advances to transform histopathology using virtual staining. BME Front 2020;2020:9647163.  Back to cited text no. 5
Orellano C, Carcamo C. Evaluating learning of medical students through recorded lectures in clinical courses. Heliyon 2021;7:e07473.  Back to cited text no. 6
Dasgupta A, Deb S. Telemedicine: A new horizon in public health in India. Indian J Community Med 2008;33:3-8.  Back to cited text no. 7
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