Thanks, in part, to funding from the Educational Technology Group I was able to assemble a 3D projection system in my anatomy lab. The motivation for this project came from my desire to use a 3D software program known as Cyber-Anatomy. This program demonstrates anatomical images stereoscopically, that is, in true 3D.

In addition to the software, the projection system requires a 3D LED projector, a computer with a special video card and electronic 3D glasses. The software and the computer generate the 3D images. The images are projected via the 3D projector onto a screen and the projector also controls the 3D glasses. The electronic processing between the projector and the glasses creates images that appear to have depth for the viewer.

This project had a steep learning curve, not only for me but also for the Instructional Technology Department (Carl Thelen) and the Media Services Department (Craig Phillips). We learned that a specific video card was required. We also learned that there are two protocols for 3D processing by video projectors. So, it took a several months to select and assemble all of the pieces to the puzzle. I mention this information in case another faculty member wants to pursue a 3D project. Please talk with me first (e.g. I consulted with the Chemistry Department already).

Finally, the software. Cyber-Anatomy is an amazing program. My students are able to view anatomical structures in true stereoscopic vision, that is, with depth of vision. The students can manipulate the images, by rotating them in multiple planes, by zooming in and out and by selectively removing structures to see what is deep to them. In addition, the students are able to call up the name of every anatomical structure and also see background information. I believe the real value of the software will be that the students will be able to look at a particular region before they begin their dissection. The 3D manipulations will allow the students to gain an appreciation of the relationships of the anatomical structures with each other. Then, they will have an understanding of where the structures are in the cadaver even if they are deeper and not visible.

Because the whole system was not up and running until the middle of the Spring Semester, it took me a while to learn about the capabilities of the software. I created several lesson plans that I presented to the students. In the future, I envision the students choosing a region of the human body and isolating particular structures and saving the file so that they can review the anatomy of that region when necessary.

Some of the members of the ETG were able to attend my presentation on the historical perspective of visualizing anatomy. Stereoscopes were used at the turn of the century, that is, the early 1900s! Then, atlases with tissue overlays were used to demonstrate the depths of the various anatomical structures. In the 1950s, Stanford University created a series of 3D images of cadaver dissections that required dual projectors and polarized glasses. Several years later, the University adapted these images for use with the ViewMaster handheld device. They used these systems for a few decades but the
´┐╝images were not made available to the public. In the early 1990s, A.D.A.M. (Animated Dissection of Anatomy for Medicine) was created in response to the popularity of personal computers. But the 3D effect was virtual, the user could remove layer by layer to appreciate the depths of the structures. However, A.D.A.M. was just a computer version of the old tissue layer atlases. It was not until recently that stereoscopic 3D imaging made a comeback. Computer games and home movies have driven the developers to create systems that can immerse the users and viewers in a stereoscopic 3D environment. Visualizing anatomy in a true 3D environment will help my students understand the anatomical structures and their sometimes complicated positional relationships.

I have created a lab environment that very few undergraduate institutions have. I am fortunate to have the support of the Educational Technology Group and the Instructional Technology Department to help incorporate technology into my lab. The students have access to laptops at their tables, iPads on the gurneys and, now, 3D projection of anatomy. They can readily visualize the anatomical structures and find related information. Truly amazing. Note: look for the Fall Edition of Saint Mary's Magazine, there will be an article on what I do in the Human Anatomy course.

I need to thank Carl Thelen, Craig Phillips and Hamid Mostaghimi for their help in assembling the 3D projection system. I also need to thank the Educational Technology Group, the Biology Department and Roy Wensley, Dean of the School of Science, for their support. This was truly a group project.


Evaluation
Because the projection system was not operational until the middle of the semester, I was not able to incorporate the software the way I wanted to, that will come in the future. But I will share the student feedback that I received from my upper division Human Anatomy course.

I did not get too much of a chance to use the 3D projection system, but from what I did do I found it to be a fabulous program that allowed us to visualize and isolate structures in a way that would help us understand the anatomy on a different level. Sometimes one just needs to look at an organ or tissue in a new way in order to better remember or visualize it and the 3D system provided an avenue to do that.

The 3D projection system was absolutely amazing. It was extremely helpful for difficult structure such as the pelvis. Looking at the bones it was hard for me to visualize all the structures going through the pelvis until I saw it in 3D. It was a great system and I truly believe it is going to make learning anatomy even more amazing (if thats even possible!).

The 3D system was extremely helpful in visualizing how anatomical structures truly exist in the body. I was able to recognize structures using the glasses, the images were clear, and gave me a new appreciation of how structures exist relative to one another. This was especially useful to see before we did dissections so we knew what to expect.

About the 3D projector, it was extremely helpful. The way in which it allowed for manipulation of anatomical structures in 3D allowed one to view any part of the body from every possible angle. This helped me to study each structure in several ways which made the material easier to remember.

My comments for the 3D projector are that I think it will be very helpful in terms of preparing the advanced anatomy students for their future dissections. Sometimes you would tell us what we would be doing in lab the following Monday, and I think this tool will be especially helpful to pinpoint what we are looking for because it's hard to look at anatomy in 2D and then try and find it on an actual human body. I wish we had gotten the chance to use it more in class because seeing the isolated systems in 3D was so amazing. I think it would have really helped me for understanding vasculature and nerves. I don't have any negative comments but I think once students start playing with it more, you will find the bugs (if there are any).

Our advanced anatomy class only had the luxury of experiencing 3D anatomy a handful of times due to technical difficulties, but Dr. Smith utilized those opportunities to help us understand and visualize some of the most challenging anatomical structures. For example, he guided us along the path of the ductus deferens by simply rotating the 3D structure before our eyes, showing us where it joins the seminal vesicle to become the ejaculatory duct; a pathway that can be hard to grasp by staring at a diagram or awkwardly maneuvering oneself over a cadaver. The major question of 3D anatomy seems to be whether it is more useful than learning these structures on a cadaver. My answer is no, for no matter how advanced technology can get with anatomy, there is nothing more rewarding than learning anatomy first hand by working with a cadaver. 3D anatomy definitely compliments what is discussed in the classroom, but it cannot top the real thing or the anatomical variations that human cadavers have to offer. If anything, 3D anatomy and dissections must go hand-in-hand.

While the 3D system was only operational for the final push of the semester, even in that time it gave me a very enriched understanding of the special relationship of anatomical structures; the glasses, though a little bit hinky in terms of operating at fist, were very helpful in providing us with an understanding of the depth and organization of the human body in a way that enriched our work in the laboratory. To be able to isolate and visualize vessels and organs that we simply did not have time to uncover was invaluable to helping cover areas that would otherwise be missed. The structures were, for the most part, anatomically accurate, though I seem to recall that there was a small issue with some of the details, for instance the lungs. I won't say they are minor issues, but for the most part anything that was inaccurate could be ameliorated by looking at the cadavers. All in all, this 3D system is in my opinion a successful set in updating the Advanced Anatomy program at SMC, and as a learning tool can only benefit and enhance the already incredible learning experience of the course.

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