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Starting point: representations of perfect 3D brains

How can we use 3D sketching to further develop neuroanatomical education, in particular to teach spatial understanding of anatomical landmarks and neurosurgical approaches?

Published onNov 18, 2023
Starting point: representations of perfect 3D brains


January 29, 2023- At the Digital Neurosurgery seminar led by Prof. Thomas Picht this week and the next, we had the pleasure of hosting a demo by the software editor BrainLab. One of their researchers visited us at the Speculative Realities Lab, bringing along crates of high-tech gear. He presented to the students, and later to the staff, how the mixed reality could be used in their software suite. Using Magic Leap AR glasses, a group of seven could explore a brain data set through the Elements neurosurgical planning software suite: a head of a patient with colourful tracks running through the white matter was suddenly floating in space. They could poke at them with a virtual laser.

This tool is introduced as a way to plan surgery, yet also as a pedagogic tool for medical students. I could have a look at the questionnaires filled up the next day by the students and they highly appreciated the experience overall, most of them find it a useful addition to the program —an additional modality into the “anatomical intermediality” of medical training (see Hallam 2020). The appeal of 3D images is used as a prestigious mark of futurity.

In the next room, on the other side of the wall, I was organizing a very rudimentary 3D sketching workshop using the commercially available app Gravity Sketch. The students ended up creating collaboratively a fuzzy scene, with a parrot and a palm tree, and lots of other scribbles. This was a lot of fun, and curiosity spread as they were exchanging the headsets to share what they had created with one another. The students reminisced about the white matter tracts that they had just seen on BrainLab. This same type of eye candy makes the neuroanatomy mixed reality application look futuristic and appealing. 3D lines become a kind of play dough and the engagement was obviously higher than with the neurosurgical software. We concluded that combining both of these setups, a joyful interaction together with serious neuroanatomical content, could lead us to an even more potent pedagogical experience.

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