Teaching with Technology Home » OMM Students Learn Cranial Anatomy Using Virtual 3D Model

virtual-cranium-cross-sectionFor the second year in a row, OMM students expanded their knowledge of cranial anatomy using a software application created by our own 3D Modeling and Gamified Learning team.

Developed from 3D scans made of an actual human skull provided by Dr. Rebecca Giusti, the Virtual Cranium  gives second year DO students a powerful tool for learning intimate details about key cranial structures and their clinical significance.

Students can drag, rotate, or zoom in and out of the cranium to view it from different perspectives.  Preset positions enable students to snap the model to anterior, posterior, superior, inferior, lateral, and even cross-sectional views.

 

 

 

Using a menu system, students can also highlight or isolate individual structures to view them in detail.

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Built-in animated segments show common movements among cranial elements and between the cranium and sacrum.

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An extensive selection of quizzes allows students to test their recall of key anatomical structures and landmarks by locating the appropriate hotspot on the model. Students can use the Progress screen to monitor their performance on these quizzes as they continue to improve their knowledge.

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Building the virtual 3D model from scans of real human cranial bones provided a high level of detail and realism not often found in off-the-shelf anatomical viewers. It also provided some unique challenges for our Educational 3D Visualization Specialist, Gary Wisser, and our Educational Applications Designer, Jeff Macalino.  Gary: “The models we already had or could purchase didn’t have the details we needed. We wanted to discuss the types of sutures, and the motions they created.  We also wanted to include muscle attachments and other landmarks on the bones.  The only way we could get that information was to start with real bones, 3D scan them, and create our own models with a higher degree of accuracy.”

 

 

 

ethmoid-closeupJeff encountered another unanticipated challenge while stitching the individual scans together into a single cranial model. “Because no one had ever seen a completed skull assembled from that set of bones, we found that some pieces were missing, and had to be custom drawn to fill in the gaps”. The model also needed some fine tuning at the sutures, the junction where the individual structures met, due to wear and tear on the model itself. Then there was the optimization problem. “One of the other challenges we faced was keeping the amount of detail while still being able to run on a lower end computer. A variety of techniques were used to optimize the model while keeping the surface detail and landmarks intact and in the end we were able to show a 3D model that performed well on a wide range of systems.”

With the virtual model fully assembled and optimized, Educational Applications Developer Eissa Jamil was able to add the menus, user controls, and quiz questions that turned a high quality but relatively passive visual aid into an truly interactive learning tool. “The user features and programming techniques piloted through this project will give us a good foundation for similar anatomical learning applications in the future”

A brief prerecorded demo of the virtual cranium can be seen here.

Work is currently underway on Virtual Cranium 3.0 which, among other things, will replace the pre-recorded animation sequences with user controlled animations based on Giusti’s actual model.

For more information, contact:

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Rebecca Giusti, DO, at rgiusti@westernu.edu

 

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Gary Wisser, at gwisser@westernu.edu

 

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Jeff Macalino, at jmacalino@westernu.edu

 

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