All medical students, early in their medical career, are required to study and master human anatomy. Traditionally, medical students studied 2D pictures and models or dissected cadavers to learn anatomy. These methods have their faults, however, as they only produce limited understanding. Pictures and models lack the ability to accurately portray dimensional perceptions and cadavers are in short supply at most medical schools, due to expense, and can only be used once. (Related: VR medical training, AR to teach anatomy, virtual reality medical education)

Converting anatomy curricula to a virtual representation creates the opportunity to deepen student comprehension and provides an excellent augmentation to traditional anatomy lessons. 

Deeper Student Understanding

Students learn best when learning is authentic and engaging. Through virtual reality, students can observe human anatomy through perspectives and angles that were previously impossible or incredibly difficult to delve into. In VR, you can watch a heart beat, observe neural pathways, and observe joint movements. You can zoom in and out, rotate, and even step inside human organs. You can dissect features difficult to tease out in cadavers, like structures of the deep inner ear. Because VR delivers an accurate, visual, multi-dimension representation of  human anatomy, it is transforming medical school teaching methodologies while greatly boosting anatomy education effectiveness and retention.

Repeatable Practice

Cadavers can only be used once. Once the dissection has taken place, it can not be repeated and any students who didn’t fully grasp the learning objectives or missed their dissection lab are out of luck. If a student makes a mistake during dissection, the cadaver may be ruined, complicating or halting the learning process. Virtual dissections, however, can be repeated as many times as necessary, for as many students as necessary. When you take the fear of making a mistake out of the learning process, students tend to spend more time with the material and are more likely to explore in order deepen their own understanding.

Proctored Learning

Since physical location plays no role in virtual reality education, VR allows us to bridge the gap between students and educators worldwide. Instructors can run virtual reality lessons remotely, bringing in students from any physical location in the world. This points to a larger possibility that cadaver-less anatomy instruction could allow American medical educators to offer instruction to students in underdeveloped countries with health care professional deficiencies.