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The human brain and skull are three dimensional (3D) anatomical structures with complex surfaces. However, medical images are often two dimensional (2D) and provide incomplete visualization of structural morphology. To overcome this loss in dimension, we developed and validated a freely available, semi-automated pathway to build 3D virtual reality (VR) and hand-held, stereolithograph models. To evaluate whether surface visualization in 3D was more informative than in 2D, undergraduate students (nā€Š=ā€Š50) used the Gillespie scale to rate 3D VR and physical models of both a living patient-volunteer's brain and the skull of Phineas Gage, a historically famous railroad worker whose misfortune with a projectile tamping iron provided the first evidence of a structure-function relationship in brain. Using our processing pathway, we successfully fabricated human brain and skull replicas and validated that the stereolithograph model preserved the scale of the VR model. Based on the Gillespie ratings, students indicated that the biological utility and quality of visual information at the surface of VR and stereolithograph models were greater than the 2D images from which they were derived. The method we developed is useful to create VR and stereolithograph 3D models from medical images and can be used to model hard or soft tissue in living or preserved specimens. Compared to 2D images, VR and stereolithograph models provide an extra dimension that enhances both the quality of visual information and utility of surface visualization in neuroscience and medicine.
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Imaging techniques provide ways of knowing structure and function in biology at different scales. The multidisciplinary nature and rapid advancement of imaging sciences requires imaging education to begin early in the biology curriculum. Guided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Roadmap initiatives, we incorporated a nanoimaging, molecular imaging, and medical imaging teaching unit into three 1-h class periods of an introductory course on ways of knowing biology. Activities were derived from NIH Roadmap initiatives in nanomedicine, regenerative medicine, and nuclear medicine. The course materials we describe contributed positively to student learning gains in quantifying and interpreting images, in characterizing imaging methods that provide ways of knowing biological structure and function, and in understanding scale in biology and imaging. The NIH Roadmap provides a useful context to educate students about the multidisciplinary imaging continuum.
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