Anatomy education

One of the primary goals of the UW Structural Informatics Group (SIG) is to develop methods for representing anatomy in a computer, and to use those representations for organizing biomedical information. The rationale for this goal is that anatomy is the foundation for understanding in biomedicine; therefore, if computational representations for anatomy can be developed then these representations can be used for organizing much of biomedical data and knowledge. Nowhere is this fundamental role of anatomy clearer than in clinical medicine, since most diseases can be seen as disorders of anatomical structures. Thus, anatomy is one of the primary basic sciences taught to medical students, not only because it is necessary to understand disease processes, but also because it serves as a framework for understanding related subjects such as physiology and pathology.

Because of the primacy of anatomy, anatomy education was the first and remained one of the most important driving problems for SIG research, with many student projects and theses devoted to this application domain. Although SIG is no longer active because of retirements, Professor Emeritus Jim Brinkley continues to maintain the SIG web site, which hosts several services related to anatomy education that are still functioning. A few of these are still being used.

The primary active service is the Digital Anatomist Interactive Atlases, which are annotated images created by John Sundsten, Kate Mulligan, David Conley and Peter Ratiu. Users can browse through images, click on structures to get their names, take quizzes, and generate custom images showing outlines and/or pin labels of selected structures, eg^Surface/Right^Hemisphere,^lateral^view+-oli+5:7:10". The software for the DA Atlases was primarily developed by Scott Bradley in the 1990s, shortly after the web was created, and is one of the first, if not the first, uses of client-server methods for education.

A related service is the Digital Anatomist Image Collection Manager, which allows a registered user to create image collections, and in some cases, to interact with them in a manner similar to the Interactive Atlases. This tool was developed by Rex Jakobovits and Kevin Hinshaw. Although users can no longer register, there are still many publicly available images.

The Foundational Model of Anatomy (FMA) is an ontology (essentially an outline) of most of the structures in the body as well as their relationships, and is still one of the most widely cited reference ontologies for anatomy. It was developed primarily by Cornelius Rosse and Onard Mejino. A working browser, developed by Todd Detwiler, allows a user to navigate through the FMA The browser in turn accesses a web service that allows the FMA to be queried from anywhere on the Internet.

The Anatomy Engine, developed by Trond Nilsen, is the latest iteration of a series of tools that allow a user to query the FMA to find, for example, all the parts of the head, the results of which are then used to automatically generate a 3-D scene depicting these parts, which can then be interacted with in a web browser. These scenes can then be saved for further use, as in this example scene This application may require a user name and password. If so use "bootstrap", "bootstrap".

There have been many more projects related to anatomy education developed by members of SIG over the 30 or so years of its existence. The following is a list of SIG projects that are tagged with "Anatomy Education". Most of these can be explored further by clicking on the link, eventually reaching any associated working service, such as those listed above, personnel, and associated publications. In the latter case clicking the publication list may lead to a "Internal Server Error". If that happens just refresh the page and the error should go away.