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Teaching enhancement by using simulated learning aids : interactive 3D animations of the 12 pairs of cranial nerves in the human brain

Authors Tsim, Karl Wah-Keung
Li, Wing Sze Wanze
Chow, Christine C. L.
Tse, Catherine K. L.
Lee, H. Chun Chiu
Kei, Ross T. Y.
Tse, May T. Y.
Issue Date 2004-05
Source Proceedings of the second teaching and learning symposium, Hong Kong, Senate Committee on Teaching and Learning Quality, and Center for Enhanced Learning and Teaching, HKUST , 17 May 2004
Summary Teaching neuroanatomy is not an easy task. Students always have difficulty in learning and sometimes they even refuse to take classes that cover brain biology. The major stumbling block in teaching neurobiology more effectively is the complexity of the human nervous system. The brain of a human being, when exposed, looks rather like an enormous walnut; it is made up, like other organs, of cells, and has been mapped in minute detail. The brain is composed of many billions of neurons linked by a unique connectivity; however, the neuronal circuitry within our brain is very abstract, and even some times imaginative. Here we have developed a series of Simulated Learning Aids (SLAs) that contains mainly visualization and simulations of the neuronal connectivity within the nervous system. Students can look at this neuronal connectivity from different angles, such as dorsal, ventral, caudal and rostral views. These different views are usually difficult to illustrate on paper or via slides that present 2D images, or even using a brain model. By using SLAs containing 3D visualizations and simulated neural pathways, students can visualize the connection of nerves between different targets and, therefore, are able to understand the topology and innervations of this connection. Besides demonstrating the SLAs in classroom, students may also access the program on-line through a WebCT course. The existence of these SLAs thus facilitates both teaching and learning of the topic inside and outside the classroom. In addition, the use of multimedia components as well as 2D and 3D computer graphics in the SLAs in illustrating the functions of neuronal circuits also help students learn neurobiology in a fast and enjoyable way. The 12 pairs of cranial nerves in the brain stem are used here for illustration. These cranial nerves are very important in controlling the muscles of the face, mouth, eyes and neck, and their neuronal connectivity is a complex one. Using computer graphics, the neuronal connectivity of the cranial nerves is demonstrated from different angles. Additionally, the functional aspects, motor or sensory, of these nerves are illustrated by a uniform storyboard.
Language English
Format Conference paper
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