Online interactive medical neuroimaging exercise to identify human brain structures

Ann Anat. 2023 Aug;249:152101. doi: 10.1016/j.aanat.2023.152101. Epub 2023 May 18.


A persisting need remains for developing methods for inspiring and teaching undergraduate medical students to quickly learn to identify the hundreds of human brain structures, tracts and spaces that are clinically relevant (viewed as three-dimensional volumes or two-dimensional neuroimages), and to accomplish this with the option of virtual on-line methods. This notably includes teaching the essentials of recommended diagnostic radiology to allow students to be familiar with patient neuroimages routinely acquired using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT). The present article includes a brief example video plus details a clinically oriented interactive neuroimaging exercise for first year medical students (MS1s) in small groups, conducted with instructors either in-person or as an entirely online virtual event. This "find-the-brain-structure" (FBS) event included teaching students to identify brain structures and other regions of interest in the central nervous system (and potentially in head and neck gross anatomy), which are traditionally taught using brain anatomy atlases and anatomical specimens. The interactive, small group exercise can be conducted in person or virtually on-line in as little as 30 min depending on the scope of objectives being covered. The learning exercise involves coordinated interaction between MS1s with one or several non-clinical faculty and may include one or several physicians (clinical faculty and/or qualified residents). It further allows for varying degrees of instructor interaction online and is easy to convey to instructors who do not have expertise in neuroimaging. Anonymous pre-event survey (n = 113, 100% response rate) versus post-event surveys (n = 92, 81% response rate) were attained from a cohort of MS1s in a neurobiology course. Results showed multiple statistically significant group-level shifts in response to several of the questions, showing an increase in MS1 confidence with reading MRI images (12% increase shift in mean, p < 0.001), confidence in their approaching physicians for medical training (9%, p < 0.01), and comfort levels in working online with virtual team-based peers and with team-based faculty (6%, p < 0.05). Qualitative student feedback revealed highly positive comments regarding the experience overall, encouraging this virtual medium as a desirable educational approach.

Keywords: First year medical school curriculum; Generation Z; Large group teaching; Medical neurobiology; On-line interactive laboratory exercise; Students; Teaching/methods.

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate*
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Neuroimaging
  • Students, Medical*
  • Teaching
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed