Virtual reality transforms how U of S medical students learn about the nervous system

SASKATOON - Immersive interactive virtual reality can be a valuable tool for teaching neuroanatomy, according to a study published in CMAJ Open by the University of Saskatchewan's (U of S) College of Medicine.

A virtual reality brain was created at the U of S using MRI data from a living person. In a randomized controlled study, 66 first and second-year medical students were able to enter the virtual reality brain and learn the three-dimensional relationships of different structures in a virtual immersive environment. The students were then divided into two groups, with half of the participants using traditional textbook methods and the second group used the virtual reality brain module. 
“The potential applications and benefits of virtual reality technology may extend beyond undergraduate medical education into specialized neurological-based fields such as neurology and neurosurgery, making learners more prepared to navigate the complexities of the human brain in clinical practice,” said Dr. Ivar Mendez, provincial head of the Department of Surgery at the U of S and the Saskatchewan Health Authority.

Results from this study provide evidence that immersive interactive virtual reality is a viable tool for learning neuroanatomy. The study also suggested that use of virtual reality to learn the complex three-dimensional structure of the human brain may improve knowledge and retention. 
“Virtual reality technology is in its infancy and its applications for facilitating medical education in clinical practice in the future are exciting,” said Mendez.




For more information contact:

Angie White
Department of Surgery
College of Medicine
University of Saskatchewan
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