By Brian Wells, MS-3, MSM, MPH
Few areas of medicine remain as wondrous and mysterious as neuroscience. Trying to visualize the brain in three dimensions using the two dimensional diagrams from which I was learning often left me staring off into the field outside the study hall, rather than on the neuroanatomy books and of class notes in front of me. Of course, there were models of the brain and numerous MRIs and CTs to examine, but nothing which elegantly combined information with images, transforming 2D slice to 3D realism. This is the goal which Brain Tutor HD seeks to achieve.
The program information is divided into five “atlases”: Lobes, Gyri, Sulci, Brodman Areas and Functional Areas. Each atlas contains numerous structures, which when selected highlight the corresponding areas in the 3D brain representation. Each entry also includes an arrow which, when tapped, loads the description, nomenclature, location, function and connectivity.
By providing integrated MRI images, computer-rendered mockups of the brain and information about each structure, Brain Tutor HD for the iPad ($1.99, iTunes link) is able to deliver a unique and valuable experience for the student learning neuroanatomy. [Video demonstration included at end of post]
In addition to computer-generated models of the neuroanatomy, the program also provides MRI imaging in the form of a rotatable 3D head created with the BrainVoyager software package. As each structure is selected, the corresponding area in the MRI lights up showing the appropriate anatomy. Coronal, transverse and sagittal views are all available.
What I would like to see in future updates
However, for all the great attributes of this program, it is likely just the beginning. The program often hints at function without providing full explanation. For example, when referencing Brodmann Area 4, the user is informed that it contains the motor homunculus yet no information is given about the homunculus or even a link to an external website. If the developer were to begin adding hyperlinks between descriptions and expanded reference materials, this program would truly start to become the benchmark for neuroanatomy learning. A few additional items that would add tremendous value and make this a truly world-class software package are:
- Add subcortical structures and vascular structures
- Add a quiz function, where a structure is highlighted and user selects the answer from a multiple choice form
- Add attached labels similar to those seen in 3D Brain (seen below)
- Add animations or information about various neurals tracts, such as DC/ML and corticospinal
- Add information about various neuropathologies and show sample MRIs of each pathology. For example, epidural hematoma or central pontine myelinolysis.
Comparison with 3D Brain
For comparison, since 3D Brain was previously reviewed by iMedicalApps, below are screenshots from the two programs:
As one can see in the above pictures, 3D Brain (below) uses an attached labeling system rather than a strict color coding. Unlike Brain Tutor HD, this enables the user to view multiples structures at the same time without having to reference structures one by one to find the corresponding color coding.
As was noted in the previous 3D Brain review
When trying to explain to a family member why their loved one is having difficulty with speech after a stroke you could quickly show Broca’s area in a three dimensional fashion. Your point would get across a lot better this way than to exclusively show CT or MRI images.
This statement applies equally well to Brain Tutor HD. Both applications have definite bedside application in addition to their roles in facilitating learning. Brain Tutor HD does address one drawback to 3D Brain noted in the previous review
In the future I’d love to see them incorporate cross sectional images of the brain with detailed labeling. This would help with learning more anatomy and it would also help you explain more complex diseases, such as Parkinsons
in that it does provide real-world MRI images of the brain in a moving cross section. Flipping through the cross sections of the brain feels a lot like viewing the images on a computer in the hospital and really helps with learning the anatomy as it exists in three dimensions.
Overall, Brain Tutor HD is an excellent program both for students learning neuroanatomy and for clinicians who can use it in explaining conditions to patients at the bedside. It is especially hard to go wrong with the purchase price of only $1.99. If the user has access to an iPhone or iPod Touch, the free Brain Tutor 3D can be used to evaluate the software before purchasing the iPad version. We hope the developer can eventually begin to integrating some of the types of improvements outlined in this article.
- Brain Tutor HD website
- Brain Tutor HD in iTunes
- Brain Tutor 3D website:
- Brain Tutor 3D in (free) iTunes
Testing Platform: This application was tested on a 32 GB iPad 3G running iOS 3.2.2 jailbroken with limera1n (http://limera1n.com). Data access was provided over 802.11n Wi-Fi on a 10.21 Mbps/0.57 Mbps connection with a 24 ms ping as measured by Speedtest.net (http://www.speedtest.net).