Goal: Provide our favorite resources and study tips for studying anatomy online
Distance learning has prevented many medical students from getting into the cadaver lab this year, which definitely hinders the study of anatomy. We teamed up with our Anatomy Fellow Micaela Motzko, @anatomyadventures on Instagram, to bring everyone our favorite anatomy resources and study tips. We hope to improve the virtual anatomy experience for everyone this year, but these resources are so great, they work even when COVID-19 isn’t keeping us all away from campus!
As a preface before we get into all of our favorite online anatomy resources and study tips, we would like to remind students that everyone has their own study style and ways they like to learn. Not all of these resources may be helpful to you, but we hope at least some of them are. Additionally we caution students from using too many resources. Time is our most important and limited resource, by using too many resources to study, you either risk running out of time for a complete preparation before your exam, or you do not fully utilize each of the resources you selected, preventing depth of preparation. We suggest picking one or two main sources for anatomy studying and using a couple more as supplemental resources to help with trickier structures.
From the University of Western Australia, Blue Histology is a great tool for studying Histology. Using the multiple choice practice quizzes, you can select specific organ systems or tissues, allowing you to narrow your focus. Additionally the practice quiz provides images to identify, but also written histology questions that will help you recognize the names of certain structures in histology slides and some of the physiology of the associated tissues.
Blue Histology also offers additional notes to help teach Histology which you may find helpful, but we specifically recommend the practice quizzes.
Functional Neuroanatomy Brain Slices:
This website is going to be super helpful during your Neuro block. By practicing identifying structures on slices, you will become better oriented to the brain. It can be a little confusing deciding if you are looking at a horizontal or coronal slice sometimes and this website can help you do that. These brain slices are great for quizzing yourself because you can hide the labels of the structures super easily.
This app serves as quick access reference tool for everything medical. Aside from some incredible step-by-stop tutorials on different procedures that will surely be of use during clinicals, this app contains outstanding scrolling Gross Anatomy dissections! Not only does this allow for review of specific body regions, but the creators have done a fantastic job with demonstrating the relationships between different structures. This app is an absolute winner and a must-try for all medical students.
Purpose Games is not an official study resource but we have been able to utilize this website to make our own anatomy practice. This website allows you to create your own identification quizzes. We take images from our lectures to make our own anatomy tags. This is a fun way to identify different structures and study.
NOTE: Be aware that many images used in medical school lectures are not allowed to be shared on the internet. To avoid problems, make your games private so that they can’t be accessed by other users on Purpose Games. You can still send a link to the game to your friends and the game can be accessed by other students this way. Check your student handbook to verify.
From the University of Michigan Medical School, BlueLink provides free cadaver images for most regions of the body. Using the above link will bring you to a list of labeled and unlabeled images, organized by region. These are really clear images that can be useful for gaining a general overview of what to study in each region.
Using the dropdown menu titled “Resources” at the top of the page, you can access “QuizLink PDFs.” You can download the PDFs to your computer, then open the document using Adobe and they will be interactive documents that respond to clicks. These are really useful for testing your knowledge of the structures you’re studying at your own pace.
Also under the “Resources” dropdown, there are “Practice Practicals” for certain regions of the body. These open in a Powerpoint format, and clicking through the slides reveals the answers for the structures pointed out. These are particularly helpful for the head and neck portion of the Neuroendocrine course, since many of the small structures in the head are difficult to see on other resources.
Acland’s Video Atlas of Human Anatomy: ✱-Requires your university to have a subscription
This resource can be accessed by visiting your university’s library databases and searching for “Acland.” There are videos for most regions of the body, which teach the structures on a cadaver. The voice over explains what is being shown on the screen, and the audio can be sped up if needed. You can also use the links to the left of the video to “jump to” a particular section of the video if you only need to review a particular structure. Finally, the videos are short (under 5 minutes) and organized into categories under each region. I found these videos to be extremely helpful for showing relationships between the structures, which is difficult to understand from a still image.
Thieme Teaching Assistant Anatomy: ✱
This resource can be accessed by visiting your university’s library databases and searching for “Thieme.” After entering the database, you can select any of the textbook editions and explore the sections available. The illustrations found in this resource are simple, well organized, and labeled very clearly. The pictures of the neurovasculature are particularly useful, because you can see all of the branching patterns for a particular artery or nerve from start to finish.
Anatomy Atlas App by Visible Body:
Now more than ever, having access to a quality 3D anatomy atlas is a basic necessity when taking a virtual approach to learning anatomy. Many of the questions that professors (and board exams) require making connections several steps beyond first-order questions. Spending enough time with this software, available on iOS/Android/Windows, will help form a mental picture to work through the associations of different structures rather than just memorizing the relationships.
This site offers free and premium content that will help first time and experienced learners gain fundamental understanding of anatomy. The free offering offers a few questions following each section to help assess understanding and aids in identifying sticking points. The colorful depictions used to differentiate neighboring structures helps establish comparative relationships that professors love to make the basis of test questions!
If you are going to be tested virtually, using cadaver images, then I would recommend studying virtually with cadaver images. If you know where your test question pictures are coming from, make an Anki deck with all of the testable images from your source. To be honest this may not be the best way to learn the anatomy and orientation of the body, but in terms of test performance, you will do great. Beware of mirrored images on the exam though, the picture will look different from what you practiced with, but it’s still the same image.
Alright so this isn’t a hot take. You all have heard of Youtube because it is a highly used resource in medical school, but it can also be used for anatomy. Just try typing in keywords like “anatomy lab cadaver (insert body region)” and see what pops up. You may find specific channels that specialize in anatomy that you like.
If your school provides you with a structure list for your anatomy practicals, one of my favorite tips is using a highlighting system to keep track of what structures I can confidently identify and which structures I need to spend more time studying. I use Green (can totally identify this structure in my sleep), Yellow (I can identify this structure but may have trouble if it is a tricky tag), Orange (I know what this structure is, but can’t identify it), and Red (I don’t think I’ve ever seen this structure in my life). Using this highlighting system with an app like Notability allows me to keep revising my structure list as the course progresses and eventually my list is a lot more Green and Yellow than Orange and Red.
Note: It also may be helpful to import pictures of difficult structures, or structures that you may not see easily on a cadaver
Even if the pictures aren’t beautiful, drawing anatomy structures can help you commit them to long term memory. It’s especially helpful to draw structures that have important relationships, like the deep fibular nerve running with the anterior tibial artery. Knowing those relationships are very important for studying anatomy, and can help you score points on the lab or written exam!
Try to “teach” a region to your classmates, your family, or your significant other. If you study in a group, each of you could be assigned to a different region and you can take turns learning from one another. This could be in the form of teaching from an atlas picture, or even from a drawing on a whiteboard. Being able to teach anatomy to someone else will help you to commit it to memory.
These are a great way for you to remember how many structures are in a particular region, plus the letter they begin with. Mnemonics can be used to help you remember anything from the muscular layers in the posterior leg to the branches of the axillary artery. As long as you know what the mnemonic means, they can help you quickly recall information on test day.
Guest Author Bio | @anatomyadventures
I went to undergrad in Arkansas (where my family is from), and now live in Joplin with my husband and our golden retriever. Anatomy was my favorite subject in high school, then college, then med school. I loved being an anatomy tutor last year, which inspired me to apply to become an Anatomy Fellows. I made this account mostly to document my journey of being in the fellowship – for myself, my family, friends, etc. So many people in my life aren’t in the medical field at all and I thought it’d be fun to provide some perspective into this world. It’s become an educational outlet as well – I’m getting to teach all kinds of people about how the body works, which is something I wouldn’t otherwise get to do 🙂
- Plus, it’s fun hearing responses from people who aren’t in medicine – amazement at the human body, shock about the dissection process, and disgust at some of the things we do in the lab lol
- It’s nice to know that this small bubble of people are gaining some perspective for what it takes to become a doctor