Schoenfeld-Tacher RM, Horn TJ, Scheviak TA, Royal KD, Hudson LC. Evaluation of 3D Additively Manufactured Canine Brain Models for Teaching Veterinary Neuroanatomy. J Vet Med Educ. 2017 Winter;44(4):612-619

PMID: 28534721


Physical specimens are essential to the teaching of veterinary anatomy. While fresh and fixed cadavers have long been the medium of choice, plastinated specimens have gained widespread acceptance as adjuncts to dissection materials. Even though the plastination process increases the durability of specimens, these are still derived from animal tissues and require periodic replacement if used by students on a regular basis. This study investigated the use of three-dimensional additively manufactured (3D AM) models (colloquially referred to as 3D-printed models) of the canine brain as a replacement for plastinated or formalin-fixed brains. The models investigated were built based on a micro-MRI of a single canine brain and have numerous practical advantages, such as durability, lower cost over time, and reduction of animal use. The effectiveness of the models was assessed by comparing performance among students who were instructed using either plastinated brains or 3D AM models. This study used propensity score matching to generate similar pairs of students. Pairings were based on gender and initial anatomy performance across two consecutive classes of first-year veterinary students. Students' performance on a practical neuroanatomy exam was compared, and no significant differences were found in scores based on the type of material (3D AM models or plastinated specimens) used for instruction. Students in both groups were equally able to identify neuroanatomical structures on cadaveric material, as well as respond to questions involving application of neuroanatomy knowledge. Therefore, we postulate that 3D AM canine brain models are an acceptable alternative to plastinated specimens in teaching veterinary neuroanatomy.