Buchanan MF, Carter WC, Cowgill LM, Hurley DJ, Lewis SJ, MacLeod JN, Melton TR, Moore JN, Pessah I , Roberson M , Robertson TP, Smith ML,Vandenplas ML. Using 3D animations to teach intracellular signal transduction mechanisms: taking the arrows out of cells. Journal of Veterinary Medical Education. 2005;32(1):72-8

PMID: 15834824


Traditional methods of teaching intracellular biological processes and pathways use figures or flowcharts with the names of molecules linked with arrows. Many veterinary students, presented with such material, simply memorize the names or chemical structures of the molecules and are then likely to forget the material once the examination is completed. To address this problem, the authors designed, created, and field-tested new teaching media that incorporate realistic three-dimensional (3D) animations depicting the dynamic changes that occur in intracellular molecules during cellular activation. Testing found that veterinary students taught using traditional teaching media (e.g., lectures, handouts, textbooks) are proficient in memorizing the names and order of intracellular molecules but unable to appreciate the interactions between these elements or their spatial relationships within cells. In contrast, more than 90% of veterinary students taught using 3D animations not only recall the facts about the intracellular elements but also develop accurate mental images of the interactions among these molecules and their spatial relationships. These findings strongly suggest that the comprehension of complex biological processes by veterinary students can be enhanced by the use of dynamic 3D depictions of these processes in the classroom.