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Does 3D stereoscopy support anatomical education?

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The teaching of anatomy in medical education has historically been based on lectures, cadaveric dissections, and illustrated books for students. Stereoscopic 3D videos are now easily accessible via smartphone and affordable for students. This study aimed to investigate whether a 3D stereoscopic instruction video could improve learning over 2D video.


A prospective controlled study on a single-site was conducted at the University of Angers. Content knowledge was assessed, followed by the presentation of an instructional neuroanatomy video. Participants watched the video in either 3D or 2D format, then they completed an anatomy written test. Pre-video and post-video performances were analyzed with independent t tests on total score, fundamental anatomical knowledge, anatomical relationships and reasoning.


175 subjects completed the study. At baseline, the 3D (n = 91) and 2D (n = 86) groups were similar, in age and class level. 3D and 2D scores were similar in the pre-test session and in the fundamental knowledge post-test (mean 73.2% vs 74.4%, p = 0.37). Average scores for the 3D group were better for the post-test regarding anatomical relationships (mean 86.4% vs. 63.5%, p = 0.004), clinical inference/reasoning (mean 76.8% vs. 67.6%, p = 0.023) and total note (mean 76.8% vs. 67.6%, p = 0.07). Regarding the 3D student’s satisfaction questionnaire (n = 91), 70 students (77%) agreed that the stereoscopic video allowed good 3D visualization of anatomical structures. The student enjoyed using the stereoscopic video (n = 75, 82.5%). Most students supported the use of this kind of stereoscopic 3D video in their normal teaching as a complementary tool (n = 78, 85%).


The incorporation of 3D videos as ancillary teaching into curricula could be of interest to improve the knowledge of anatomical relationships and reasoning among students.

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We are indebted to Cyril Royer (video editor, medical university of Angers), Julie Chalopin and Jean-Luc Bourrigaud (technicians at the anatomy laboratory of Angers) for their technical help and for providing us with the material needed to make the study happen. We are also indebted to Julie Lebeau (pedagogic engineer at Lab UA) for her pedagogical help building the anatomical questionnaire. We are indebted to Fanny Leluan-Higgins for her insight and advice while reviewing the article.


The Anatomy 3D project was supported by 3D-lab of the University of Angers and the Loire countries.

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FB and PR completed the literature research, the manuscript writing and analyzed and interpreted the data. Critical revision of the article has been provided by AK and H-DF in the field of anatomy and pedagogy.

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Correspondence to Florian Bernard.

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None of the authors disclose any conflict of interest and any financial disclosure in relation with this study. This manuscript has not been previously published in whole or in part or submitted elsewhere for review.

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Supplemental video material: Willis’ circle anatomy 3D stereoscopic video. (MP4 44592 kb)

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Bernard, F., Richard, P., Kahn, A. et al. Does 3D stereoscopy support anatomical education?. Surg Radiol Anat 42, 843–852 (2020).

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