Cadavers Beat Computers as Med School Teaching Tool, Study Finds

Researchers say future doctors and nurses learn more from the human body

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FRIDAY, Oct. 24, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Cadavers are better than a computer simulation of the human body for teaching anatomy to college students, a new study says.

The findings suggest that cadavers should continue to be used in undergraduate human anatomy courses for future doctors, nurses and other health and medical professionals, according to the researchers.

Their study included almost 240 students in a semester-long undergraduate anatomy course. One group of students learned on a cadaver and were tested on a cadaver. Other students learned on a computer simulation of the human body and were tested on a cadaver, according to the researchers.

The students were tested on being able to identify the parts of the body and to explain how they worked. On average, the students who learned on a cadaver scored 16 percent higher on identifying body parts and 11 percent higher on explaining what the body parts do, compared with those who learned on the computer simulation, the study found.

The difference in average scores was the difference between one grade, study co-author Cary Roseth, an associate professor of educational psychology at Michigan State University, said in a university news release.

The study appears in the September/October issue of the journal Anatomical Sciences Education.

"Our findings indicate that educational technology can enhance anatomy instruction but is unlikely to fully replace cadavers," Roseth said.

Most anatomy courses in the United States still rely on cadavers. But many also use computers to supplement the instruction, according to the researchers. However, there is ongoing debate over whether cadavers are needed at all, and some medical schools in Australia and the U.K. have stopped using cadavers to teach anatomy, according to the study authors.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about anatomy.

SOURCE: Michigan State University, news release, Oct. 16, 2014


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