J.A. Juanes1, P. Ruisoto1, A. Prats2, J. J. Gómez3

1University of Salamanca (SPAIN)
2University of Barcelona (SPAIN)
3Centro de Imagen y Tecnología del Conocimiento Biomédico. Madrid (SPAIN)
Cerebral alterations in Multiple Sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord, are difficult to address in training contexts. The aim of the present work was to apply recent advances in Information Communications and Technologies (ICT) to the development of an informatics environment for training purposes that would allow visual and interactive representation of brain structures and digital animation of the physiopathology underlying Multiple Sclerosis (MS). The volumetric generation of the brain structures was based on the Visible Human Project images, using Amira™ as the software of choice for the visualization and advanced manipulation of images. This process required bilateral segmentation of the regions of interest (ROIs) of each brain structure and final rendering through the creation of intermediate polygonal mesh models. Animations representing pathophysiological processes were developed using Adobe Flash™. Finally, we evaluated the application by assessing the degree of satisfaction and the perception of usefulness with an anonymous Liker-type format. The results illustrate the final user interface of the application, which consisted of an anatomic and functional visor for three-dimensional (3D) models, together with graphic controls aimed at optimizing user-visor interaction. The scenario, or main region of the interface, allowed visualization and interactive manipulation through rotations, translations and zoom applications of the 3D models previously generated and embedded in Visible Human Project sections. Finally, the results of the evaluation pointed to a very high degree of satisfaction and perception of the usefulness of the proposed application. The implications of this digital resource in the teaching and learning process within the context of cognitive load theory are discussed. This application offers a didactic tool for visualization and interaction with relevant clinical information about MS through recent advances in ICTs. It enhances autonomy in the user-digital model interaction of complex brain structures by means of visual, organized and attractive three-dimensional and dynamic representations. Furthermore, our application incorporates the recommendations of the theory of cognitive load in order to facilitate the learning of complex contents: the integration of information at different levels, the fostering of an active and participatory role by students in information processing, and the use of multimedia contents. Our study contributes to advancing and consolidating current learning-teaching trends as regards the transmission of knowledge, and the role played by computers in educational contexts helps to broaden the range of educational actions, allowing access to new ways of exploring, representing and treating complex contents such as those related to cerebral disorders in MS. This application affords users complete autonomy in their learning activities upon interacting with multiple scenarios.
The authors would like to acknowledge the collaboration of the technical staff at “Centro de Imagen y Tecnología del Conocimiento Biomédico” in Madrid (España).