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 (SPAIN)
Schizophrenia is a relatively common neuropsychiatric disorder characterized by a breakdown of thought processes and by poor emotional responsiveness. However, underlying cerebral alterations are difficult to address in training contexts. The main goal of this study was to apply recent advances in Information Communications and Technologies (ICT) to the development of an informatics environment that would allow an integral and interactive study of the cerebral alterations in schizophrenia. Enhanced T1 Magnetic Resonance Images (MRI) were acquired in a 34-year old male diagnosed with schizophrenia one year ago. The MRI recorded with three-dimensional models of the brain structures were generated from Visible Human Project images. The software used for the visualization and advanced manipulation of images was Amira™. Volumetric generation of the brain structures 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 were developed using Adobe Flash™. Finally, we evaluated the application with a view to assessing the degree of satisfaction and the perception of usefulness with an anonymous Liker-type format. The results are presented describing the user interface of the application and dynamic animations developed for integral study of the brain in schizophrenia. The first component consisted of an anatomic and functional visor for three-dimensional (3D) models, together with graphic controls aimed at optimizing user-visor interactions. The scenario, or main region of the interface, allows visualization and interactive manipulation through rotations, translations and zoom applications of the 3D models previously generated and embedded in Visible Human Project and Magnetic Resonance sections. The animations offered a visual and dynamic representation of etiological mechanisms. Finally, user evaluation revealed a high degree of satisfaction and very good perception of the usefulness of the application developed. Thus, this application contributes to consolidating current learning-teaching trends as regards the role played by computers in educational contexts and 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 schizophrenia. This tool enhances student autonomy during the learning process, in particular in the user-digital model interactions of complex brain structures thanks to visually attractive three-dimensional representations and dynamic animations. In addition, this 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. In sum, this study offers a digital teaching resource that allows integrated study of schizophrenia, including the morphology of the brain structures affected and etiological mechanism(s) by means of their visual representation through three-dimensional models and dynamic graphic 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).