Anatomical informatics: Millennial perspectives on a newer frontier



One of the most ancient of sciences, anatomy has evolved over many centuries. Its methods have progressively encompassed dissection instruments, manual illustration, stains, microscopes, cameras and photography, and digital imaging systems. Like many other more modern scientific disciplines in the late 20th century, anatomy has also benefited from the revolutionary development of digital computers and their automated information management and analytical capabilities. By using newer methods of computer and information sciences, anatomists have made outstanding contributions to science, medicine, and education. In that regard, there is a strong rationale for recognizing anatomical informatics as a proper subdiscipline of anatomy. A high-level survey of the field reveals important anatomical applications of computer sciences methods in imaging, image processing and visualization, virtual reality, modeling and simulation, structural database processing, networking, and artificial intelligence. Within this framework, computational anatomy is a developing field focusing on data-driven mathematical models of bodily structures. Mastering such computer sciences and informatics methods is crucial for new anatomists, who will shape the future in research, clinical knowledge, and teaching. Anat Rec (New Anat) 269:224–235, 2002. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.