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The cranial nerve skywalk: A 3D tutorial of cranial nerves in a virtual platform


  • April Richardson-Hatcher,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, University of Kentucky, College of Medicine, Lexington, Kentucky
    • Correspondence to: Dr. April Richardson-Hatcher, Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, MN212 Chandler Medical Center, 800 Rose Street, Lexington, KY 40536, USA. E-mail:

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  • Matthew Hazzard,

    1. Information Technology, Academic Technology Group, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky
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  • German Ramirez-Yanez

    1. Department of Oral Biology, Faculty of Dentistry, University of Manitoba, Manitoba, Canada
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Visualization of the complex courses of the cranial nerves by students in the health-related professions is challenging through either diagrams in books or plastic models in the gross laboratory. Furthermore, dissection of the cranial nerves in the gross laboratory is an extremely meticulous task. Teaching and learning the cranial nerve pathways is difficult using two-dimensional (2D) illustrations alone. Three-dimensional (3D) models aid the teacher in describing intricate and complex anatomical structures and help students visualize them. The study of the cranial nerves can be supplemented with 3D, which permits the students to fully visualize their distribution within the craniofacial complex. This article describes the construction and usage of a virtual anatomy platform in Second Life™, which contains 3D models of the cranial nerves III, V, VII, and IX. The Cranial Nerve Skywalk features select cranial nerves and the associated autonomic pathways in an immersive online environment. This teaching supplement was introduced to groups of pre-healthcare professional students in gross anatomy courses at both institutions and student feedback is included. Anat Sci Educ 7: 469–478. © 2014 American Association of Anatomists.