• spatial abilities;
  • applied anatomy;
  • problem-based learning curriculum;
  • postgraduate education


A concern on the level of anatomy knowledge reached after a problem-based learning curriculum has been documented in the literature. Spatial anatomy, arguably the highest level in anatomy knowledge, has been related to spatial abilities. Our first objective was to test the hypothesis that residents are interested in a course of applied anatomy after a problem-based learning curriculum. Our second objective was to test the hypothesis that the interest of residents is driven by innate higher spatial abilities. Fifty-nine residents were invited to take an elective applied anatomy course in a prospective study. Spatial abilities were measured with a redrawn Vandenberg and Kuse Mental Rotations Test in two (MRT A) and three (MRT C) dimensions. A need for a greater knowledge in anatomy was expressed by 25 residents after a problem-based learning curriculum. MRT A and C scores obtained by those choosing (n = 25) and not choosing (n = 34) applied anatomy was not different (P = 0.46 and P = 0.38, respectively). Percentage of residents in each residency program choosing applied anatomy was different [23 vs. 31 vs. 100 vs. 100% in Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Surgery, and Anesthesia, respectively; P < 0.0001]. The interest of residents in applied anatomy was not driven by innate higher spatial abilities. Our applied anatomy course was chosen by many residents because of training needs rather than innate spatial abilities. Future research will need to assess the relationship of individual differences in spatial abilities to learning spatial anatomy. Anat Sci Ed 2:107–112, 2009. © 2009 American Association of Anatomists.