Art and Medicine: The Effects of Technical Drawing Exercises on Spatial Visualization of Humans

Thumyat Noe ’23

Figure 1: Research suggests that studying anatomy requires high spatial visualization skills.

Spatial visualization, the ability to visualize shapes and the orientations of objects in space, can help medical students learn human anatomy, which many consider a challenging area of study. Past studies suggest that high spatial visualization positively correlates with increased success in scientific disciplines, leading researchers from Kansas City University to believe that enhancing spatial visualization through technical drawing exercises may help medical students successfully learn anatomy. In a recent experiment, researchers from Kansas City University tested the effects of technical drawing exercises on spatial visualization of medical students enrolled in neuroanatomy courses. Researchers hypothesized that technical drawing exercises may improve spatial visualization and thus help medical students perform better in anatomy courses.

In order to test their hypothesis, researchers recruited 84 medical students enrolled in a neuroscience course to participate in this experiment. For baseline measurements, participants filled out a pre-questionnaire and took the Mental Rotations Test (MRT), a standard spatial skills test. Afterwards, researchers randomly assigned some participants to attend four art sessions. During each art session, participants worked on technical drawing exercises. Upon completion of these sessions, participants completed a post-questionnaire and took the MRT again. Researchers compared initial and final performances on the test to determine if technical drawing exercises improved spatial visualization skills. 

Although most participants showed improvement on the final assessment, participants who attended art sessions showed greater improvement than those in the control group.  Researchers also found that participants with prior artistic experience showed greater improvement on the post-assessments, and participants who noticed an improvement in their spatial visualization skills after attending art sessions showed greater improvement compared to those who did not notice a change in their artistic abilities. 

Overall, the results imply that technical drawing exercises may enhance spatial visualization and help medical students in their anatomy studies. Those who wish to pursue a career in medical care should consider engaging in technical drawing exercises to improve spatial visualization. A possible direction for future studies is to control for a sample of participants who engage in technical drawing exercises during their free time.

Works Cited:

[1] Y. Na, et al., Spatial visualization of human anatomy through art using technical drawing exercises. Anatomical Science Education 0, 1-12 (2021). doi: 10.1002/ase.2080.

[2] Image retrieved from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/trustypics/6687013161

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