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Google Body Browser

December 28, 2010

In case you have been asleep for the past couple weeks or just caught up in the magic of the holidays, Google has introduced a new Google Earth-like anatomy tool called Google Body Browser.  I checked this out when I first learned about its release thinking this would be an excellent tool for a medical student like myself.  I was unimpressed when I first looked at it, but reserved judgement and luckily didn’t write about my disappointment.  I guess my initial disappointment stemmed from the overexuberant and unfounded expectation that this could replace all other anatomy tools.  It will not replace the cadaver lab or your Netter’s atlas.  In my humble opinion, this tool is not nearly as detailed or easy to use as the most commonly used medical anatomy texts.  However, it is a useful tool med students should add to their repertoire for studying anatomy.  The human body is complex and their is no single learning tool one can rely on to comprehend it all.  I suggest taking a multi-faceted approach: spend some quality time getting to know your cadaver, study Netter’s atlas and use it to create a mental image of spatial relationships, review x-rays, CTs, and MRIs to stretch your mind to think about anatomical relationships in a 2D image, and add Google Body Browser to your review time to solidify 3D relationships, especially between different types of tissue (which you can add and remove from the body browser with a click).

My only major complaint from a functionality standpoint is the inability to hide features within a given organ system (i.e.–it would be great to hide the trapezius muscles so you could more clearly see the rhomboids and other deeper muscles).

The other great thing that happened when I checked out Body Browser for the second time, Google Translate identified the anatomical labels as Estonian and tried to translate them.  I have been vindicated by Google Translate in thinking anatomical names are a completely foreign language!

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