The Giant Walkthrough Brain Project:
Interactive Medical Education for the Individual, Classroom and Beyond

3D printers, readily available industry-standard gaming engines, virtual reality goggles and laser cutting tools - there are just some state of the art tools becoming available to the mass market. Already they have expanded and enhanced the world of gaming, businesses, and do-it-yourself projects for casual users to name a few.

With so many impressive new tools at our disposal enter numerous possibilities for their use. How can we best utilize this new technology to create exciting, engaging and unique educational tools? How can we advance our knowledge of educational methods and step out of the box into the future of informative design?

My graduate thesis explores this concept in the context of medical education; specifically the human brain’s anatomy and physiology. It took a look at three different methods and a plethora of available software, machinery and materials with which I created unique teaching tools that encapsulate the needs and wants of a wide variety of people and individual preferences.

The idea of the Brain Slices was inspired from watching recently deceased brain dissected into a number of slices in order to find brain damage. The amount of visible detail was fascinating and useful to observing relative locations and changes as the slices move from the front to the back of the brain. Since real brain slices are not readily available for public use for a large number of reasons, the Brain Slices tool aims to provide a similar experience with a to-scale replica.

Below, we can see the general set up for the brain slices tool.

The goals of the hands-on portion of the tool were to make a life sized model of the brain subdivided into a large number of informative slices that could teach individuals about interesting components and their location in relation to the rest of the brain, and have the model show how varied and imperfect an actual human brain can be. I used coronal MRI scans of my own brain to obtain 26 evenly staggered slices (6mm intervals), turn them into vector graphics, and 3d-print each slice out of PLA plastic.

I divided the scans into gray matter and white matter portions. The original prints included both portions, and I used them to create 26 molds using silicone rubber. The printed white matter was then assembled inside of these molds, and cast with clear resin.

The slices were assembled in order, with a keyed platform to ensure that each slice has only one location it can fit. The resulting physical portion of the Brain Slices tool includes QR codes on every slice that correspond to an informative page on this web application.