Skull Osteology iPad app

Skull Osteology Icon
Being busy is a poor excuse for not blogging. if you’re busy then hopefully you’ve got a lot to blog about, but I guess, like me recently, you’re busy with the mundane and there isn’t a lot to talk about. Twitter and the blog get ignored, and you’re only as good as you’re last update these days.

To make up for this I’ve finally got to the point where my first mobile app is about to be released to the world! Much of this I’ve had to do in my own time (like most of my elearning these days), and it’s a very simple app but I feel much more confident and clearer about the process of creating apps for multiple platforms and hopefully this will help others in the College of Medicine. It will certainly knock forward the other apps I’ve been working on, if I can find some time to invest in them.

This first app is only for the iPad right now and will be available tomorrow (1st December) from the Apple App Store. I’ll have to grab some of the official logos for some links and bits. It’s a collection of interactive images of the skull that you can touch to label bones, sutures, and foramina. There’s a web version of it on the medicine page of this blog. Because of the size of the text I’d rendered on the images it doesn’t work well on smaller screens, but I’m thinking of ways to create a smartphone version.

I’d also created an Android tablet version and got it to work fine on the emulator but when I tested it on a physical Android tablet the layout of the image slices was screwed up. I have to spend some time figuring out how to fix this (groan) but I didn’t want to delay the iOS release any more. I recently got hold of a Microsoft Surface tablet running Windows (8) RT so I’m planning to release a version for that platform too, which will also work for the full Windows 8. Life would be easier if I just produced things for a single platform but it seems infair to dictate to students what device they should buy and bring to university. I also get more things to play with, I guess (I’m writing this entry on the Surface).

So I’m hoping that this will be a useful tool for students to use, maybe in the lab alongside a skull, to help learn about the parts of the skull. There’s a lot of detail in there and it’s a thing of beauty that I hope my photos have captured. If you touch a foramen you’ll get a list of everything that goes through it. I’ve only labelled stuff on the left side of most of the symmetrical images but I plan to improve the resolution of the text I’ve used and tidy a few things up in future versions.

I’ll post a link to the app store tomorrow, and it will be free.

Boys vs Girls

I’ve started a new series of embryology lectures that will run over 2 years for each group of students. As I’ve got the whole series to myself, and as I like to run quizzes in the lectures to see how much the students take in (and for fun, and for the students themselves to see what they do and don’t understand) I thought I’d go back to the boys vs girls format that I used to run some years ago before we began this new curriculum.
The quizzes use remote “clickers” handed out anonymously so students can answer the questions I put up at the end of the lecture without worrying that anyone will expect anything of them or know how they performed. I get a general view of how the whole class did, but by gaming it and splitting the class into two teams I also see how boys and girls perform. This is particularly untrustworthy data though as previous experiences suggest that boys, er, cheat the system. Comparing boys and girls is unintentional, it’s just a way of creating teams easily.
Yesterday I gave a pair of lectures. The first was an introduction to embryology in general and the second covered the first 18 days (ish) of development from the zygote to neurulation. Each lecture had a quiz. How did you do?
An Introduction to Embryology:
Boys – 437 points
Girls – 420 points

The First 18 Days of Development:
Boys – 412 points
Girls – 363 points

I noticed in the data from the second lecture that there were a few zero scores in the girls’ team, which would be unexpected. I hope the boys are not signing on to the girls team and inputting the wrong answers because that would be unfair…
There are 5 questions in each quiz, and if you get the question right you win 100 points. The scores for the whole team are averaged to give the final score out of 500 points (so it doesn’t matter too much if one team is larger).
Right now the boys are winning the series by 2 lectures to 0. There’s a neuroembryology session coming up in a couple of weeks (within anatomy) so I’ll try to stick a quick quiz into that too.

Embryology at a Glance

From our embryology podcast series Rhiannon and I wrote a book. A book! Wiley Blackwell have added embryology to their At A Glance series, and they asked us to write it. It has taken us a couple of years but right now it’s available to buy from book shop shelves, online book shops, in ebook and iBook formats, and it’s in libraries to borrow.
We wrote this book as an introduction and revision source for anyone trying to get started or to grips with the essentials of embryology. We tried to write in an engaging and accessible way, hopefully matching what we try to do with the podcasts. There should be more than enough in there for most medicine and health profession students.
Embryology at a Glance introduces the basic principles of human development, from mitosis and meiosis, and walks you through the primary formation of each body system, with coverage of the continued development of the respiratory and vascular systems during the foetal and neonatal periods.
Fully geared towards the medical school curriculum, the coverage of major steps in human development allows a better understanding of adult anatomy, development-associated conditions, congenital abnormalities and their treatments.
You can buy copies of Embryology at a Glance in different formats:
Embryology at a Glance – paperback from Amazon
Embryology at a Glance – Kindle from Amazon
Embryology at a Glance – iBook from Apple (iPad, iPhone)
And it’s available from many other sources too.
Rhiannon and I are still talking about continuing the podcasts (we spent so much time on the book and having children (not together, separately) that the podcast series has paused). I’ve started writing a second book with some clinical colleagues that will be a little bigger, covering early development such as fertilisation, reproduction, anatomy and embryology but also obstetrics, gynaecology, neonatology and child health. That should keep me busy for another couple of years.
If you read the book I really hope that it’s helpful. Good luck!

A week or so of repair

I’ve been good, keeping my broken shoulder immobilised (well, the pain helps with that) and staying wedged on the sofa in front of the Olympics on the telly. The iPad is very handy & I’ve been able to read a lot but I got sick of talking to it. Sitting at a desk & typing & mousing with my left hand sucks & gets very uncomfortable quickly because of the way my right arm hangs. Staying away from work has been a good thing but there’s no backup to what I do, so stuff still needs to be done, broken bones or not. That also sucks.

I’ve spent an enormous amount of time with my family, so I hope they haven’t watched or read Stephen King’s “Misery” and got any silly ideas.

After about a week the break & the shoulder felt a bit more secure, and I was able to cut out the painkillers. Mornings & getting out of bed are the worst; changing the orientation of the shoulder from horizontal-ish to vertical-ish. If the shoulder gets pulled or pushed slightly it immediately let’s me know. If I drop something I reflexively try to catch it. With my right arm. Stupid reflexes. I’ve learnt to stop shrugging my shoulders though.

I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in a week and a half. That’s wearing. I stay propped up on pillows to try to support everything but you can only stay in one position for so long. Movement or numbness hurts and wakes you up. Needless to say, I can’t sleep on my side. With rubbish sleep comes tiredness, and a sore, thick head.

My chronic training load score on Training Peaks has dropped into the 80’s, which my tendons are probably enjoying. I have been dreaming about running, and in the dreams there’s no pain & my right arm works fine. My stupid brain also tried to get my arms to do a hands in the air victory salute just as I was dropping off to sleep one evening last week. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh! Stupid brain! Yeah, that really hurt. Good job the arm was strapped down with a sling.

Today is 10 days post-crash & a callus is forming & the bone is healing. I feel like crap but I’m counting the days off & feeling the improvements. It’ll be a couple of months or more before it’s strong but I’m hoping I can get out of this sling & on my turbo trainer or the fixie next week. The pain will let me know what I can do I guess. I’ve got another 2 weeks of taking it easy anyway before I need to think about training in any organised manner. Some walking on the Gower might be good, if I avoid carrying a rucksack.

I’m running resit exams next week & the only shirts I can get on are loose, short-sleeved, and somewhat Hawaiian. So that should be a bit more fun than usual.

In my hands: Embryology at a Glance

Embryology at a Glance on my coffee table
Rhiannon and I were sent our first, physical copies of our new textbook. It looks pretty good! I daren’t read it as I’ll probably spot typos that will haunt my waking dreams, but it’s always great to see something that you’ve been working on digitally for a long time in its final, printed, page flickable form.
These are our preprint copies. The book will be on the shelves of bookshops both physical and virtual in about 5 or 6 weeks’ time I think. Late August I guess, ready for the new intake of embryology hungry students.
Check out the Amazon links:

Tracking our Graduates’ Project

Grove Building, College of Medicine, Swansea University
The College of Medicine, Swansea University is interested in understanding what happens to our graduates when they leave their undergraduate medical training.
I’m not directly involved with this project, but I’m spreading the word.
If you’re in your final year of study, or if you started your studies in 2006 and you were a Graduate Entry Medicine student with us please take a look at the Facebook page and you could win a £150 Amazon voucher if you answer a quick survey.

Week 222: spinal tracts

Ouch – we had some monster neuroanatomy learning outcomes this week. From an anatomy perspective we want students to be aware of the major motor and sensory tracts of the spinal cord, what type of information they carry, where they run (and where they cross over from one side to the other), and what would happen if the spinal cord or brainstem was damaged on just one side in terms of sensory info coming into the brain and muscle control. (It’s pretty easy to work out what would happen if the spinal cord or brainstem is completely severed).

I’ve included a bunch of images, but excuse my scribbles, lack of legends and minimal labels. Some of this is intentional, and some of it suggests I don’t have enough time to do this as completely as I would like (I tried to write this when I taught it last year and have had it on my to do list for 12 months!) The images below are of a spinal cord in transverse section with some of the spinal tracts indicated by coloured blobs, and of the brain, midbrain and spinal cord cut in coronal section with the paths of neurones indicated. Yes, really, that’s the brain at the top of the diagram. The thick grey is the grey matter of the cerebral (and cerebellar) cortex.

Spinal Nerves And Cord

We started with the spinal cord. By now you guys have a pretty good idea of the structure of the spinal cord, and we ran through the white (myelinated neurone axons running up and down the spinal cord) and grey (cell bodies, synapses) matter, the ventral horns (motor neurones go out) and dorsal horns (sensory neurones come in) and talked briefly about the terms “commissure” and “decussation“, because the concept of neurones crossing from one side of the body to the other is important.

Tracts within the spinal cord are bundles of neurones running together, usually with a common function and going to or coming from similar places. A fascicle does the same thing. Some areas of the spinal cord are described as columns, such as the dorsal column of the spinal cord’s white matter, in which tracts run bunched together.

Some major tracts to be concerned with are the corticospinal tracts (ok, there are lateral and anterior corticospinal tracts so that’s two on either side), spinothalamic tracts, dorsal column tracts, and maybe spinocerebellar tracts.

Spinal Tracts

Corticospinal tracts carry motor neurones (and upper motor neurones at that). Upper motor neurones start in the cortex of the brain, namely the motor cortex (or precentral cortex), run through the white matter of the brain to the brainstem, cross over to the other side of the body (decussate) in the pyramidal decussation of the medulla, and then carry on down the spinal cord in the lateral corticospinal tract. At the appropriate level they synapse with a new motor neurone (this would be a lower motor neurone) in the ventral horn of the spinal cord, which carries the action potential out along a spinal nerve and peripheral nerves to the target muscle (and the muscle contracts). The muscle that contracts is on the opposite side of the body to the side of the brain that started this, in the motor cortex.

Corticospinal Tract

Well, this happens for around 90% of upper motor neurones. The rest run down the same side of the body as the side of the brain that they started from, in the anterior corticospinal tract. They tend to control muscles of the body wall.

If the spinal cord is damaged on only one side, muscles on the same side as the injury (ipsilateral) will be affected because they decussated up in the medulla. (Damage to upper motor neurones tends to give muscle weakness, increased muscle tone and changes in reflexes.) Theoretically if the brainstem was damaged superior to the pyramidal decussation, effects on muscles on the opposite side to the lesion (contralateral) would be seen.

Dorsal columns and spinothalamic tracts carry sensory neurones up the spinal cord to the thalamus (which filters sensory information before relaying appropriate stuff to the somatosensory cortex).

The dorsal columns contain neurones conveying fine touch, vibration, two-point discrimination and proprioception. Peripheral neurones pass into the dorsal horn of the grey matter, pass into the dorsal column (without synapsing) and stay on the same side of the spinal cord, running superiorly to the brainstem, where they synapse with a second order neurone. This second order neurone crosses to the other side of the body and ascends to the thalamus.

Dorsal Columns

Spinothalamic tracts convey neurones of pain, temperature and crude touch. In these cases peripheral neurones enter the dorsal horn of the grey matter, and may ascend on the edge of the dorsal horn for a couple of spinal segments. There they synapse with a second neurone, which crosses to the other side of the spinal cord and ascends within the spinothalamic tracts through the brainstem to the thalamus.

Spinothalamic Tract

If we consider injury to the brainstem again, in the case of sensory information the patient would lose senses of pain, touch and proprioception on the opposite side (contralateral) of the body to the lesion (because all of the sensory neurones have crossed to the other side by this level).

If we consider injury to the spinal cord, the patient would lose senses of pain and temperature on the opposite side of the body to the lesion (those neurones crossed sides already) but would lose senses of touch and proprioception on the same side as the lesion (those neurones will not cross sides until they get to the brainstem).

Weird, huh? Have a read about Brown-Sequard syndrome.

Week 219 – blood circulation in the lungs

Coloured lung segments
The Christmas holidays are over and we’re back to teaching (and learning). This week we went back to the lungs and added a little detail by looking at the pulmonary vessels in more detail, and adding the bronchial arteries and veins to this. As this is a teaching week about pulmonary embolism this anatomy should be very helpful.
We recapped how the pulmonary trunk comes out of the right ventricle of the heart, carrying deoxygenated blood towards the lungs. It splits into left and right pulmonary arteries, and each one passes into the hilum of a lung. These vessels are big. They’re carrying a lot of blood that will be ‘processed’ (for want of a better word), like we see in the liver and the kidneys. This isn’t blood that supplies the lung tissue as such, it is blood that needs some gases removed from it and other gases added to it.
The pulmonary arteries divide as soon as they enter the lung, and if you look at cadaveric lungs you may see this if they have been cut away from the body more deeply. A superior lobar branch passes to the upper lobe of the lung. In the left lung the other branch passes to the lower lobe as an inferior lobar branch. In the right lung a branch descends a little way and splits to give off lobar branches to the middle lobe and the lower lobe.
The lobar branches give off yet smaller branches, known as segmental branches. Branching continues until the pulmonary arteries (or arterioles when they become small) reach the alveoli and form capillary beds at the blood-air barrier, where gaseous exchange occurs.
The interesting thing here is that the branching pattern of the pulmonary arteries matches the branching pattern of the airways. I.e. the pulmonary arteries enter the hila of the lungs with the main bronchi, and the lobar branches pass with lobar bronchi, and segmental branches pass with segmental bronchi. Note that these branches of both structures may also be referred to as secondary (lobar) and tertiary (segmental) branches.
Remember that the bronchi continue as conducting bronchioles, then terminal bronchioles, and then respiratory bronchioles (and then alveoli).
From the capillary beds of the alveoli freshly oxygenated blood passes through small pulmonary venules, which drain into ever larger vessels, until they become the pulmonary veins and leave the lungs, returning this blood to the left side of the heart. Note that the tributaries (i.e. the branching pattern) of the pulmonary veins does not match the branching pattern of the airways. It looks very similar but it is located in a slightly different region.
The bronchi, pulmonary arteries and pulmonary veins are all great big tubes entering and leaving the lung at the hilum. There are some smaller vessels there too: the bronchial arteries and veins. The bronchial vessels help supply nutrients and oxygen to some parts of the lungs. The bronchial arteries also follow the airways, and can be found on the posterior surfaces of the bronchi and their branches. The two left bronchial arteries commonly come directly from the aorta, and the single right bronchial artery often comes from the (thirdish) posterior intercostal artery, but these origins are a little variable.
At the distal ends of these branches there are anastomoses between the bronchial arteries and the pulmonary arteries. In a younger, fitter adult these anastomoses may be helpful in minimising the ischaemic effects of a pulmonary embolus blocking a segmental pulmonary artery. Much of the blood that enters the lungs within the bronchial arteries leaves within the pulmonary veins. This mixing lowers the oxygen content of the blood within the pulmonary veins a little. Bronchial veins carry some blood away, and drain into the azygos vein (on the right) and the hemiazygos vein (on the left).
Consider the branching above. The smallest segment of a lung that is supplied by a segmental bronchus and a segmental branch of a pulmonary artery (and there will be a bronchial artery along side these two) is known as a bronchopulmonary segment.
Coloured segment airways
This is handy to to be aware of. It would be possible to remove a single bronchopulmonary segment (say, because of a cancerous mass of cells) without affecting the function of any other bronchopulmonary segment. All the other parts of the lung would still have their own airway and blood supply. Also, if you know your bronchopulmonary segments and you know where a patient’s pulmonary embolus has lodged you can predict which parts of the lung are likely to be affected.
There are 10 bronchopulmonary segments in the right lung, and 8-10 bronchopulmonary segments in the left lung. Try to think of each segment as kind of pyramid shaped, with the base of the pyramid forming the outer surface of the lung and the pointy apex of the pyramid pointing towards the hilum (where the branches come from).
In between the bronchopulmonary segments are thin sheets of connective tissue. In these spaces between the segments the pulmonary veins are found, running towards the hila and out of the lungs.
Below is the diagram I sketched on the Smartboard during teaching. The black lines are the airways, the blue lines with them are the pulmonary arteries, the thin red line with them is the bronchial artery, and the other lines have labels. Amazing stuff. I hope it made sense at the time. Maybe I should draw this again slowly and it might become useful.
Week 219 Lung Circulation Scribbles

Week 104: the neck

Head and neck
In anatomy today we jumped between different topics in neck anatomy, filling gaps, as it were. This was probably a tougher session than previous weeks, and it might take you a while to get through this week’s learning outcomes. Anatomy will take up a fair amount of your time this year, but it is an important foundation to lay.
We looked at the bones of the neck, and ticked off the manubrium, the 1st rib and the clavicles as marking the inferior border of the neck, and the mandible and inferior parts of the skull as the superior border of the neck. I pointed out the mastoid process, which is part of the temporal bone in the skull. You saw the sternocleidomastoid muscle that was attached here in another anatomy station. We also briefly looked at the hyoid bone, which many of the strap muscles of the neck attach to.
Bones Anatomylab Svw 048
Digging deep looking at illustrations, Google’s body browser (you’ll need Google’s Chrome browser installed for this to work) and plastic models we found the anterior scalene muscle. It has siblings in the middle and posterior scalene muscles, and runs from the transverse processes of the cervical vertebrae (C3 – C6) down to the first rib. This muscle will elevate the ribcage, or flex the neck to either side.
The reason we picked out the anterior scalene muscle is because of other key structures that pass near to it. The brachial plexus and the subclavian artery passes between the anterior and middle scalene muscles, superior to the 1st rib on their way out to the arm. The phrenic nerve lies on the anterior surface of the anterior scalene muscle and then runs down into the thorax. The carotid sheath, containing the internal jugular vein, the common carotid artery and the vagus nerve, runs anterior and medial to the anterior scalene muscle too.
Anterior Scalene Muscle On Model-1
You now have a landmark to relate these important structures to, so you will be able to describe where they run as your knowledge of them develops. This will also help you find them.

We briefly touched on the blood supply to the trachea and upper oesophagus, linking it to the thyroid gland and the thyroid vessels (particularly the inferior thyroid arteries and the plexus of thyroid veins).

Finally we continued on from last week, where we looked at the arch of the aorta and the descending aorta in relation to the lungs. From the aortic arch 3 major blood vessels branch. The first branch is the brachiocephalic trunk. “Brachium” refers to the arm, and “cephalic” refers to the head, so this artery will supply blood to the arm and the head. It crosses across to the right side of the thorax behind the manubrium, and splits into the right subclavian and right common carotid arteries. The next branch from the arch of the aorta is the left common carotid artery (which is in the appropriate spot to be able to ascend directly up the neck because the aorta has already arched over to the left), and the third branch is the left subclavian artery.
Branches Of The Arch Of The Aorta
Take a look at the torso models in the lab – some have the scalene muscles and blood vessels, some have the scalene muscles and nerves. Take a good look at how the arch of the aorta not only arches to the left, but also arches posteriorly to reach back to the posterior wall of the thorax. This is something that is often missed when just looking at in images in textbooks.
One of our models has a major flaw in the great vessels of the thorax and neck. if you didn’t find it on Monday have a good look at all of the torso models and see if you can find it.
Blood vessels of the neck

Neuroscience podcast 6: pain pathways

Neuroscience podcast
The 6th podcast from Phil & me (sorry, Dr Phil Newton & Dr Samuel Webster) is up, live, available and downloadable. We talk about how sensations of pain are relayed to the brain and a little about how the brain perceives pain, phantom limb pain and referred pain. Phil also tells me how the brain is able to modulate pain, why we rub a shin after banging it on the coffee table, and how opiates and other analgesics work. Kind of. (He doesn’t really know, but nobody else does either).
Get it from the iTunes feed, or download the MP3:
Neuroscience 6 – Pain pathways