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How to create your own anatomy poster


Learning anatomy can be fun! 

Now that exclamation may sound like a gratuitous slogan commonly used by teachers in a baseless attempt to motivate their students, but this article will do its best to convince you of its truthfulness. Field trips and lab experiments help to cement an education in geology, chemistry and other sciences, but practical anatomy is unfortunately restricted to dissection rooms (well actually it is quite fortunate - the smell alone is bad enough). Engagement with the science of anatomy should then mean taking an organised and creative learning approach, which often yields much better results when it comes to memory retention. 

You may be thinking a number of things: Making a poster is a poor use of time when it comes to reviewing study material;  It requires lots of stationery supplies and artistic talent; The body’s superficial and deep structures  are too clustered and complicated to distinguish on a 2D representation; All of these assumptions are untrue - making a comprehensive and easy-to-read poster can be quick, effortless and really enjoyable.

You will need:

  • Access to a printer
  • Something to write with
  • A wall/board to put printouts on
  • Tack, pins, a stapler or other adhesive tool

As an example, let’s look at studying the rotator cuff - the muscular anatomy that facilitates the stability and flexibility of your shoulder joint. This ball and socket joint allows the widest range of movement out of all of the joints in the body and is a large contributor to the usefulness of our hands, arguably the most effective tool at the human body’s disposal. For the purposes of anatomy learning, it is a simpler and clearer construction than the copious minute structures that underlie the precise movements of our wrists and fingers. 

In order to make the poster, the relevant material in Kenhub’s encyclopaedic atlas has been printed and personally labelled. Important structures to remember are the spine and vertically-split fossas of the posterior scapula (or shoulder blade) and the overlying muscles and tendons. The range of sections available on Kenhub give the ability of depth to your poster and these printouts can be stapled over one another to give a ‘realistic’ effect when viewed. It always helps to title the section (with or without special reference to the highlighted structure) and name the orientation in which it’s framed. If you’re unfamiliar with anatomical terminology, there is a brief overview available here. Also provided are full scale sections of the body in which you can outline the structure(s) of interest to your revision.

The crudeness, creativity and depth of your poster depends on how you make it - These examples highlighting the rotator cuff are how this author would style reference material upon his wall, but anatomy posters are not limited to this. The inclusion of colour highlighting, cutting and pasting material, paragraphs written or sticked near relevant sections and anything else in your imagination can add fun to the process of anatomical memorization while still focusing on your study. 

Posters don’t have to be an individual effort either, if several structures need to be studied then collaborating with your peers to make informational material that everyone can use to review is an ideal social, educational and inventive endeavour. In regards to the rotator cuff, the four muscles involved are assisted by both the neighbouring ligaments and neurovasculature. Understanding the biology between all of these structures is easier when framed within the context of the gross anatomy involved: the axillary lymph nodes and superficial muscles and glands of the upper torso. All of these can be given to separate students and the resulting posters compiled to present a holistic model of the shoulder which serves to explain not only what each structure is but how they all fit together like pieces in a puzzle. 

Now as students of the human body we are proud to call ourselves scientists and therefore should encourage the use of figure captions, legends and other appropriate addendums to the material in question. Modern illustrations of vasculature commonly colours veins in blue and arteries in red to show the level of oxygen typically carried within the vessel. Despite Kenhub’s broad and growing library of anatomical material, sometimes in order to completely illustrate or label the structure you’re studying means the use of course material, search engines and other resources. There tends to be some variation between names for many structures that can come from the structure’s history in clinical practice, anatomical location or biological function, but when looking at these structures in anatomical maps it should be easy to confirm which is which.

The best part about making an anatomy poster is the innovative and emotive learning involved, which is proven to be associated with better memory retention. If you still don’t believe anatomy can be fun, try just making one poster. You never know how you’ll feel afterwards and as far as study methods go, it definitely is at least one of the most interesting.

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Author: Joachim Torrano

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