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Dorsal vs Ventral

Meaning and difference between the directional terms dorsal and ventral.

Your first video. Move on to the quiz below to solidify your knowledge



Describing locations in anatomy can be just a tad confusing, to say the least. After all, there’s so many terms for more directions than you could have even thought existed. So, in this short tutorial, we’re going to explain two of these terms for you, which are the words dorsal and ventral.

To understand these concepts, you must first of all know that directional terms in anatomy refer to a human body that’s in the anatomical position. The concept of anatomical position refers to a standing body looking straight ahead, feet apart, and pointing forward. Its arms are hanging down on both sides with palms facing forward. So, if you’re describing a person who is laying down on their belly, you’re still describing them as if they were standing face front with palms forward – that is, in the anatomical position.

The word “dorsal” refers to the backside or the posterior of the body, and one way to remember this is to think of a shark’s dorsal fin. The term dorsal itself comes from the Latin word for back, which is “dorsum”.

Ventral, on the other hand, is on the other side and refers to the under or the abdominal side, and this comes from the Latin word for stomach, which is “venter”.

So, if you’re looking at a ventral view of the body, it looks like this, and the dorsal view, looks like this. So, let’s take a couple of minutes to test your knowledge.

How would we describe the position of this tattoo? Yes, that’s right. It’s on the proximal end of the right forearm on the ventral aspect. It’s important to remember that in an anatomical position, the palms are facing forward, so the palms of the hands are the ventral aspect of the hands and the back of the hands is the dorsal aspect.

When it comes to our feet, we don’t refer to them as having a ventral aspect to such, however, the back of your foot is referred to as the dorsal aspect of the foot. Now, for the confusing part, let’s quickly look at what dorsal and ventral mean when it comes to the brain.

So, when it comes to the brainstem and the cerebellum, the ventral aspect is anterior and the dorsal aspect is posterior, just as we would expect. But when it comes to the cerebrum, things are a little bit different. The ventral aspect of the cerebrum is actually the inferior aspect, as you can see here, and the dorsal aspect, of course, is opposite to the ventral which means in this case it refers to the superior aspect of the cerebrum.

And that’s it! Dorsal and ventral. I hope any confusion you had in relation to these two terms has been put to bed.

If you’re curious to find out more about directional terminology and anatomy, please be sure to check out our full video tutorial on this very subject. And don’t forget to explore our website further where you’ll also find hundreds of more videos, challenging quizzes, and articles.

Until next time, happy studying!

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