The free 3D Brain (for iPad) is an educational app that lets you peruse rotatable three-dimensional diagrams of the brain and its structures, complete with explanatory text and links to related articles. It’s a good overview of the brain, though the app’s navigation is a bit clunky.
The app’s features and layout are the same as 3D Brain (for iPhone), though it benefits from the larger screen area, which permits you, for instance, to see most of a brain diagram plus the explanatory text at the same time. With the iPhone version, almost all the diagram is hidden behind the text.
A Translucent Virtual Brain
When you open the app, you’ll see a page labeled Whole Brain, a depiction of the entire brain with its regions marked in different colors. It’s a VR-style 3D illustration; by touching it and dragging your finger, you can rotate the image, revealing different regions. One side is translucent, so you can see interior structures. By stretching and pinching, you can expand or shrink the diagram.
On the right side of the screen is a taskbar, containing 5 buttons named Structures, Info, Labels, Search, and Help & About. Touching the Structures takes you to a drop-down menu that lets you access diagrams of the whole brain, lobes, or individual structures.
As an example of how it works, if you choose the second entry on the list, Basal Ganglia, it reveals an illustration with six substructures shown in different colors. Touching the Labels button on the taskbar names the structures: Globus Pallidus, Nucleus Accumbens, etc. Tapping the Info button calls up a wider bar on the right side of the screen, with text describing different aspects of the basal ganglia. Whichever brain structure you call up, the textual information provided is in the same order: Overview, Case Study (or Studies), Associated Functions, Associated Cognitive Disorders, [Impairments] Associated with Damage, Substructures, Research Reviews, and Links.
Beyond the Imagery
Through links in the Research Reviews section, you can access PubMed abstracts of selected articles related to the brain region. The Links section includes the MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) organizational tree for the structure in question, while BrainInfo takes you to images. Whichever of these links you click on, it takes you out of the app, which you’ll have to relaunch. Then it will open to the Whole Brain opening page, where you’ll have to start from scratch.
As you’d expect, the Search function lets you locate and navigate to information related to a particular subject in the app’s text.
One piece of interactivity that I would have liked to see is some response when you tap on specific areas in the brain diagrams. For instance, the Whole Brain view shows six areas of the brain, each depicted in a different color. Clicking on Labels from the taskbar identifies them as the Frontal Lobe, the Parietal Lobe, the Temporal Lobe, the Occipital Lobe, the Cerebellum, and the Brainstem. But if you touch on one of the areas or its label, nothing happens. Granted, you can access separate pages for these areas, as well as 22 brain structures or sub-structures, but you have to work from the drop-down menu accessible through the taskbar.
The 3D Brain app for the iPad provides a better user experience than when it is used on the iPhone, as it enables much more of the diagrams to be visible when text is also on the screen. The app could make better use of its interactivity by improving navigation between brain structure diagrams and linking to more content within the app instead of exiting it and having to start from the home screen. But, even as is, 3D Brain provides a good overview of the brain and its structures. Though best for life-science or neuroscience students, there is much that will be of interest to laypeople as well.
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Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc