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Spanning the Globe III

Updated: Aug 5, 2019

Once again, we are here to round up all the anatomy news that’s fit to blog about!

We hope you didn’t miss the news story about the research that found the facial anatomy of dogs may have evolved, over thousands of years, specifically so dogs can endear themselves to humans. Most dogs, the scientists found, have muscles to raise the inner eyebrows and widen the eyes. But wolves? No such muscles exist. Wolves have only a small tendon in the same location. (We’re very glad wolves don’t know how to make themselves look cute and adorable, thank you very much.) Bridget Walker, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom, and co-author of the study, surmised that domesticated dogs developed this means of communication to adapt to the human environment, where communication is such a priority. “Communication is key to everything that we do with each other,” Waller told Scientific American. When humans domesticated animals, she added, “we shaped them into things that we can relate to and that are useful to our lives.” Who’s a good boy?

You may not (yet) be able to read another person’s mind, but science is getting a detailed look. Very detailed. Thanks to an anonymous (and deceased) patient and 100 hours of scanning with an advanced MRI machine, “the world now has an unprecedented view of the structures that make thought itself possible,” according to Science Alert. A neuroimaging scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital recorded the ultra-high resolution MRI dataset and offer the “three-dimensional neuroanatomy of the human brain” to the public.

Speaking of brain power, Science Daily reports on a new motorized prosthetic arm with fingers that not only can move, they can move with the owner’s thoughts. A biomedical engineering team at the University of Utah developed the equipment, called the “LUKE ARM” (after the robotic hand Luke Skywalker got in “The Empire Strikes Back.”) The prosthetic “mimics the way a human hand feels objects by sending the appropriate signals to the brain,” wrote Science Daily. In short, an amputee can sense the touch of something soft or hard and therefore understand better how to pick it up. By the way, the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System allows for study of all body systems, including nerves. We salute the incredible imagination and dedication of these amazing scientists.

This is one of those feel-good stories about careers in the medical field. We came across this feature in the William & Mary news feed (thank you, Google Alerts) about Laura Anderson, who is planning on a career as an occupational therapist thanks to entering the wrong course code and ending up in a class she didn’t, well, want. At first. Laura didn’t even want to be a “science person.” At first. The article, which is really about the Human Anatomy Lab at William & Mary, states that each year 160 students take Anatomy Lab and gain firsthand dissection experience with cadavers. In fact, it’s one of the oldest such labs in the state of Virginia. And it occurred to us that all the incredible anatomy-related science mentioned above wouldn’t be possible without teachers who ignite those initial sparks of enthusiasm in anatomy. This particular article mentions two instructors—Evie Burnet, a lecturer, and Ray McCoy, associate professor of kinesiology and health sciences. Burnet has taught for 13 years; McCoy for 31. Fascination with studying human anatomy can start at any age—and for strange reasons, too. But there’s always a teacher there to start the process and engage the sense of wonder. Hats off to anatomy teachers everywhere.







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