r/science Oct 07 '22

Study: Non-Animal Teaching Methods Are as Effective as Animal Dissection, Possibly More So Biology

https://theveganherald.com/2022/10/study-non-animal-teaching-methods-are-as-effective-as-animal-dissection-possibly-more-so/
918 Upvotes

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142

u/Mumblerumble Oct 07 '22

I’m curious how long it will be before technology catches up to the issue and we end up doing VR-based A&P as a default. Imagine if you could do the same portion of a dissection ad Infinitum until you get it solidified in your head. Seems like surgeons would benefit a lot but same for students.

23

u/TomMakesPodcasts Oct 07 '22

VR is going to help a lot in the future. I never even considered this!

50

u/Jafaris79 Oct 07 '22

It has to be extremely accurate to what it feels irl and totally smooth. Imagine spending days practicing only to build the muscle memory for the wrong circumstances.

48

u/beezlebub33 Oct 07 '22

It depends on what you are trying to learn. I think that if you are going to be a surgeon, then the muscle memory and 'knowing what it feels like' when doing dissection are very important. If you are general practitioner then knowing what things feel like when you touch them is vital.

But if the goal is anatomical knowledge, understanding physiology, etc. where the physical interaction is not of paramount importance, then this might be as good or better. That's going to apply to the majority of people.

13

u/Spitinthacoola Oct 07 '22

Learning the difference between what the textbook says organs look like/where they are and the reality was an important lesson for me as a biologist in training. You look at so many diagrams but when you're actually in there looking around things are not so simple. I don't think that would be easy to replicate.

30

u/ecksate Oct 07 '22

Good luck doing the same scenario over and over again and then opening an actual living thing and discovering that organs move around and aren't required to stay where the they were in the textbook or the VR simulation.

9

u/MadroxKran MS | Public Administration Oct 07 '22

That seems like something a VR sim could account for.

5

u/majesticbagel Oct 07 '22

Trust me, if you’ve ever done a surgery, you know there’s no way vr could replicate all of the experience. I agree it’s useful for learning anatomy, but there’s so much tactile information that you can’t really absorb visually, or with any other vr substitute.

3

u/MadroxKran MS | Public Administration Oct 07 '22

What would you say about the surgeries currently being done controlling robots via VR?

3

u/majesticbagel Oct 07 '22

I mean I’m pretty sure those surgeons still used actual dissections and cadavers to train. Vr can be helpful, but it can’t just replace expertise.

1

u/ecksate Oct 07 '22

It's unrelated.

Whether or not a simulated body or a simulated experience it's is a proper reflection of reality, including its wide degree of variability, has nothing do with putting on VR goggles to have an image of reality projected into your eyes

The issue is not necessarily VR, the issue is the simulation.

-2

u/Jafaris79 Oct 07 '22

Please tell me you're not speaking from experience

16

u/Hundertwasserinsel Oct 07 '22 edited Oct 07 '22

Surgeons generally just put all the organs back in haphazardly. The body is a pretty tight fit. you just get them in where they will fit. Like getting a product back into the original box. Ive been told "meh, theyll move on their own and generally go back to where they should be."

1

u/livesarah Oct 13 '22

That’s interesting but I think I’ll regret learning that if I ever have a surgery that requires any of my organs to be temporarily removed from my body cavity!

40

u/bearpics16 Oct 07 '22

Surgeon here: VR anatomy just isn’t the same as real life. Real anatomy is messy, and there a lot of variation between people. You’ll never understand what a fascial layer is until you experience it in real life. Anatomy isn’t about identifying structures as much as identifying relationships between structures. Also feeling the structures is very informative.

Virtual anatomy is fine for nurses, PAs, NPs. But I strongly disagree it should replace cadavers in medical school, even though some schools have done that.

VR/virtual anatomy is an invaluable supplement to cadavers though. And I routining use virtual anatomy (Complete Anatomy app) in residency to refresh before a case

0

u/woody1594 Oct 07 '22

I use to embalm anatomical bodies for med schools. Everything you said is spot on.

7

u/2legittoquit Oct 07 '22

You have to feel stuff though. Everything in there is slippery and hard to grip, you need physical practice.

7

u/Hot-Jackfruit-3386 Oct 07 '22

Not really about surgeons, but same basic principles: there are companies that are already on top of this with regards to mechanical maintenance practices. It can be costly to have untrained technicians work on expensive machinery for practice, because of potential risks with damaging the equipment. So often times, errors and faults are simulated in a way that isn't really natural (like by unplugging something to simulate a wire that's been burnt out or broken) so that symptoms of faults are apparent but the actual fault itself isn't present. With VR, you can literally simulate the fault exactly as it would appear in the real world without having to worry about about constantly burning through supplies in order to do so, so that technicians can experience real-world troubleshooting for practice.

2

u/Tearakan Oct 07 '22

Surgeons are already told to play video games to increase dexterity so it makes sense.

1

u/Ragman676 Oct 07 '22

The thing is, fixed tissue like stuff in formaldehyde is not the same as live tissue. Working as a surgeon on fixed tissue doesn't give you the same experience. Texture/color/friability is wrong, and there are no vessels dilated properly (things you need to miss the most as a surgeon along with nerves). 3d imaging in a VR space used from detailed scans (FMRI/CT/Contrast) will probably be the future.

0

u/OBFpeidmont Oct 07 '22

Yes a new commercial (I am sorry to say it’s for Meta) includes a segment on surgeons learning the skill with AR. I hope AR replaces animal models super soon!

19

u/medicated_in_PHL Oct 07 '22

Honestly, I think dissection is important… if you are in college working towards a degree in which it’s necessary, like medicine. There’s zero reason to do it in high school, or as a part of a generalized education. One thing that can’t be simulated is the fact that a lot of tissue looks similar in an actual animal body, and the fact that there is inherent variation in individuals that can make tissue differentiation difficult to ascertain without training using real world examples.

A lot of training tools make the parts easily identifiable like a puzzle, but the moment you open up a real animal, you realize that it all looks like a mixed stew. This information is important for someone who is going into medicine, and is going to do surgery, biopsies or even just remediation of tissue in an infection. It’s not important for the 10th grader who is planning on being a journalist.

85

u/EndoShota Oct 07 '22

I’m a high school biology teacher. I can absolutely believe these results depending on how they measure performance. For instance, if the task is learn from the model (animal or not) and then be able to identify organs from an image. However, that’s not the entire point of using animal models. Giving students practical, hands-on experience is as important if not more so than simply learning material in a purely academic context. All that said, while I remain a proponent of dissection in the classroom, I have never obligated my students to participate and will always provide an alternative to any student who objects for any reason.

studies (19/20) students at all education levels (secondary, postsecondary, and medical school) performed at least as well—and in most of those studies better (14/19)—when they used NAMs compared to animal dissection.

An additional note: I truly hope that they do not replace animal models for medical students. It is imperative that they have direct experience with actual physiology, and they should have a familiarity with it prior to working on cadavers in order to fully utilize and respect those precious resources given by fellow human beings.

29

u/popformulas Oct 07 '22

Agreed - I took a gross anatomy course in dental school. It is a necessity if you want entry level competence. It’s fine to learn basics in books and on models, but yeah I’ll have the heart surgeon who trained on animal models, then cadavers, then live humans, thank you very much.

10

u/Sajomir Oct 07 '22

I had originally only thought of my experience as a student who didn't enjoy the experience. However, thank you for sharing yours as an educator, and thank you for thinking of your students as well!

7

u/EndoShota Oct 07 '22

thank you for thinking of your students as well!

If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be in this profession!

7

u/Mitochandrea Oct 07 '22

Also we get our fetal pigs as a byproduct of the meat industry. It’s not like they are bred specifically for dissections. I see a lot of value in directly interacting with the realities of anatomical structures (textures, proximity, etc.) beyond just knowing where stuff is.

6

u/MayaHansen2013 Oct 07 '22

I also honestly don't think human cadavers are problematic, you receive the "material" of already dead person who died naturally and gave their body for such purposes. With animals, I think the issue lies within the necessity of killing animals solely for dissecting... But I agree with you that hands on practice is very important for students. I just keep thinking if there might be different ways for students to do practical stuff.

2

u/DK_Vet Oct 08 '22

It's pretty rare for dissection animals to be bred for dissection. Common animals used are fetal pigs (byproduct of meat industry), skinned mink (byproduct of fur industry), cats (animals already be euthanized at the shelter due to lack of space). These animals are all dying regardless of how we educate our students.

1

u/Xaedria Oct 07 '22

That's great of you to offer an out. I took biology at the college level as a required science course for my accounting degree. We had to take a live mouse, put it in a gas chamber to kill it, and then dissect it. There was no alternative. When I heard this I immediately packed my books and left that lab, as did several others. I took a B in the lab just so I didn't have to kill a mouse. I was LIVID. In what way does having killed that mouse and dissected it make me a better accountant? Oh right, absolutely none. I think I'll let it live then instead of wantonly taking life for no reason.

In nursing school it was actually necessary but again, it's something a VR program could've handled in much the same way. So much of our lab work was simulations anyway. The animals we had to dissect were already dead, thankfully.

-5

u/brackenish1 Oct 07 '22

I agree with almost everything you said except the last bit in your additional note. It implies a lack of respect for the animal cadaver and the gravity of what is being performed, whether human or animal, should be respected always

4

u/bwc6 Oct 07 '22

I think their point had more to do with quantity than actual "value" when they called human cadavers precious resources. Whatever your feelings on the matter are, there are many more fetal pigs available than human bodies, and surgeons need practice on human bodies at some point.

-10

u/Mobely Oct 07 '22

Hi, former highschool biology student here.

I'd rather kill the frog day of than deal with the smell of formaldehyde. Dissecting frogs is one of the many many little ways schools like to torture people.

52

u/Harmania Oct 07 '22

This weird vegan vs. meat lobbyist thing around here is getting pretty tiresome.

-19

u/TomMakesPodcasts Oct 07 '22

I mean one is in it for the money, and one just wants to treat critters better.

Their priorities are hardly equitable.

41

u/thedialupgamer Oct 07 '22

Both use misinformation and it gets tiring having to correct people on both sides, ive seen multiple people say we can eat cow feed and I've seen them all corrected with papers that show that cows eat a diet that's mainly inedible for humans, their priorities aren't the issue, its that both sides try so hard that they end up either lying or just being plain wrong.

-30

u/TomMakesPodcasts Oct 07 '22

What about this post? Or are you just bring salty at something from the past no one else can verify?

15

u/Helenium_autumnale Oct 07 '22

The majority of this post's authors are anti-vivisectionists, and includes an actual representative of PETA. It's tainted for this reason and we can regard it as junk science. I'm surprised it was published in an allegedly peer-reviewed journal.

-11

u/TomMakesPodcasts Oct 07 '22

So unless people are pro vivisection they cannot write a paper on why it might not be necessary?

11

u/Helenium_autumnale Oct 07 '22

Did I say that?

0

u/TomMakesPodcasts Oct 07 '22

You heavily implied it. Otherwise your complaint about them being anti-vivisectionist doesn't make sense, because it wouldn't matter.

Go figure scientists will persue study about which they're passionate.

5

u/Harmania Oct 07 '22

To be credible scientists must be able to provide a reasonable assurance that they are reporting all of the evidence they have found- not just the evidence that agrees with their preconceived opinions. They have to be willing to follow the evidence wherever it leads.

Whether their motivation is ideological or financial doesn’t really make a difference if the reader can’t trust that they are getting the full story.

7

u/thedialupgamer Oct 07 '22

I was pointing out why the person higher in the thread was tired of the discourse surrounding animal rights in this sub as most posts in this sub on the subject are filled with misinformation and people spouting "facts" that are either untrue or misrepresented, im kinda tired of it too but I like arguing with people who are wrong so I don't care.

8

u/Helenium_autumnale Oct 07 '22

Omnivores aren't meat "lobbyists" per se, as in, those lobbying politicians to promote the meat industry. As such, omnivores aren't "in it for the money," as they do not receive financial compensation for eating a hotdog at the family picnic.

19

u/FutureDecision Oct 07 '22

I don't think they were referencing omnivores. I'm pretty sure they were pointing out the poster who has been posting pro-meat content here recently and has a clear financial stake in encouraging people to eat more meat.

10

u/Helenium_autumnale Oct 07 '22

Ah, thank you for the clarification. Thankfully I missed that guy.

6

u/FutureDecision Oct 07 '22

Ugh, I'm jealous. That guy is the worst and I wish I'd missed him too.

-17

u/ecksate Oct 07 '22

If everyone stopped slaughtering animals what benefit would vegans get out of it?

They would get to feel good that they saved a bunch of lives and no longer have to imagine that there are animals out there dying so the people can eat them.

So people who try to force veganism on others, at the root, are trying to make themselves feel better.

What makes their happiness more important than the happiness of people who enjoy eating meat?

Companies selling meat products don't impose their will on other people. They don't force people to make any decision or change their mind about anything.

I see one as a normal part of human society and I see the other as a cult that tries to repress people outside the group, the same way people are against gay marriage and gay sex and try to repress people outside their ideology.

5

u/Ryan_22 Oct 07 '22 edited Oct 07 '22 Silver Helpful

If everyone stopped slaughtering animals what benefit would vegans get out of it?

Is it so hard to believe that people just want to help an exploited group of sentient beings? But I guess vegans could also get significant environmental improvements and GHG reductions. Not that vegans would be the only people to benefit from that.

So people who try to force veganism on others, at the root, are trying to make themselves feel better.

Vegans don't really have any means to "force" veganism on people, any more than anyone else has the ability to force lifestyles onto others. Telling people not to consume animal products, holding protests, etc., is not forcing anyone. But the point is irrelevant anyway. Should people not help others because they might feel good about doing it?

What makes their happiness more important than the happiness of people who enjoy eating meat?

The point is that the life and well-being of a sentient being is more important than sensory pleasure derived from eating meat.

I see one as a normal part of human society and I see the other as a cult that tries to repress people outside the group, the same way people are against gay marriage and gay sex and try to repress people outside their ideology.

It's interesting that you mention gay marriage and sex, because in the past and now these have been literally illegal because they were viewed by oppressors as not being "a normal part of human society." Normalness is not an ethical justification for something, and something not being normal does not necessarily mean that it is unethical. The same goes for eating meat. It being "normal" does not provide justification for the killing and harm of sentient beings.

21

u/Ok-Butterscotch5761 Oct 07 '22

As most people will not go into biological based hard science, yes. But you do not want a surgeon or an anthropologist who doesn’t know where organs go by touch.

10

u/jonathanrdt Oct 07 '22 edited Oct 07 '22

Surgeons train on cadavers. Donate your body to science.

Kids can get as much from a high res video of dissection as they can from the dissection itself. A simulation would suffice also. All of these classroom preferences predate modern tech, where a printed book and engraved image was it. We have long overcome those limitations.

1

u/DK_Vet Oct 08 '22

Surgeons learn anatomy on cadavers. They train for surgery on pigs.

0

u/furiousfran Oct 07 '22

Med students get to work on humans who donated their bodies, nobody's cutting up frogs there.

19

u/Ocean2731 Oct 07 '22

I taught invertebrate zoology for years. I made the dissections optional. They could learn the anatomy from a range of materials including videos. Consistently, the students who voluntarily did the dissections did better when tested on the material. Of course, it may have been the more motivated students doing the labs but it remained a clear pattern year after year.

5

u/nevertoomanytacos Oct 07 '22

Hard disagree. Perhaps for secondary and bachelor education levels but it is vital for medical/vet med school. Dissection was much more helpful for learning the spacial relationships within the body prior to surgery. When I need to know where an organ, nerve, or vessel is, I literally imagine the first year dissection cadaver in my head. Any time I learned something as a picture not in 3D, I struggled to grasp the shape and relativity to other items in that picture.

Further, suturing fake skin or banana peels or other models just does not feel the same as real skin and makes a huge difference.

11

u/BoundariesAreFun Oct 07 '22

17

u/urkish Oct 07 '22

I feel like the actual study would have been more appropriate of a post than the Vegan Herald's spin on it.

25

u/weasleydreamteam Oct 07 '22

Anecdotally, I can definitely say I would have preferred to not have taken apart a dead cat piece by piece. More traumatic than educational really

2

u/Alternative-Flan2869 Oct 07 '22

At the beginning of training, with newest interactive imaging methods, it makes sense, like flight training.

2

u/Cyberjohn36 Oct 07 '22

I grew up in a country where we didn't have animal dissections in biology class.. Did I miss out on much?

9

u/TA_faq43 Oct 07 '22

Depends on what they wanted to teach. Physical and emotional impact of seeing, touching, and smelling a specimen has its place, imho. There’s a reason physicians training include cadavers.

8

u/shadowofthedogman Oct 07 '22

I’m sure a website called theveganherald.com isn’t biased on this subject right?

7

u/Ryan_22 Oct 07 '22

They didn't write or publish the scientific paper.

-1

u/shadowofthedogman Oct 07 '22

And the people who did are all from organizations like PETA and The Canadian Humane Society etc…soooo, you know, biased…

1

u/Ryan_22 Oct 07 '22

That's not the argument you made, though.

0

u/shadowofthedogman Oct 07 '22

The biased website ran a biased article on said website. I’m not sure what you’re missing here.

6

u/Helenium_autumnale Oct 07 '22

Given the biases of the authors, I conclude that this is junk science, in terms of researchers culling a result that miraculously lines up with their anti-vivisectionist positions. The inclusion of a PETA employee seals the deal in terms of this being unreliable and biased science. And it's a review of studies, anyways, not actual research.

ELISABETH ORMANDY is executive director at the Canadian Society for Humane Science, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

JANELLA C. SCHWAB is a research assistant at the Canadian Society for Humane Science, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

SAMANTHA SUITER is science education manager at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Norfolk, VA, USA.

NICOLE GREEN is director of education at Animalearn, Jenkintown, PA, USA.

JANICE OAKLEY is an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Education at Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada.

PAMELA OSENKOWSKI is a science advisor at the National Anti-Vivisection Society, Chicago, IL, USA.

CHRISTINE SUMNER is a scientific officer at the Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, New Lynn, Auckland, New Zealand.

3

u/TomMakesPodcasts Oct 07 '22

Okay so you'd rather scientists who weren't experts in animal welfare do the study on animal welfare?

I prefer my scientists to be enthusiastic and experienced in the fields they research. It's not like this paper could have been written by a bunch of geologists.

2

u/DK_Vet Oct 08 '22

It should have been done by impartial educators. These people are clearly looking for a specific result. That's bad science.

2

u/furiousfran Oct 07 '22

I love how this specifies animals and everyone keeps going on about med school.

Guys... they use human cadavers in med school. Not frogs, not pigs. Humans. Cutting open a frog or pig isn't going to teach them where a human's organs are, a human cadaver is.

2

u/DK_Vet Oct 08 '22

They absolutely use pigs to teach surgeons. You think surgeons practice new techniques on people?

1

u/itguy18 Oct 07 '22

It's also important to teach children to interact with death. So as well as learning basic Bio.

0

u/zedoktar Oct 07 '22

Good I hope that dissections are dropped. I remember when we had that class in high school I couldn't do it. I skipped those days. I wasn't a squeamish kid I grew up on a farm where we slaughtered our own animals and we hunted regularly (only for food. Never for sport.) but taking an animal part to see how it works was just wrong to me no matter how fascinating biology is.

In certain research contexts to advance science there are valid reasons for it but it just seemed wrong to do in a high school classroom when pictures would have sufficed.

1

u/Training-Principle95 Oct 07 '22

Frankly, of no real surprise. I'm in my thirties and I never once had to do a dissection as a student, but I have a pretty good grasp of anatomy and biology. I would have hated dissection as a kid, too, I barely enjoy cleaning out a fish when I catch it.

1

u/Senior-Action7039 Oct 07 '22

There is value in handling tissue and the difference in texture, especially for health related students. Nerves, arteries, and veins dont look like they do in anatomy atlas's. Not everyone grew up in the country butchering deer or farm animals.

1

u/Any_Monitor5224 Oct 07 '22

I teamed up with a boy so I didn’t have to dissect. I learned nothing from that experience.

1

u/MpVpRb Oct 07 '22

For general knowledge at a basic level, yes

For detailed knowledge at an advanced level, no. Models are too perfect and easy to understand. Reality is messy and confusing

1

u/Garthar22 Oct 07 '22

A student I had was asked their favorite memory and they said a squid dissection we did. I’ve yet to hear anything similar about my work sheets or PowerPoints

If you didn’t know you can buy whole squid at bait shops

1

u/oldwhiner Oct 07 '22

I thought dissections were mostly for kids to find out if they have the ability to cut things open? Like, dissections will come up again if you plan to become a surgeon or something.

0

u/rottentomati Oct 07 '22

I think I’d have learned a lot more watching the Institute of Human Anatomy videos on YouTube than dissecting animals in school :/

0

u/con_zilla Oct 07 '22

i dunno theveganherald.com - back in biology when i had to dissect a rat i learnt i wasn't as squeamish as i thought i was. Dont think VR going to teach me that

-3

u/SnooDoubts826 Oct 07 '22

Almost as if repressed smell-induced trauma isn't a good backbone for memory. Who would have guessed? Certainly not I, five seconds ago when i typed it.

1

u/mynextthroway Oct 08 '22

Like just about everything else in this world (and usually missed/ignored) is that this is not a yes or no thing. Different students will get different things out of the same lesson. I was absolutely amazed at how everything actually fit and worked in that space. I had been looking at text book diagrams and never had that sense of amazement. What life lesson did I learn? Life is not to be taken for granted. Our bodies and the bodies of all living things around me are amazing. I learned (by looking at other class mates frogs) that despite the similarities, the insides are just as variable as the outsides of my friends. Different, yet not. I learned how tough the skin is. How delicate the liver is. The heart and lungs are loosely attached, the intestines firmly attached. Never got that from a book. VR will never teach that until we reach holodeck levels of technology.

That being said, books and VR have their place, like any other tool man has created. The doctor shouldn't depend on text books for his surgical knowledge. High School students don't need to be forced to disect multiple animals. They should be strongly encouraged to do so. Advanced placement biology, Anatomy & physiolog should require disection. Advanced level HS or college biology (non pre-med) curriculum should require it at least once. Before anybody pulls a "yeah but that won't work in this case here" on me, these are suggestions of policy that could be pursued to flexibly meet the requirements of different educational needs.

TL:DR: There is not one correct answer for this real vs text book vs VR disection.

-1

u/Mindless-Day2007 Oct 07 '22

Well, except we need data for VR dissection, so we still need to do animal dissection. And live dissection still more real than VR.

0

u/vectran Oct 07 '22

Synthetic people and animals with replaceable organs for mock surgery at universities is a thing. Check out SynDaver.