Evaluating mental workload of two-dimensional and three-dimensional visualization for anatomical structure localization

Jung Leng Foo, Marisol Martinez-Escobar, Bethany Juhnke, Keely Cassidy, Kenneth Hisley, Thom Lobe, Eliot Winer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Visualization of medical data in three-dimensional (3D) or two-dimensional (2D) views is a complex area of research. In many fields 3D views are used to understand the shape of an object, and 2D views are used to understand spatial relationships. It is unclear how 2D/3D views play a role in the medical field. Using 3D views can potentially decrease the learning curve experienced with traditional 2D views by providing a whole representation of the patient's anatomy. However, there are challenges with 3D views compared with 2D. This current study expands on a previous study to evaluate the mental workload associated with both 2D and 3D views. Twenty-five first-year medical students were asked to localize three anatomical structures - gallbladder, celiac trunk, and superior mesenteric artery - in either 2D or 3D environments. Accuracy and time were taken as the objective measures for mental workload. The NASA Task Load Index (NASA-TLX) was used as a subjective measure for mental workload. Results showed that participants viewing in 3D had higher localization accuracy and a lower subjective measure of mental workload, specifically, the mental demand component of the NASA-TLX. Results from this study may prove useful for designing curricula in anatomy education and improving training procedures for surgeons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-70
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Laparoendoscopic and Advanced Surgical Techniques
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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