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Low-cost neuroanatomy learning tools for visually impaired and blind students

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Low-cost neuroanatomy learning tools for visually impaired and blind students

Did you know that approximately 1.3 billion people live with some form of vision impairment?[1] Well if you didn’t I don’t feel as bad because this was one of the first things I learned when I visited Giovanne Diniz and Dr. Luciane Sita’s poster on “Development of low-cost tactile neuroanatomy learning tools for blind and visually impaired students”.

I always try to stay updated on new tools used for inclusive instruction. That is how I learned about Giovanne and Dr. Sita’s work while attending Theme J posters at the annual meeting.

Giovanne Diniz and Dr. Luciane Sita at their poster during SfN’s Annual meeting.

Giovanne and Dr. Sita are scientists at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. This past year when they started teaching the neuroanatomy course they realized that there was a blind student in their class and the instructional materials were limited to teach this population. Then they began to identify tools to use on their instruction to improve teaching for blind and visually impaired students.

Most anatomy courses use illustrations, medical imaging, and cadavers; although there are didactic tools available these are for sighted individuals and most of them are in English. Thus, this team decided to develop a tool to improve the teaching of neuroanatomy concepts using low-cost materials, one that could be accessible and implemented without difficulty. Among the tools they developed for teaching neuroanatomy was a fixed brain specimen which had the gyri covered with different textured fabrics and marked with pins of various sizes. This approach was also used to teach internal structures of the brain which were presented as digitally drawn brain slides. Implementation of their tools increased the engagement of the blind student attending their class. The students’ performance was similar to the sighted peers and this motivated them to increase the repertoire of structures they have developed and to provide this as a blueprint for use of by others with blind or visually impaired students.

Using tactile strategies for teaching can be difficult as there are several things to consider including the students’ needs and abilities, and the tasks that will be implemented [2]. The tools developed by Giovanne and Dr. Sita, used to teach neuroanatomy core concepts, are a great strategy for inclusiveness and effective instruction for blind and visually impaired learners.

Example of a digitally drawn brain section and the textures used for teaching about specific structures.


  1. World Health Organization. (2018). Blindness and Vision Impairment.

  2. Downing JE, Chen D. (2003). Using Tactile Strategies With Students Who Are Blind and Have Severe Disabilities. Teaching Exceptional Children. 36 (2):56-60.

Alexandra Colón-Rodríguez, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral scholar
Genome Center
University of California Davis
Twitter: alexcr_1

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