Resources for Teaching Mammalian Neuroanatomy Using Sheep Brains: A Review
Sheep brain dissection is a mainstay of many neuroscience and biological psychology lab courses. Sheep brain dissection is relatively easy and requires only the brains, surgical gloves, and a large, sharp knife without serrations to provide a valuable learning experience. Preserved sheep brains are readily available from a variety of vendors at a reasonable cost. (Getting brains with the dura already removed is highly recommended because students tend to tear up the brain when removing the dura.) Most structures in the sheep brain are highly homologous to structures in the brains of other placental mammals, including humans. Only cortical structures, particularly sulci and gyri, which are not always homologous across mammalian orders, differ markedly between humans and sheep. Thus, specific facts learned from dissecting sheep brains can be readily generalized to other species.
A published hard-copy photographic atlas of the sheep brain is available (Vanderwolf and Cooley, 2002), but searching the internet also reveals many resources made freely available by instructors at a variety of institutions. Most of the websites are designed to be supplements for specific courses, but some are clearly designed for broader use. Many websites could serve as excellent supplements to in-lab dissections, and some could even replace in-lab dissections if resources are tight or if students have ethical objections to using animals.