Human Anatomy and Physiology : Defining Anatomical Orientations

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for Human Anatomy and Physiology

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Defining Anatomical Orientations

Which of the following orientation pairs are not opposites of one another?

Possible Answers:

Superior and inferior

Proximal and lateral

Superficial and deep

Anterior and posterior

Correct answer:

Proximal and lateral

Explanation:

Terms used to describe the orientation of a structure commonly have a word that means the opposite so they can be related to one another. Proximal means that the structure is closer to a point of attachment, while lateral refers to a structure being away from the middle of the body. The opposing term for proximal is distal, meaning away from the point of attachment, and the opposing term for lateral is medial, meaning toward the center line.

Superior indicates above, while inferior indicates below. Anterior refers to the front, while posterior refers to the back. Superficial indicates that a structure is near the surface, while deep indicates that it is under other structures.

Example Question #2 : Defining Anatomical Orientations

Which of the following structures is distal to the elbow?

Possible Answers:

Biceps brachii

Sternum

Shoulder

Wrist

Correct answer:

Wrist

Explanation:

When a structure is distal to another structure, it is farther from the point of attachment to the body. The wrist is farther from the point of attachment to the body than the elbow, so it is distal to the elbow.

The shoulder is considered superior (above) and proximal to the elbow, indicating that it is closer to the point of attachment.

Example Question #3 : Defining Anatomical Orientations

What is the opposite action of pronation? 

Possible Answers:

Supination

Eversion

Circumduction

Dorsiflexion

Correct answer:

Supination

Explanation:

Pronation is the act of rotating the wrist so that the palm is facing downward. The opposite effect is rotating the wrist so that the palm faces upward. This action is called supination.

Eversion is the action of rotating the foot such that the medial region is oriented downward. Dorsiflexion is the action of decreasing the angle between the foot and the leg. Circumduction refers to the pattern of circular motion caused by multiple muscles at a joint, such as rotating the index finger in small circles.

Example Question #3 : Introductory Concepts

What direction does your hand move with radial deviation of the wrist?

Possible Answers:

Posteriorly

Laterally

Anteriorly

Medially

Correct answer:

Laterally

Explanation:

In anatomic position, radial deviation of the wrist results in your hand moving laterally away from the midline of the body.

Ulnar deviation of the wrist will cause the hand to move medially.

Example Question #3 : Gross Anatomy

The term "proximal" indicates a location that is __________ another location.

Possible Answers:

farther from the trunk than

closer to the trunk than

closer to the midline than

next to

farther from the midline than

Correct answer:

closer to the trunk than

Explanation:

"Proximal" is a way to describe locations in the extremities and appendages. A more proximal structure is located closer to the trunk, generally indicating closer to the shoulder or hip. In contrast, distal indicates a location that is farther from the trunk and closer to the end of the appendage. For example, there are three bones in each finger known as the phalanges. These bones are named according to orientation: proximal phalanx, intermediate phalanx, and distal phalanx. All of these, of course, are located distal to the metacarpals (wrist).

The terms "medial" and "lateral" are used to describe relative location toward the midline. A medial structure is closer to the midline (think nose and navel), while a lateral structure is farther from the midline. The term used to describe one structure that is next to another is "adjacent."

Example Question #4 : Gross Anatomy

What is a synonym for anterior?

Possible Answers:

Superficial

Superior

Dorsal

Sternal

Ventral

Correct answer:

Ventral

Explanation:

Anterior and posterior are opposites, with anterior referring to the front of the body and posterior referring to the back. Ventral is used interchangeably with anterior, and dorsal is used interchangeably with posterior. Essentially, anterior and ventral both indicate "front," while posterior and dorsal both indicate "back."

Sternal is used to describe the sternum and is often used as a medial reference point in thoracic biology or medicine. Superficial means closer to the skin, whereas deep indicates that a structure is farther from the skin. Superior indicates "upward" and is frequently a synonym with cranial (toward the head). In contrast, inferior indicates "downward" and is often a synonym with caudal (toward the coccyx).

Example Question #5 : Gross Anatomy

What does "lateral" mean in directional anatomy?

Possible Answers:

Attached to the midline of the body

Away from the latissimus dorsi muscle

In between the midline and the dermis

Close to the latissimus dorsi muscle

Away from the midline of the body

Correct answer:

Away from the midline of the body

Explanation:

Lateral is a general directional that can be applied to objects farther from the midline of the body. The midline is defined as the medial sagittal plane, generally including the navel and nose. Structures such as the shoulders, ears, and hips are considered lateral. When used in relative terms, we can say that the lungs are lateral to the heart and the ovaries are lateral to the uterus. In contrast, the opposite term of lateral is medial; the heart is medial to the lungs and the uterus is medial to the ovaries.

The latissimus dorsi muscles are located on both sides of the spine, and their name is directionally descriptive. They have no bearing on directional terms, unless used as reference points. Anatomical structures attached to the midline could be described as lateral, but only if they deviate farther left or right from the midline. A structure can be attached to the midline, but run completely vertical in the medial sagittal plane.

Example Question #6 : Gross Anatomy

A transverse section separates the body into which of the following orientations?

Possible Answers:

Superior and inferior

Left and right

Medial and sagittal

Legs and torso

Anterior and posterior

Correct answer:

Superior and inferior

Explanation:

A transverse slice is the only view to section the body through the horizontal plane. The result is a superior region (above the cut) and an inferior region (below the cut). A transverse section of the brain is usually used to show the lentiform nucleus (consisting of the globus pallidus and putamen) and the caudate.

A coronal section runs from right to left across the body, dividing it into an anterior (ventral) portion and posterior (dorsal) portion.

A sagittal slice runs from anterior to posterior, dividing the body into left and right regions. A perfectly centered sagittal slice is called a medial sagittal section.

Example Question #4 : Defining Anatomical Orientations

A coronal section divides the body into which of the following orientations?

Possible Answers:

Anterior and posterior

Medial and sagittal 

Left and right

Head and body

Superior and inferior

Correct answer:

Anterior and posterior

Explanation:

A coronal section runs from right to left across the body, dividing it into an anterior (ventral) portion and posterior (dorsal) portion. When a coronal section is used to examine the brain, the lateral ventricle and thalamus are generally very prominent.

If the body were separated into inferior and superior sections, for example head and body, then a transverse slice must have been used. A transverse slice is the only view to section the body through the horizontal plane.

A sagittal slice runs from anterior to posterior, dividing the body into left and right regions. A perfectly centered sagittal slice is called a medial sagittal section. 

Example Question #3 : Introductory Concepts

The brain is located in which cavity of the body?

Possible Answers:

The dorsal cavity

The ventral cavity

The anterior cavity

The pelvic cavity

The skull cavity

Correct answer:

The dorsal cavity

Explanation:

The body is divided into two primary cavities, which are then subdivided into several smaller cavities. The primary cavities are the dorsal cavity and the ventral cavity. The dorsal cavity is subdivided into the vertebral cavity, which runs through the vertebrae and holds the spinal cord, and the cranial cavity. The cranial cavity is located within the skull and contains the brain. Since the cranial cavity is not given as an answer option, the best choice is the dorsal cavity.

The ventral cavity is more complex and contains more subcavities. The main divisions are the thoracic cavity, abdominal cavity, and pelvic cavity. The diaphragm separates the thoracic and abdominal cavities.

There are not technical structures known as the anterior cavity or skull cavity.

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