Wolfram Blog
Keiko Hirayama

Dissecting the New Anatomy Content in the Wolfram Language

November 11, 2015 — Keiko Hirayama, Wolfram|Alpha Developer, Wolfram|Alpha Scientific Content

The human body has been a subject of study since the earliest days of human history. The modern scientific fields of anatomy and physiology stem from the Renaissance symbiosis of art and anatomy. In the early 1500s, Leonardo da Vinci was among the first to accurately sketch bodily structures. In 1543, Andreas Vesalius published the famous textbook De Humani Corporis Fabrica (On the Fabric of the Human Body) with beautiful illustrations of the human body.

With modern technology at our disposal, we can take anatomy and physiology off the page and digitally put it into a readily computable format. Through Wolfram|Alpha, we are making it possible for you to gain further insight into how individual anatomical structures interplay in the human body and explore it from entire organ systems down to microscopic ganglia.

Let’s begin our exploration with a macroscopic structure.

A vital organ of the cardiovascular system, the heart:

Using Wolfram|Alpha to look at the heart

Wolfram|Alpha not only provides the basic information of the anatomical structure (Latin name, function, group, parts, etc.), but also computes relations and connectivities of anatomical structures.

The “arterial supplies of the heart”, for example, are:

Arterial supplies of the heart

Making a comparison of two large vessels of the cardiovascular system can be done just as easily.

Aorta vs. inferior vena cava”:

Aorta vs. inferior vena cava

Anatomical structure data is also accessible via the Wolfram Language.

Let’s start out with the musculoskeletal system. Whether you are a gymnast or someone who takes regular trips to the local gym, you may want to build your leg muscles. Which muscles are those? The Wolfram Language can provide a list of muscles that are part of the leg:

List of muscles that are part of the leg

Now let’s look at a major muscle of the leg you use during exercise, the gastrocnemius muscle.

Gastrocnemius muscle

The muscle origin (its fixed end) and insertion (its movable end) are:

Muscle origin

We now know that the gastrocnemius muscle attaches to the femur and calcaneus bones. But where are these in the lower limb (a.k.a. foot, leg, thigh, and hip)?

Bones located in the lower limb

Wow, that’s a lot of bones! How can we see the forest for all these trees? Let’s find out how they articulate:

Articulating the femur and calcaneus bones

We can see five toes on the right and the leg and thigh on the left. Can we find out the names of the bones in between?

Finding the names of bones between toes and the thigh

Knowing which bones connect to each other is helpful. Can we find the calcaneus and the femur and see what they look like?

Calcaneus and femur

How big is the calcaneus bone? Going even further, you can find out the volume of the calcaneus:

Volume of calcaneus bone

Let’s assume after an hour of running on the treadmill, which according to Wolfram|Alpha burns about 946 calories (assuming the pace of an average male, about 8 min/mi), you might receive a signal of hunger from your brain and eat a bar of chocolate to make up for it.

Pressing Control plus = and typing “digestive organs” gives a representation of the major organs of the digestive system:

Digestive organs

Get a list of digestive organs and find out what they do:

List of digestive organs

Use WordCloud to visualize the words most frequently used to describe digestive functions:

Describing digestive functions in a word cloud

These digestive activities are an unconscious process regulated by our autonomic nervous system.

Find out which nerves innervate these digestive organs:

Which nerves innervate digestive organs

The vagus nerve and its branches in the autonomic nervous system control gastric activities in your digestive system [1].

After you eat the bar of chocolate, your blood glucose level goes up. As a result, your pancreas secretes insulin:


This hormone, among others, signals the nuclei of the hypothalamus that you have eaten; in turn, the nucleus decides when you are full [2]:

Nucleus of hypothalamus

How do they influence one another?

How the nuclei and the nucleus influence each other
How the nuclei and the nucleus influence each other

Let’s make a picture out of these associations:

Picture of the associations

The paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (red) is associated with appetite regulation [3], and you can see its projections to brainstem areas, which serve gastrointestinal functions.

Lastly, let’s take a look at where to find this nucleus. The paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus is in the left hemisphere of your brain, located very much in the center:

Locating the nucleus in the brain

Whether anatomy is part of your daily work or just a casual interest, computable anatomy data can offer you an easier and deeper understanding of how human body parts relate to one another. If you would like to explore further, check out this AnatomyData documentation for an easily accessible and large variety of anatomical concepts and their properties.

1. G. J. Schwartz. “The Role of Gastrointestinal Vagal Afferents in the Control of Food Intake: Current Prospects.” Nutrition 16 no. 10 (2000): 866–873.
2. J. K. Elmquist, C. F. Elias, and C. B. Saper. “From Lesions to Leptin: Hypothalamic Control of Food Intake and Body Weight.” Neuron 22 no. 2. (1999): 221–232.
3. A. K. Sutton, H. Pei, K. H. Burnett, M. G. Myers Jr, C. J. Rhodes, and D. P. Olson. “Control of Food Intake and Energy Expenditure by Nos1 Neurons of the Paraventricular Hypothalamus.” Journal of Neuroscience 34 no. 46 (2014): 15306–15318.

Download this post as a Computable Document Format (CDF) file.

Posted in: Wolfram|Alpha
Leave a Comment



Very cool!
Is it possible to export to STL for 3D printing?

Posted by Mark    December 2, 2015 at 5:09 pm
Russell Ward

Is it possible to morph the shapes of these structures? For example, what if we want to approximate a deformity or surgical outcome?

Posted by Russell Ward    December 3, 2015 at 2:02 pm
Medical Models Online

I really love the way with computer graphics you can add and remove items, like muscles, ligaments and bones on the anatomical reproductions, the ability to go in close and expand areas is also extremely interesting, as is the ability to isolate organs as with the heart in the first image.

Posted by Medical Models Online    August 15, 2016 at 4:28 am

Leave a comment in reply to Mark


Or continue as a guest (your comment will be held for moderation):