Using interactive computer-based methods of instruction, this research examined the contribution of whole (3D) anatomical knowledge to learning sectional anatomy. Participants either learned sectional anatomy alone or learned whole anatomy prior to learning sectional anatomy. Sectional anatomy was explored either with perceptually continuous navigation or discretely, as in the use of an anatomical atlas. Learning occurred over repeated cycles of study, test, and feedback, and continued to a high performance criterion. After learning, transfer of knowledge to interpreting biomedical images and long-term retention were tested. Whole anatomy was learned quickly and transferred well to the learning of sectional anatomy: initial accuracy was higher, learning of sectional anatomy was completed more rapidly, and there was less error over the entire course of learning. Knowledge of whole anatomy benefited the long-term retention of sectional anatomy at 2-3 weeks. Learners demonstrated high levels of transfer to the interpretation of biomedical images.