Medical student resources

Getting the most out of systems neurobiology

Continued from Getting the most out of Neurobiology.

Systems Neurobiology. This is where Neuroanatomy and Neurophysiology come together to make the brain work. There are a lot of different subsystems in the brain: a variety of sensory systems (vision, auditory, vestibular, nociceptive, proprioceptive, olfactory...), a motor system, a limbic system, an association system, and so on. Each system has substations, and understanding the flow of information through these substations is what makes neuroscience really interesting. While most of us have an idea of the brain as "that thing that makes us think", there's a lot more going on than plain old thinking. The thalamus is, in my opinion, key to understanding how systems work. The thalamus is like an airline hub - flights (sensory information) feed in from all over (peripheral sensory systems) and get sent out to their cortical destination (primary sensory cortex). After the incoming information has had its business meetings in the cerebral cortex, it gets on another flight back through the airline hub (the thalamus and other nearby nuclei) to its final destination (whatever end organ its going to). If you get an idea of how sensory information gets to the thalamus, where it goes from the thalamus, how it gets back to the thalamus, then how it finally gets home, you've pretty much nailed most of medical neurobiology from an MS-I's stand point.

Neurological Lesions. Localizing neurological lesions makes a medical school neuro course different from undergrad or graduate school neuroscience courses. If you are into detective work, this can be fun. A patient presents with a chief complaint, gives a history, has specific findings on physical exam, and you get to figure out where in the central nervous system something went wrong. It's hard to expect medical students to diagnose lesions in the whole brain based on a single neuroanatomy course, but there are a few places where you will be expected to localize lesions: the spinal cord, cranial nerves, and the early visual system. There are several internet sites that help you diagnose neuronal lesions based on history and physical findings (find them through the MSRG neuroscience study guide).

The first year neuro course can be fun (easy for me to say having so many years to forget what it was like). If you get your basic neuroanatomy down, remember the Nernst potential through your finals, and have fun uncovering lesions you'll survive it pretty much unscathed.

How competitive am I for residency?

Will you be AOA?:Yes
Have you done research?:Yes
Do you have publications?:Yes
Are you a US senior in med school?:Yes