Recent studies have highlighted a fear or difficulty with the study and understanding of neuroanatomy among medical and other healthcare students. This has been linked with a diminished confidence of clinical practitioners and students to manage patients with neurological conditions. We queried the underlying reasons for this difficulty amongst a broad cohort of medical, dental, occupational and speech and language sciences students. Our study provides direct evidence of the studentsí perception regarding specific difficulties associated with learning neuroanatomy and identifies measures required to address those issues. Results show that neuroanatomy is perceived as a more difficult subject compared to other anatomy topics (e.g. reproductive / pelvic anatomy or head and neck anatomy) and that not all components of the neuroanatomy curriculum are viewed as equally challenging. The difficulty in understanding neuroanatomical concepts is linked to intrinsic factors such as the inherent complex nature of the topic rather than outside influences (e.g. lecture duration). Participants reporting high levels of interest in the subject also reported high levels of knowledge, suggesting that developing teaching tools aimed at increasing interest, such as case-based scenarios, would facilitate acquisition of knowledge. Newer pedagogies, including web-resources and computer assisted learning (CAL) are considered important tools to improve neuroanatomy learning, whereas traditional tools such as power-point and lecture notes were considered less important. We conclude that purpose-designed CAL and online resources could enhance neuroanatomy understanding and decrease the neurophobia. Our data will inform curricular design to re-focus attention and guide educators to develop improved neuroanatomy web-resources in future.
Social Research Ethics Committee (SREC) approval was obtained for the study.