Teaching Neuroanatomy With A Showercap

By Neuroskeptic | June 9, 2012 8:44 am

Learning the names and locations of the different parts of the brain is a task that has brought grief to generations of students.

I myself didn’t know my caudate from my cingulate cortex all through my undergraduate studies and the first year of my doctorate. I only cracked it after spending a couple of days in the library, surrounded by a stack of anatomy textbooks, copying diagrams and coloring them in over and over until I could do it from memory.

Now a group of Australian physiologists say there’s a better way – Showercap Mindmap: a spatial activity for learning physiology terminology and location

Undergraduate students were split into groups of 3 or 4 and each team was given a pack:

Showercap Mindmap packs included a clear, unmarked plastic shower cap, a whiteboard marker, and 15 sticky, color-coded labels.

Lobe labels were blue (occipital, temporal, parietal, and frontal).

Specialist areas were green (the corpus callosum, Broca’s area, and Wernicke’s area).

Labels relating to information processing were yellow (hearing; heat; pain and temperature; and interpretation and integration of information).

Cortex labels were orange (motor, association, somatosensory, auditory, and visual).

One student on each team wore the cap and the others had 10 minutes to attach the labels to the correct parts of their head, corresponding to the different brain areas, with the help of a neuroanatomy textbook.

This strikes me as a fantastic idea, and something that could actually make learning neuroanatomy fun, or at least a bit more involving than it usually is. The authors of the paper say that students using the method learned more effectively than those using a more conventional approach.

Even the cap-wearers benefited. They couldn’t see the labels being placed, but they could feel them.

ResearchBlogging.orgVanags T, Budimlic M, Herbert E, Montgomery MM, and Vickers T (2012). Showercap Mindmap: a spatial activity for learning physiology terminology and location. Advances in physiology education, 36 (2), 125-30 PMID: 22665427

CATEGORIZED UNDER: methods, papers, science
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17400753689618984616 Tom

    they could feel them

    Yes! Brilliant!

  • omg

    Wear a helmet, weight of the world on your head. Better yet, foils, for the hardcore physicist. Cleanliness is next to godliness, keeping your head tidy might be a new thing for some undergrads, especially those studying neuroanatomy. Combing it might do wonders too.. .

  • http://www.scienceofeds.org Tetyana

    Having a fantastic lecturer/professor is also important for a typically dry subject like neuroanatomy. I loved it in undergrad. I think, whenever possible, anatomy labs are of great help in learning the terminology and function. Models, colours, repetition.

    I had the pleasure and fortune of dissecting real human brains in my neuroanatomy class.(I waited for that moment since grade 10, when I found out that was offered at the University I attended). It was nothing short of amazing. Wonderful learning tool.

  • omg

    You must've gone in the 80s. I thought those sessions were useless no matter how cool the instructors were. When you have a thousand students hovering over clayish, overused, shrunken bits and pieces you sort of stop turning up. I bought brain models from a museum and it was just so much better than the real thing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03455722013211350247 Liz Ditz

    I did better repeatedly assembling and disassembling something like this model 14-part brain model, while talking to myself about which piece had what function.

    While I can read blueprints and visualize the represented shapes, doing the same thing with anatomy is really difficult, for some reason (scale? level of detail? who knows.)

    The only downside to the 3-dimensional model is the expense, compared to the shower-cap method. On the other hand, having access to a 3-dimensional model means you aren't dependent upon a study partner.

  • spike

    but you can't locate many areas as well like your Caudate example….

  • omg

    Something more potent like acupuncture may aide recalling cranial nerves, foramis medial from dorsal walala with the chi guiding your phrenology zen. That could be a whole selling point. Memory phrenology.

  • ouafae

    I think that is an interesting way to how a person might be able to learn, it’s definitely something different. It’s a concept that I wouldn’t mind trying because there is no hard in experimenting to see the results. I honestly would just stick to memorization and the textbook though.

  • hts192058

    I think that this is a very interesting way to learn and memorize concepts that are difficult to comprehend. However, I also believe that this memorization technique will not always work, therefore sticking to normal ways of studying would work best.

  • http://unrelatedpotential.wordpress.com/ unrelatedpotential

    Very interesting post- I was just looking for some way of making it easier to learn the brain anatomy.

    But, as it turns out, long time ago someone came up with other budget solution at Aberdeen uni in Scotland- http://www.isciencemag.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/BoxModelBrain.jpg. Might be worth making one…

  • http://unrelatedpotential.wordpress.com/ unrelatedpotential

    I didn't linked properly above, here it is: Brain Box

  • Sarah

    I think that this is a fantastic way to learn. I am the type of person that learns better from hands on experiences and by reading out loud. This is why I learn better from lab's rather than lectures. The ability to use the senses of touching and feeling would do better for me then reading in a book over and over again. Wonderful idea, I wish all learning could be done this way!

  • basneggers

    Just tried to pull a swimcap around my corpus callosum. Don’t try this at home 😉
    I advise manually segmenting the basal ganglia or other nuclei in each individual MRI scan of all subjects in a cohort study using MRIcron or thelike. You’ll never forget where those nuclii are for the rest of your life! Und curse the MRIcron drawing pen…



No brain. No gain.

About Neuroskeptic

Neuroskeptic is a British neuroscientist who takes a skeptical look at his own field, and beyond. His blog offers a look at the latest developments in neuroscience, psychiatry and psychology through a critical lens.


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