Brain Mnemonics

By Neuroskeptic | October 17, 2012 10:09 am

Learning your way around the brain is pretty difficult; I spent a long time trying to learn the basics of neuroanatomy… and I bet if you did a pop quiz of neuroscientists the results would be rather embarrassing.

Over time, I’ve come up with mnemonics to help me remember the trickiest points. Here’s some of my favourites.

Gyri and Sulci – which is the ridge, and which the trough? A sulcus sounds like sulk which is what you do when you’re feeling low – sulci are the troughs.

Dorsal and ventral – which is lower? Ventral, because the V in ventral is an arrow pointing down.

Axial, Coronal and Sagittal sections – Sagittal is the only kind of cut that could cause Split-brain Syndrome by cutting the brain into two Symmetrical halves.

Axial is the section you’d get if you drew a line across your the face from left to right (and then extend that back), or in other words around your head.

If you have any other good ones, please share them in the comments.

  • Anonymous

    Rostral is the front like a Rostrum.

    If you Gyrate (like a gyrus) your hips go outwards.

  • Truett Ogden

    I think about the dorsal fin on a dolphin, which I knew the name of before I knew anatomical directions. And coronal makes me think of a crown, but I cheated by taking latin in HS.

  • Anonymous

    Anterior / Posterior always tripped me up.

    Posterior = butt. Posterior is further back.

  • omg

    Axial? I call it 'horizontal'. I get confused with caudal, rostral, anterior, posterior. I still say up, down, sideways. Coronal sections gave me sleepless nights, you couldn't cram for those exams.

  • Anonymous

    temporal cortex: the T is like a platform for the other areas to rest on, therefore it must be the lowest part of neocortex.

  • Anonymous

    “Sagittal” is from the Latin for “arrow”, and the archer, Sagittarius. If you imagine someone shooting an arrow and pulling the drawstring past their head that's the sagittal plane. Also I learned coronal based on if you were watching someone place a crown on their head.

  • Anonymous

    Rostral is near the nostril.

  • Anonymous

    This one always gets me so awkward stares but, “Oh Oh Oh, To Touch And Feel Virgin Girls Vagina, Ahhh Heaven.” Mnemonic for the cranial nerves.

  • Anonymous

    I dunno. I generally find mnemonics take longer to learn than the terminology itself.

    I can certainly remember all the cranial nerves, but god help me if I am going to remember those crazy mnemonics.

  • Anonymous

    The Starr and Taggart biology textbook I used in high school said something to the effect of, “Imagine sliding down a banister that suddenly turns razor sharp, and you will never forget the saggital plane.”

    It worked for me.

  • RenegadeSynapse

    For strictly neuroanatomical mnemonics, I think the various ones for the cranial nerves are the only ones I ended up using.

    For those interested in a less sexually oriented one (but all together less fun to remember): On Old Olympus Towering Tops, A Finn and German Viewed Some Hops.

    Not anatomy, but another one that I use is POUNDing for migraine diagnosis.

    One day duration (between 4-72 hours)

    There are others for migraine, but I like the above because I know it has likelihood ratios associated with it. LR = 24 if 4 or more of those are present, and goes to 3.5 if its only 3.

    I find mnemonics most useful early in the learning process of facts, relational memory and all that.

  • omg

    … On Old Olympus Towering Tops, A Finn and German Viewed Some Hops.

    ? I'd rather jump off a bridge.

    I recall screaming and cussing at my books. I was a fiery little freshman: Ooo T TA!! F@k'n Vulgar Guys! Vulgar Sh!t Holes!! Nowadays I just recognise on the brain but golly those were the days.

  • Anonymous

    Axial is the view from Above, Sagittal is the view from the Side, Coronal is the other one…

  • Neuroskeptic

    “Axial is the view from Above, Sagittal is the view from the Side, Coronal is the other one…”

    That's a really good one.

  • minisculeminx

    “Some Say Money Matter, But My Brother Says Big Books Matter More”
    Mnemonic for 12 cranial nerves – S stands for sensory, M for motor and B for both.

  • omg

    Sh!t Sh!t Mate Mate Bollocks! My Brain Says Big Butts Matter More.

  • DS


  • Brock

    Afferent = approaching; efferent = exiting.

    Telencephalon, diencephalon, mesencephalon, metencephalon and myelencephalon: T is on the top and it's alphabetical from there.



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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