Medical School Neuroscience: Wrap Your Mind Around the Brain (and Other Stuff)

What Is Medical School Neuroscience?

Neuroscience is a course that goes by other names: neurology and neuroanatomy. So if I call it by its other names, don’t get confused. In this class, you can expect to study all about the brain and the spinal cord (or the central nervous system for those who are a bit more advanced in their medical terminology). The class is interesting, but it could get confusing at times. When learning about the brain and the spinal cord, you will also learn about the various nerves and the way it courses through your body. And again, that requires more of that dreaded word — memorization.

Medical school neuroscience will comprise of basically two parts, lecture and lab. Lecture is quite self-explanatory and makes up the bulk of the course. Lab, however, is very short; it consists of two sessions. In each session, you will be playing with and identifying structures of the brain. Because playing with brains doesn’t take up too much time, a self-study of interpreting digital imaging of the brain is also included with lab. Even with the self-study, lab still makes up a small portion of the overall course.

medical school neuroscience - krang

I could insert a picture of a typical, boring brain here or … I could insert a picture of Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the baddest brain there ever was in cartoon history.

Neuroscience in My School

I, personally, do not enjoy the subject. However, this class was very good just because it is one of the best-taught classes in my school. As I mentioned before in the medical school microbiology guide, a lot of times, it is the teacher that makes the class good. And in this case, the teacher is very good.

I was lucky enough to be taught by the famous Dr. James White, PhD, the author of USMLE Road Map for anatomy and neuroscience (it is two books, one for each subject). He also teaches for Kaplan. So, basically, he is a superb teacher.

What I really liked about this teacher is his liberal use of pictures. Every slide is a picture. The presentation slide is not very long. It is about 20 or less slides for each lecture, which is A LOT less than the 100+ slides per lecture in second year. He would then go on to explain the pictures in depth. And by the end of the lecture, I would understand the materials quite well.

In this case, going to class is very beneficial and I would recommend that you attend. He is an engaging lecturer and is passionate about the subject.

How to Succeed in Medical School Neuroscience?

Even though I am not very interested in neuroscience, this was another class that I did well in.

Treat this course a lot like medical school anatomy. (Hence this class is also called neuroanatomy.) If you memorize the basics, such as what each cranial nerve does and how it courses through the body, or what part of the brain contributes to what function, you can apply reason to answer some exam questions.

I did not have to do any studying outside of class, besides preparing for the exam one or two days beforehand. The key in solidifying my knowledge of neurology and neuroscience was doing practice questions. If you refer back to my studying in medical school techniques, you will see that is the key to pretty much all my successes so far.

There really is not much more to say about succeeding in medical school neuroscience because it is really that straight forward.

I will mention that each exam has a portion that consists of group-based, non-multiple choice questions. Although these questions are completed with your group, do study the materials and try not let someone else do all the work. Your grade for that portion would improve if everyone contributed.

Study Tips

  • go to class and take notes
  • do practice questions
  • don’t slack off for group-based portion of the exam

Additional Medical School Neuroscience Resources

As I said before, I did not do any studying outside the class except right before the exam. Therefore, I did not read any books because I did not have to. Dr. White was a very good teacher and was able to convey the main points in class.


If you are not as fortunate as me to have such a good teacher for medical school neuroscience, I would recommend that you check out USMLE Road Map for Neuroscience.

I did not use the book, but I am recommending it based on the strength of the teacher. I did browse through the book and it actually looks like a light read. There are lots of photos (many of which he used in lecture). But most importantly of all, there are questions and answers and explanations of the answers. If you need extra information or extra practice, this book will certainly deliver.

Visit the medical school books section for my thoughts on books that are vital for medical school success.

Hey, you! Do you want to know how an accountant, without a science background, made it through medical school without any difficulty? Do you want to know how I memorized a sea of information without cracking my skull in half and dumping the books into my brain? No, I did not slave away all night studying in the library either. If you want to know my complete study system, check out The Secret of Studying.

This article is part of the How to Survive Medical School series. Click on the link if you want more tips and hints about surviving academic hell.

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