Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology

Degree Program

Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology, PhD

Committee Chair

Brueckner-Collins, Jennifer

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Herring, Nicole

Committee Member

Herring, Nicole

Committee Member

Immekus, Jason

Committee Member

David, Erin

Committee Member

Lundy Jr., Robert

Author's Keywords

Medical education; Neurophobia; Neuroanatomy; scale development; anxiety; self-efficacy


Medical student anxiety towards learning neuroanatomy — neurophobia, a key obstacle in medical education, is influencing medical student success and potentially swaying medical students away from neurology careers. This is particularly concerning with condensed neuroanatomy instructional hours from curriculum integration and the concurrent shortage of neurologists, combined with the rising prevalence of neurological disease, and medical students choosing neurological specialties at lower rates. Neuroanatomy education is one factor described in the literature as contributing toneurophobia, yet specific ways in which neuroanatomy education could be improved have not yet been explained. In this present work, we demonstrate four specific domains, namely content, instruction, communication, and organization, through which neuroanatomy education may be improved. We propose neuroanxiety may more accurately describe this phenomenon and developed a novel neuroanxiety scale. Our survey data show upper-class and female medical students exhibit greater neuroanxiety. Additionally, we demonstrate premedical neuroanatomy and/or neuroscience experience predicts a decrease in neuroanxiety. Another construct was explored as a way of potentially improving student task-specific confidence in neuroanatomy, namely — neuroanatomy self-efficacy. A novel neuroanatomy self-efficacy scale was developed and the effect of premedical neuroanatomy and/or neuroscience experiences on neuroanatomy self-efficacy was explored. Consistent with the literature on anatomy self-efficacy, our survey data revealed that premedical neuroanatomy experiences, especially with cadaveric dissection, improve neuroanatomy self-efficacy. Additionally, our data is trending towards female medical students showing a greater increase in neuroanatomy self-efficacy with premedical neuroscience and/or neuroanatomy exposure. Lastly, the exploration of developing a time-efficient learning intervention to be administered within an integrated curriculum led to the development of adaptive neuroanatomy eLearning intervention. Comparing the effects of the adaptive and non-adaptive eLearning interventions on medical student neuroanxiety and neuroanatomy self-efficacy demonstrated adaptive eLearning only significantly influenced neuroanatomy self- efficacy. This finding, together with our novel finding that premedical neuroanatomy and/or neuroscience experience also predicts lower neuroanxiety in medical school, suggests neuroanatomy self-efficacy may hold the key to mitigating the effects of neuroanxiety in neuroanatomy education.