Science and Skills for Medicine:  Nervous System (2013)

The objective: the Nervous System Module is to have medical students gain a broad understanding of the scientific foundations of nervous system function and disease. Faculty members, drawn from the Departments of Anesthesiology, Emergency Medicine, Neurology, Neuropathology, Otolaryngology, Psychiatry, Physiology & Neuroscience, and Radiology, have assembled a series of lectures, labs, seminars and patient interviews to:

  1. Provide an understanding of the basic concepts underlying nervous system structure, function and its disorders;

  2. Impart the essential facts of neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, neuropathology, neuroradiology, pathophysiology, psychopathology, and neuropharmacology;

  3. Relate these concepts and facts to clinical situations through the study of case histories in small group seminars, patient interviews, SimMan exercise and a clinical pathology conference (CPC).


The Nervous System will cover structure, physiology and pathophysiology. We will begin with the fundamentals of Neuroscience as the underpinning for understanding the clinical topics. Then we will move on to pathology, pathophysiology and the other clinical topics. The general organization of the module is as follows:

  1. Basic Neuroscience: Neurophysiology, Neuroanatomy and Systems
    This section builds on previous work in physiology and histology as it examines the characteristics of individual nerve cells, how they function and how they interact with each other. It will also cover the anatomy of the brain and spinal cord and continue with an introduction to the functional pathways of the central nervous system and how the CNS is organized to interact with our internal and external environments. This section covers the more subtle and complex operations of the CNS: How meaningful motor expression is organized; how the visual, somatic sensory and chemosensory systems encode, process and interpret external events; the roles of the hypothalamus and limbic systems; and how the higher cortical functions of humans encompass consciousness, perception and language. 

  2. Pathophysiology
    This section is a “topics” module in that not all aspects of nervous system disease will be covered. Diseases and disorders have been chosen that either best illustrate a concept or principal or are commonly seen by non-specialists. It presents topics such as trauma and disease processes, nervous system development, the peripheral nervous system, sensory systems, disorders of movement and cognition. There will be an emphasis on underlying processes (neuropathology) and clinical presentations (Neurology). This section concludes consideration of pain and pain management.

  3. Brain, Behavior and Psychiatric Disorders
    This section covers the major behavioral and mental disorders, and how they are linked to brain pathology and other abnormalities of the nervous system. It will illustrate how the brain uniquely houses cognition, emotion and human consciousness, and how these domains are impacted by specific psychopathologies. Topics on normal early psychological and cognitive development and deviations are covered, and help inform the understanding of the adult psychiatric and substance use disorders taught. This section also covers neuropharmacologic approaches used to treat major psychopathologic states and disorders, and builds on previous work on neuronal receptors and pathways.  A powerful small group seminar series where the mental status exam is taught by interviewing patients with various psychiatric illnesses links the mechanisms of disease to the emotional and behavioral symptoms experienced by patients.


Kalman Rubinson, PhD
Department of Physiology & Neuroscience
Module Director
Neuroanatomy Content Director

Katherine Henry, MD, MEd
Department of Neurology
Neuropathophysiolgy Content Director

Robin Mitnick, MD
Department of Radiology
Radiology Content Director

Molly Poag, MD
Department of Psychiatry
Psychopathology Content Director

Margaret Rice, PhD
Departments of Neurosurgery and of Physiology & Neuroscience
Neuroscience Content Director

David Zagzag, MD, PhD
Department of Pathology, Division of Neuropathology
Neuropathology Content Director

 More information is available through the ALEX Learning Management System