Neurophobia: not fatal, possibly even treatable.

There are social perks to being a neurologist. Once you drop this little fact into a conversation, it is possible/probable that you will engender a feeling of intellectual inferiority amongst your companions. Mind you, there is nothing that says that because you are adept at diagnosing illnesses of the brain that you necessarily have a better brain or that you use a larger proportion of your brain than anyone else. Despite this, there are fairly widespread misconceptions that you are the veritable polymath and that you are as comfortable with written English as you are with conversational Latin. For a more visual description of how such a person would look, I’m thinking of Bradley Cooper’s character in Limitless, after ingestion of the GABA-inhibiting wonder-drug and before the inevitable slide into pharmacological tolerance and drug dependent behaviour (N.B only to be used as a general guide, and any hopes you may have regarding improving your chances with the opposite sex should be discarded immediately).

One of the major reasons behind this ‘only Einsteins need apply’ approach is that neurological disorders have remained largely inaccessible to investigation, until the relatively recent developments in neuroimaging. While MRI scans have been truly revolutionary in our ability to diagnose and treat, they are not a cure for neurophobia. In this issue of JNNP, Seneviratne and colleagues (1) examine one of those areas where an MRI scan will not help you, differentiating the appearance of epileptic seizures from psychogenic non-epileptic seizures. In their study, a video-based training approach was implemented in medical student education. The results were impressive, with students achieving a similar level of competency to emergency medicine trainees over a six month period. They conclude that this form of teaching is effective in teaching students about seizures and they recommend other potential indications for such technology, such as in educating students regarding the presentation of movement disorders.

So, neurologists out there…once you have finished translating the Aeneid into Ancient Greek, perhaps let us know the reactions you have received when you tell people how you make a living.

(1)    Seneviratne et al. Video-based training improves the accuracy of seizure diagnosisJ Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2014;85:466-470

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