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How to study for the Brain Mind and Behavior Block (Neurology and Psychiatry) at UCSF

How to study for the Brain Mind and Behavior Block (Neurology and Psychiatry) at UCSF

How to study for the Brain Mind and Behavior Block (Neurology and Psychiatry) at UCSF

If you are a UCSF medical student, you have heard that the BMB block is one of the best blocks, but also one of the hardest.  Get ready to study a lot this block. The first two weeks go by really fast, so DO NOT fall behind.

Most of what you learn in this block will be tested in the USMLE Step 1. You will then need to recall and apply the very same information you learn in this block in your Neurology and Psychiatry rotation (to take care of your patients, of course). You will then have to regurgitate this same information for the USMLE Step 2, and will be asked to evaluate patients with neurologic or psychiatric problems on your USMLE Step 2 CS. Finally, you will be tested on this same information during residency, when you take your USMLE Step 3. If you decide to go into Neurology and Psychiatry for residency, this will be your life. So, yes, the information you learn in this block is super important.

Said another way, “You will soon find that it gets easier to slack off because your grades no longer matter, and you’ll find that lecture is optional… however, be aware that there are consequences, but you wont realize it until you start to study for boards and you don’t know the information as well or as deeply as you should… so even if you think you can pass the exams without a problem, keep it in the back of your head that you are going to have to remember this information for the boards.” – UCSF medical student


Course: Blumenfelds (get this book!!!!), and of course the syllabus, classmates!

Anatomy: Netters or Grants (can check these out from the library if you need to); Clinical Neuroanatomy book for brainstem lecture, Anatomy DVD

Histology: Go to lab, online modules
Pathology: Go to lab, online modules
Pharmacology: Use the syllabus, you must memorize these drugs, repetition, Katzung,

Make sure you have a tuning fork (queens) and a reflex hammer (128). Opthalmascope (borrow it from a friend), penlight

Read the lecture in the syllabus before attending class; it makes the information stick better. “
Find what system works for you for studying, and don’t worry about whatever other people are or are not doing.”
Don’t feel pressured to change your learning/studying style. (i.e. If you never liked making flashcards in the past, you don’t need to start using them now!) Stick with the routine and techniques that got you here!”
Lecturers will cover most of the required/testable material in their lectures but may skip over some things which are in the syllabus and that you’re still required to know. As such you might not be able to rely only on lecture as your source of information. The syllabus will usually contain everything you need to know, and the objectives, though often broad and vague, are meant to cover the testable, take-home points of each lecture. Try early on to establish a stable routine that allows for you to have a dedicated block of time studying as well as time for yourself.”

Be prepared, its easy to go in without any preparation, but you will get more out of it if you have been to the lecture and have done the reading and at least read through the questions… the best way to survive is to be willing to talk, even if you are wrong or not sure… it will help you when you are on the wards and asked questions or have to give presentations… this is a safe place to start learning those skills”

Give yourself 30min where you don’t do anything but small group. Google a few things you don’t understand—the next day, you may offer up an interesting factoid to the group and look good doing it, too! Reflect on your role in the group throughout first year—if you like the role, great. Reflect on it. When you have “a really great small group,” Think about why that was—did you talk a lot? Did you get up and draw on the board? Did you sit back and listen to others’ opinions more than you usually do? Reflect!”

During this block, pay close attention to the topics listed below . You REALLY need to know these. Everything else is icing on the cake. Make sure you’re solid on the core material, and don’t waste too much time on extraneous information.


Neurology topics for USMLE Step 1

Normal processes

  • embryonic development, fetal maturation, and perinatal changes, including neural tube derivatives, cerebral ventricles, neural crest derivatives
  • organ structure and function
    • spinal cord, including gross anatomy, blood supply, and spinal reflexes
    • brain stem, including cranial nerves and nuclei, reticular formation, anatomy, and blood supply
    • brain, including gross anatomy and blood supply; cognition, language, memory; hypothalamic function; limbic system and emotional behavior; circadian rhythms and sleep; control of eye movement
    • sensory systems, including proprioception, pain, vision, hearing, balance, taste, and olfaction
    • motor systems, including brain and spinal cord, basal ganglia and cerebellum
    • autonomic nervous system
    • peripheral nerve
  • cell/tissue structure and function
    • axonal transport
    • excitable properties of neurons, axons and dendrites, including channels
    • synthesis, storage, release, reuptake, and degradation of neurotransmitters and neuromodulators
    • pre- and postsynaptic receptor interactions, trophic and growth factors
    • brain metabolism
    • glia, myelin
    • brain homeostasis: blood-brain barrier; cerebrospinal fluid formation and flow; choroid plexus
  • repair, regeneration, and changes associated with stage of life

Abnormal processes

  • infectious, inflammatory, and immunologic disorders (eg, meningitis, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis and disorders of the eye and ear)
  • traumatic and mechanical disorders (eg, subdural and epidural hematomas, cord compression, peripheral nerve injury)
  • neoplastic disorders, including primary and metastatic
  • acquired metabolic and regulatory disorders (eg, delirium)
  • vascular disorders (eg, cerebrovascular occlusion, venous sinus thrombosis, arterial aneurysms, hemorrhage)
  • systemic disorders affecting the nervous system (eg, lupus, diabetic neuropathy)
  • idiopathic disorders affecting the nervous system
  • congenital disorders, including metabolic (eg, neural tube defects, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, Down syndrome)
  • degenerative disorders (eg, peripheral neuropathy, Alzheimer dementia, Parkinson disease, Huntington disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)
  • paroxysmal disorders (eg, epilepsy, headache, pain syndromes, and sleep disorders including narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome/periodic limb movement, circadian rhythm disorders, parasomnias)
  • disorders of special senses (eg, blindness, deafness)
  • psychopathologic disorders, processes and their evaluation
    • early-onset disorders (eg, learning disorders)
    • disorders related to substance use
    • schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders
    • mood disorders
    • anxiety disorders
    • somatoform disorders
    • personality disorders
    • physical and sexual abuse of children, adults, and elders
    • other disorders (eg, dissociative, impulse control)

Principles of therapeutics

  • mechanisms of action, use, and adverse effects of drugs for treatment of disorders of the nervous system
    • anesthetics
    • hypnotics
    • psychopharmacologic agents (eg, anxiolytics, antidepressants, antipsychotic agents, mood-stabilizing agents)
    • anticonvulsants
    • analgesics
    • stimulants, amphetamines
    • antiparkinsonian drugs
    • skeletal muscle relaxants, botulinum toxin
    • neuromuscular junction blocking agents (including postsynaptic)
    • antiglaucoma drugs
    • drugs used to decrease intracranial pressure (eg, mannitol, high-dose glucocorticoids)
    • antimigraine agents
    • drugs affecting autonomic nervous system (eg, anticholinesterases)
  • other therapeutic modalities (eg, radiation, CSF shunting, surgery)

Gender, ethnic, and behavioral considerations affecting disease treatment and prevention, including psychosocial, cultural, occupational, and environmental

  • emotional and behavioral factors (eg, drug abuse, dementia, sleep deprivation, accident prevention, pets)
  • influence on person, family, and society (eg, developmental disabilities, dementia, generation reversal, nutrition, seizures, sleep disorders)
  • occupational and other environmental risk factors (eg, boxing, carbon monoxide exposure)
  • gender and ethnic factors

source for the list:

The information provided above is from a collection of survey responses from UCSF medical students.


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