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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Naughty humour with the cranial nerves

Warning: This post has some racy humour in it. Reader beware.

Wednesday I have my first (and hopefully only) university bellringer exam. This is a daunting examination technique popular in medicine and anatomy in which students are sent into a room around which multiple stations have been set up. Each station has a bit of tissue (either preserved or fresh) or some sort of medical image (an fMRI slide or some other such image) that has been marked in some way (a toothpick sticking out of the tissue or an arrow sticker on the slide) and then the student is asked to either simply name the structure or answer some sort of clinical question about the structure (for example, a blood clot in what artery would lead to loss of function in this structure?). One of the things which I have to learn for this exam is my old nemesis - the cranial nerves. For some reason, remembering the names and locations of those twelve stupid nerve fibres coming out of the brainstem eludes my memory more than any other part of neuroanatomy. I am clearly not the only person who has this problem, as there are dozens of mnemonic devices designed to help people remember the cranial nerves. These range from the rather tame, "On old Olympus' towering top a finely vested German vaults and hops" to the decidedly disturbing, "Oh, oh, oh, to touch and feel virgin girls' vaginas and hymen". Of course, while the latter mnemonic might be more memorable simply due to its shocking lewdity, it does run its own special risks as one girl in my neuroanatomy class related in our last lab. You see, the cranial nerve corresponding to the word vagina is the tenth cranial nerve called the vagus nerve. It thus shares the first three letters with its mnemonic counterpart, dramatically increasing one's risk when writing quickly on a test of starting with the 'vag' part and doing a mental flip to finish off the answer with an 'ina' rather than an 'us'. While the girl relating this story realised her mistake and rectified it, the moral of the story is clear. Filthy humour may be a wonderful memory aid, but you use it at your own risk.

Note: For the record, the cranial nerves are:
I. Olfactory
II. Optic
III. Occulomotor
IV. Trochlear
V. Trigeminal
VI. Abducens
VII. Facial
VIII. Vestibulocochlear
IX. Glossopharyngeal
X. Vagus
XI. Accessory
XII. Hypoglossal


Anonymous said...

For those who wish it a nice lesson in the cranial nerves. I can guess at the function of three or four but the others leave me mystified, and I would vouch that my guesses for the three or four which seem familiar are quite off for nothing is that simple.

Mozglubov said...

Maybe later tonight I'll put up a post describing their functions (if only to help myself learn it). They really are not that interesting, though (hence my difficulty at remembering anything about them).