8 Tips for the best way to learn Anatomy in 2022Jan 31, 2022
8 Tips for the best way to learn Anatomy in 2022
There has never been better time in history to learn anatomy – that’s the good news….but there is still a lot to learn so read on to learn how to organise your study so that you can learn anatomy quickly and pass your exams.
The traditional method of learning anatomy was to read a book and make notes, but technology has changed, and this means you can learn anatomy in a much more efficient way.
Tip 1. Watch a Tutorial
This will honestly save you hours and hours. Watch a tutorial by an expert. Of course, I recommend Prof Vishy Mahadevan, as he can teach you a topic in under 10 minutes, that would otherwise take you 5 hours or more to learn. It really is that effective.
Let me give you an example. Just recently I was preparing the ‘Let’s Refresh’ for the pterygopalatine fossa in the skull. Now it has been nearly 30 years since I had last learned that topic and I probably did not fully understand it at the time. It honestly took me nearly 10 days of reading and re-reading textbooks and I was tearing my hair out as it was so confusing. I was struggling to understand it, let alone trying to think of an easy way to teach it to students.
In the end I had a Zoom call with Prof Vishy and rather sheepishly said “I need a bit of help please…” He had a cheeky smile on his face and said “My dear, it really is quite simple…”, and within a couple of minutes he was able to clear up my confusion completely and I could finally finish the presentation.
And that is the power of a great teacher. They tell you exactly what you need to know, how to make it simple and cut out all the minutia that you do not need to know. So when you start learning a new topic, just watch the 10 minute video and get an overview of what the subject is about. Do not take notes or stop and start it, just make yourself a cup of tea and watch the whole thing through, so you get an idea of what the topic is all about.
Tip 2. Create Checklists
For each topic in anatomy there will be certain facts that you need to learn. With each of the organs you will need to know
- Relationship to other structures
- Blood supply
- Nerve supply
Build up a consistent checklist that you go through every time when you think about that organ. Remember to keep your checklist consistent and the categories will soon become automatic for you and you know what you need to remember
When it comes the arms and legs, in each part of the upper and lower limbs there are some common structures within each compartment.
- Blood vessels
A good starting point is to know exactly how many of each structure is in the compartment and build up a checklist so that you know how much you need to remember.
I am going to use the anterior compartment of the forearm as an example, there are
- 2 bones
- 5 superficial muscles and 3 deep muscles
- 2 nerves
- 2 arteries
- 2 veins
Know that you know how many of each structure there is, it is a bit more manageable. The 2 bones are the radius and ulna. Read on to discover the muscles!
Tip 3. Pictures, Pictures, Pictures
You MUST use pictures in your learning to save you hours and hours! I cannot express how important this is. If written words could make noise, right now I am screaming this out…USE PICTURES.
Your brain processes and remembers images 60,000 times faster than words. This is evolutionary and goes back literally millions of years. It is in our DNA, and it is how our brain works. It is constantly surveying the world around us in images and keeping a memory of things so that if you close your eyes, you will see pictures in your imagination. USE THIS to your advantage. The best way to do this, to learn anatomy in 2022 is with a 3D program.
Technology in anatomy software has advanced so much over the past 10 years and it is so much fun to add and subtract structures and see where they are placed and how they fit in to each other. Click on the interactive 3D from Biodigital within this blog to have a go at playing with the structures.
For my example of the anatomy of the forearm – start with the bones, the radius and ulna. Then add each muscle on one-by-one and spin the images around slowly. Don’t get bogged down in details at this stage, just look at the pictures as they rotate.
The 5 superficial muscles include
- Pronator teres
- Flexor carpi radialis
- Palmaris longus
- Flexor digitorum superficialis
- Flexor carpi ulnaris
The 3 deep flexors of the forearm are
- Flexor digitorum profundus
- Flexor pollicis longus
- Pronator quadratus
Next add the median and ulnar nerves and see which muscles they lie on top of or underneath. Finally add the blood vessels. In the anterior compartment of the forearm, you will find the radial artery and the ulnar artery.
As you add and subtract and rotate the structures, you will create a memory of each structure, I honestly cannot think of a more fun way to learn anatomy.
Tip 4. Think functionally
Anatomy is living and moving, so use that to your advantage.
Look at where each muscle starts and finishes. Think about what that muscle does, and it will help you remember its name.
Flexor digitorum superficialis flexes the fingers at the proximal interphalangeal joints so it must attach on the middle phalanx in each finger. As you add the muscle act out its movement. Now you are attaching a physical action to the picture and the name of the muscle. This is ‘gold’ as a memory jogger in the exam.
Flexor digitorum profundus bends or flexes the tip of each finger so it must attach to the distal phalanx of each finger.
The pronator muscles pronate the forearm, which means that they turn the palm downwards, so they much attach to both the radius and the ulna.
Tip 5. Make notes
Okay so now I suggest taking out a textbook and reading about the topic. If you have watched a video, and written your check lists, now it’s time to add some detail. I recommend Gray’s Anatomy for Students. It is clearly written and has a lot of pictures to help you visualise the structures as you read. When you make notes, don’t just copy out the text, just jot down the key points. The work you have already done in watching the tutorial and looking at pictures will mean that reading the text will be a lot easier to understand.
If you have not written notes before and are struggling to keep them brief, take a look at The Funky Professor worksheets. These have been created to give you the main information in bullet points so that you can remember things. They are a great way to learn how to take your own notes. Use this as a starting point for you to make your own notes.
Go through your notes again on a different day and try and make then briefer. You’ll get so good at this that eventually your notes will fit on a card, and they are just memory joggers.
Tip 6. Study with Friends
You are most influenced by the 5 people that you spend most of your time with. Choose your friends wisely and get together regularly to study. If you have friends who are keen to get on with life and pass their exams, then you are more likely to be successful than if you hang out with friends who watch Netflix all day in their pyjamas! Get creative with how you study. For example, study outdoors, take it in turns to present a topic to share the workload, do quizzes, whatever you can do to vary things can keep it interesting. But be consistent. Schedule in study sessions regularly otherwise the work will get on top of you very quickly.
Most of all make it fun. To me having fun was always the key to learning. Study does not feel like a chore when you are having fun with it.
Tip 7. Revise the topic
Repetition is vital for learning, but it does not have to be boring. You can learn the same information in several different ways. Try our ‘Let’s Refresh’ series to go over the topic again. These are 10-minute presentations with even more images with every slide to consolidate your learning. You can watch the video that I have narrated, or you can download the slides and can click through at your own pace to help you learn in your own time. Try out the example of the superficial extensors of the forearm.
Tip 8. Test yourself
There is no better way to see if you have understood a topic other than putting yourself to the test. If you don’t get the answer correct, don’t worry, it is only a guide to help you focus on the areas that you need to over again. If you do get the answers correct, then celebrate and give yourself a ‘high-5’ as you have done some awesome work!
At The Funky Professor we have designed a series of questions for each topic to check your learning. Getting questions correct is such a good motivator to keep you going.
I know there are lots of resources out there to help you learn anatomy, but if you are still looking for something to give you that extra edge then why not try out The Funky Professor for free? Let Prof Vishy guide you through. We have hundreds of videos, revision slides, revision notes, worksheets, and tests to get you through that all-important exam.
If you have not already subscribed to The Funky Professor, register for free and join our newsletter for all our latest tips and tricks to help you learn anatomy.
I hope these 8 tips for the best way to learn anatomy in 2022 have been helpful. I wish you all the very best of luck as you go on with your anatomy journey. When the going gets tough, as it inevitably will sometimes, just keep in mind why you are learning anatomy. This is not just about who you will become, but also the number of lives you are going to help. Knowing that you are doing this for a purpose much greater than yourself will keep you motivated and strong.
Good Luck and Stay Funky!
Dr Susan xx