Applied Human Neuroanatomy

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Virginia Tech Publishing


This 155-page manual is comprised of two types of learning activities:

  1. Free response fill-in-the blank questions focused of the facts and principles of neuroanatomy and neurophysiology that underpin the neurologic examination and specifically developed exercises that demonstrate how the facts and principles are related to the particular tests and procedures that comprise the neurologic examination. Free response questions form the bulk of the Neuroscience Review section of each chapter and are intended as a review of information previously or concurrently being learned regarding the structure, function and organization of the nervous system. Some questions focus on anatomical or physiological facts and relationships that help explain why certain techniques are performed as they are, such as why non-nociceptive tactile stimuli are required in order to activate nerve impulse transmission in the lemniscal system. Other questions are intended to revisit facts and concepts that are needed to properly interpret the elicited findings.
  2. The application exercises of each chapter are designed to demonstrate how neuroanatomical and neurophysiological information is used in the design of particular clinical tests of neurologic function. The application exercises are also intended to help users learn how to perform and become comfortable with the various clinical maneuvers and tests that comprise the routine neurologic examination. An important outcome of performing these exercises is that, as a member of a learning group, each individual has the opportunity to experience the neurologic examination from the point of view of the subject (patient)—an experience that arguably provides insight and understanding that can be gained in no other way.

The questions and exercises in the manual are designed as group learning exercises that might complement and reinforce learning acquired in more traditionally structured courses dealing with the clinical examination of a patient. The “group activity” approach, in which the student performs each exercise on a small number of “normal” subjects (classmates), is founded on the belief that the ability to recognize an abnormal finding on clinical examination requires a familiarity with the range of normal findings in the otherwise healthy population. This is particularly true for new learners who may be for the first time, learning about the structure and function of the nervous system.

The clinical assessment of neurologic function is often viewed as an exercise involving difficult to master techniques that frequently generate difficult to interpret findings. The authors argue that the neurologic examination is a reasonable and logical exercise involving the clinical application of basic principles of neuroanatomy and neurophysiology. One of the goals in developing this manual is to convince the reader of the truth of this perspective.


Table of contents

  1. Sensory Systems
  2. Motor Systems
  3. Reflexes
  4. Cranial Nerves
  5. Mental Status
  6. Answer Key

About the authors
Michael F. Nolan
is professor of Basic Science Education at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine in Roanoke. He received his Physical Therapy training at Marquette University and his PhD in Human Anatomy from the Medical College of Wisconsin. Nolan spent the first 34 years of his career teaching gross anatomy and neuroanatomy to medical students and resident physicians at the University of South Florida. He has received more than 20 awards for excellence in teaching including the Master Teacher Award in 2014 from the International Association of Medical Science Educators and the John M. Thompson Outstanding Teacher Award in Neurosurgery in 2006. He has published over 40 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters as well as four textbooks in human gross anatomy and neuroanatomy.

John P. McNamara is the Director of Anatomy and Assistant Professor of Basic Science Education at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine in Roanoke. His doctoral training is in chiropractic from Life University (Marietta, GA) with undergraduate (Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania) and graduate (Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania) degrees. He is also ABD from Virginia Tech in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. For nearly the past 30 years, McNamara has maintained a private practice in Salem, VA, and taught full-time anatomy and physiology, gross anatomy, neuroanatomy, and pathophysiology at the College of Health Sciences (Jefferson College) in Roanoke. From 2013 to 2017 he taught the gross anatomy course for the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Radford University in Roanoke. He is licensed to practice as a Doctor of Chiropractic in both Virginia and Pennsylvania, and he is certified as an Emergency Medical Technician in Virginia.



neuroanatomy, learning activities manual, human, medical education