Faculty Publications

A Know-Brainer: The Power of Cadaver-Based Instruction to Teach Clinical Neuroanatomy

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American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology





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Purpose: Learning experiences that incorporate cadaver prosection or dissec-tion of the brain have shown to enhance the acquisition and retention of neuro-anatomy and improve standardized examination scores when included within medical curriculum. However, the role of cadaver-based instruction within allied health fields, and particularly in the field of communication sciences and disor-ders (CSD), remains limited and less understood. Method: The effectiveness of a cadaver-based lab compared to lecture to teach neuroanatomy within an undergraduate/postbaccalaureate clinical neuroscience course for CSD majors was explored within a crossover design. Fifty-four par-ticipants were stratified by class rank between two initial training sessions: lab-first versus lecture-first. Neuroanatomical knowledge was tested via labeling tasks at baseline, after the first allocated training, and at 1-week follow-up after crossover training had been completed. Results: Both cohorts demonstrated significant gains in neuroanatomical knowledge following training, yet after the initial training session, students that received cadaver-based instruction produced a significantly greater number (p <.001) and more accurate (p <.001) anatomical labels than students that received lecture. After completion of the crossover design, students receiving cadaver-based instruction prior to lecture continued to demonstrate superior labeling accuracy at follow-up testing (p =.022). Conclusions: Cadaver-based instruction was more effective in improving stu-dents’ ability to identify neuroanatomy compared to lecture for CSD students. Interestingly, cadaver-based demonstrations were also most effective in bolster-ing students’ retention of structural knowledge when conducted before, instead of after, a lecture. Clinical training programs, specifically student learning out-comes, benefit from cadaver-based instruction that provides both three-dimensional orientation and a deep appreciation of the human elements of clini-cal anatomy. Furthermore, both the acquisition and retention of anatomical con-cepts may be enhanced through strategic instructional design, particularly in regard to the order of lecture and lab experiences.

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