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Can J Neurol Sci. 2014 Jul;41(4):421-9.

Neurophobia inception: a study of trainees' perceptions of neurology education.



We wanted to examine the extent to which "neurophobia" exists among medical students and determine if students' perceptions of neurology differ by year of study while exploring the factors that contribute to the development of "neurophobia".


We used a two-phase, sequential, mixed-methods explanatory design in this single centre study. Phase 1 involved the collection and analysis of a questionnaire administered to students in the first three years of medical school. Phase 2 involved focus groups of a subgroup of students who demonstrated evidence of neurophobia in Phase 1.


In total, 187 (39 %) undergraduate medical trainees responded to the questionnaire (response rates of 37%, 44% and 19% for first-, second- and third-year students, respectively). 24% of respondents indicated that they were afraid of clinical neurology and 32% were afraid of the academic neurosciences. Additionally, 46% of respondents thought that clinical neurology is one of the most difficult disciplines in medicine. Phase 2 findings revealed that many students reported negative preconceptions about neurology and commented on neurology's difficulty. Some experienced changes in these conceptions following their neurology block. Past clinical, educational, and personal experiences in neurology impacted their comfort level.


This study shows that the level of comfort towards clinical neurology increases following students' participation in second-year neurology blocks, but that third-year students continue to show signs of neurophobia with lower comfort levels. It provides insight into why neurophobia exists amongst medical students and sheds light on pre-existing and emerging factors contributing to this sense of neurophobia.

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