Monday, February 29, 2016

Doctors on the brain:National Neuroscience Curriculum Initiative

There's an old adage that neurologists know what’s wrong but can’t treat it, psychiatrists can treat it but don’t know what’s wrong. Many feel that neuroscience is under-represented in the training of doctors who wish to specialise in psychiatry. A psychiatrist colleague (and a major fan of former National Institute of Mental Health director Thomas Insel) pointed out an initiative that may go some way to addressing this shortfall; the National Neuroscience Curriculum Initiative.

This is an NIH (National Institute of Health, USA) collaboration between educators & neuroscientists. The aim is clear: to enhance neuroscience education for doctors specialising in psychiatry, so they integrate modern neuroscience into clinical practice. There is an expressed focus on interaction between environmental stressors and neural circuitry. Some of the more basic content one would hope would be covered in training any psychiatrist (e.g. anatomy of the brain) but the use of 3D layout may put the material across in a more intuitive and easy-to-learn manner. I can imagine the modules on neuroscience in the media being enjoyable for students (especially material the microbiome although I'm biased in this regard). However, I would imagine that it will be the integrative case conferences that will really push trainee psychiatrists to think of ways to put neuroscience into their clinical practice.

It seems like an open endeavour-there is an invite on the website to contribute content (although it is peer reviewed and one is not guaranteed publication). Facilitators (who should be members of faculty) are required for much of the work involved, so I don't think one can simply stroll onto the website unaccompanied and run the course in full by oneself. 

One would hope that training programs who would benefit from this initiative will make the most of it. However, given the prevalence of reduced sleep and associated negative effects amongst junior doctors, one can imagine that such a course would have to compete with other training and development demands placed upon these doctors (not to mention their clinical work).

The initiative also has an associated meeting: the Brain conference is just a few short days away in Austin Texas. It will focus on improving teaching skills within neuroscience and translating them to clinical practice. I won't be in attendance for this (I'm not a clinician, after all), but I will be going to the American Psychosomatic Society meeting in Denver, Colorado-more on this next month!

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