BACKGROUND: Most of the literature on neuroanatomy education has focused on its instructional method. Little is known about the retention of acquired knowledge in the basic neurosciences upon graduation from medical school. METHODS: Twenty-four graduating medical students at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada answered 20 multiple-choice questions from the original first year neuroanatomy midterm examination, 33 months after the original exam date. The course involved 58 instructional hours in the dissecting lab and classroom during the first year of medical school. RESULTS: Relative knowledge loss in this cohort was 60%, and the mean multiple-choice exam score dropped from 82% to 33%. Two students received passing grades on the retest (50% and 55%) and the rest failed. CONCLUSIONS: Most graduating medical students were unable to pass a first year exam in the basic neurosciences. Lack of knowledge reinforcement and poor applicability to the clinical setting may be to blame, and suggests that teaching foundational concepts, useful for general practice, are more worthwhile.
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