When in doubt, it's a "renal" something or a "hepatic" something.
May 13, 2008 12:23 AM   Subscribe

On Thursday morning, I'm taking my final exam in Anatomy & Physiology II. I typically have test anxiety, and this time, it's reaching fever pitch. What are your favorite little mnemonics and/or rules of thumb that you rely upon in order to remember... uh, everything?

Tho I tend to test well, this particular exam is a pivotal one in my education. I have extensive notes, charts, books, diagrams, and what-not, all of which I've studied til the cows came home, but I find it comforting to have little mental crutches when thinking about complex subjects.

As an example, I adore the "Never Let Monkeys Eat Bananas" mnemonic for remembering the leukocytes and their relative percentages in blood. From this, I can imagine the pictures I've drawn for each cell type, what they do, and so on and so forth.

On this exam will include: endocrine system, reproductive systems, fertilization and development, lymphatic and immune systems, cardiovascular system, respiratory system, digestive system, urinary system, metabolism (redox reactions; anabolism/catabolism of carbs, fats, and proteins), electrolytes in body fluids, and acid-base balance. I think that about covers it. The nervous system was covered in detail last semester, but of course, it permeates every other system, so it's still important to keep in studies.

My weak points are histology (locations of various connective tissues will kill me) and anatomical precision in areas such as cardiovascular layout. I'm strongest with chemistry and general physiology.

Aaaanyway, just as a matter of keeping my panic to a dull buzz, will you please share your mental crutches with me? My future patients and I thank you very much!
posted by houseofdanie to Science & Nature (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Something that calms me down before taking anatomy tests is just to lie down and as I fall asleep (because you really ought to sleep the night before the test...at least for a couple hours) start at the head and work down, naming the things that go on in each region (major processes that are triggered, muscle insertions, what happens where, vein and nerve bundles...that sort of thing). There's no need to go into detail in the areas, since if you can recall the main ideas at this point, then you've probably got it. But it'll relax you and give you a review. And, if you get to a place and realize you are completely at a loss, write it down or make a mental note to study it the next morning.

Does that make sense? That first sentence was pretty convoluted.

Good luck on your test!
posted by phunniemee at 12:38 AM on May 13, 2008

Best answer: It's a long time since I took my preclinical exams, but I did also rely strongly on mnemonics and acronyms. None of them standard ones, which I found useless...

What helped me was actually trying to concoct these myself - I had a word file of around 20 pages of A4 of mnemonics I had made up myself by the time I took my medical finals. Although it was 8 years ago now and I have no idea where the file is now...

The main thing though is that I think it is most useful to devise these yourself - it is quite fun (a bit like playing scrabble in a way, trying to squeeze esoteric medical knowledge into a relevant single word acronym or a memorable mnemonic) but the actual process also massively reinforces your learning so that by the time you've made up something you'll have learnt the thing anyway...
posted by inbetweener at 12:43 AM on May 13, 2008

Best answer: My tip for the top is to revise the thing you're least confident about immediately before the exam and go straight to that section when you sit down. You'll often find you completely nail it, which loosens you up for the rest.
posted by unSane at 5:40 AM on May 13, 2008

Best answer: I still think of white blood cells as the body's military, the body is a huge battle ground. The war goes on forever. I am of course rooting for the WBC Army, but the Foreign Microbe Armies are impressive in their own right (this of course if what microbiology was about).

The WBC army bases are (where WBC's are produced) in the land of the Red Bone Marrow. These are well protected locations in large bones for the WBC to gather and plan their attack (sternum, long bones of the arms & legs, hip bones, scull, vertebrae). When they're ready and past basic training they all take the Blood and Lymphatic Rivers to get anywhere in the world of the Body.

The WBC army has spies and scouts: chemicals that are released into Tissue Land from the invader microbes (pathogens). These chemicals signal the WBC's telling them location, type of microbe, and the invaders numbers. Famous scouts are our brothers Histamine, Complement, Kinins and Leukotrienes. I always like to imagine microbes have a big loud obnoxious party after they pass the Great Skin Barrier (Body's first defense) and set up camp inside. They're jerks like that. They trash the neighborhood (damage nearby tissue).

Neutrophils are the first responders - the marines. They're tough and scrappy (they have granules in the cytoplasm and a multi-lobed nucleus). These guys are large in number - around 70% of the entire WBC army. They fight bacteria and fungal microbes the best. They show up early while the microbe invasion party is still going strong and begin to bust everything up. Acute inflammation is evidence of their fight. Pus litters the battlefield (a combo of dead neutrophils, microbes, and fluid and tissue from the area).

Next the Monocytes come and and clean up the area after the fight: "The Cleaners." They're different from the neutrophils - only 1 nucleus and no granules. They collect evidence of the invaders and send it to the T-cell division (lymphocytes who will remember the information for future attacks). After they're done in damaged Tissue Land they go back to the Lymphatic River. They can transform into macrophages.

Macrophages are big tanks that can kill larger microbes that have made it past the neutrophil battle. Like the monocyte, macrophages have a single nucleus. Marcrophages set up camps throughout the body waiting for any invader microbes that may have made it past enemy lines. They have different names for different camps throughout the body: ie Dust Cells in Lungs-ville, Kupffer cells in Liver-town. They like to set up road blocks in sinus cavities and lymph nodes where they can stop any microbes trying to get further past enemy lines.

Basophils, scrappy like the neutrophils (bi or tri lobed nucleus, full of granules) and show up and increase the inflamation. The bomb makers. They especially like to bomb allergies.

Eosinophils are also pretty scrappy like the neutrophils (bi-lobed nucleus and full of granules) and they arrive early to inhibit all the inflammation. The bomb squad maybe. They increase in numbers when the microbes are parasites or allergies because that's the fight they like to get in on.

A lymphocyte called the Natural Killer Cell helps out by recognizing human cells that have been invaded by viruses or tumor cells trying to establish bases past enemy lines. NK's are bad asses that notice the markers on the cells, then it kills the ones that indicate virus or tumor - no questions asked.

All these cells are part of the Innate Immune System - they're non-specific - they'll fight any pathogen that tries to set up shop. The Adaptive Immunity System is set up for repeat offenders. Remember the T-cell (friend of the monocyte) above? Along with the B-cell lymphocyte they remember pervious invaders and activate attacks accordingly. You can apply this analogy to the Adaptive Immunity System too. It's a big old war going on in there. All day, every day.


Good luck with your test! It sounds like you're ready. Keep doing what you're doing. Get a good night's sleep beforehand, all that stuff. You know this. You can totally do this.
posted by dog food sugar at 7:35 AM on May 13, 2008 [13 favorites]

Best answer: And there's always Medical Mnemonics.com. Looks fun to browse, but don't waste too much time on there - could be more information than you need and clutter up what is already a well studied body of information specific to your class.
posted by dog food sugar at 8:07 AM on May 13, 2008

Best answer: Definitely make up your own mnemonic devices.

Personally I have the most trouble remembering things that are named after a person, because the name gives you no clue about what the thing is. The ileocecal valve is between the ileum and the cecum - easy. Paneth cells? Not so easy. So I picture GwynETH Paltrow, but with goat-y PAN legs (from greek mythology). That gets me "paneth". The camera in my head zooms in from a full-body picture of a person, to their small intestine, and then I see this goaty-gwyneth hanging out in the intestinal crypts. She's got some glowing green fluid dripping from her fingers, and she flings it at giant cartoon bacteria that surround her. The bacteria scream and dissolve. So now I know what these cells do.

Weird, right? But the more vivid the image in my head, the more likely I am to remember it. The thing is, it's the process of inventing these images that really helps cement the idea in your brain. So make up your own. Make them gross, funny, sexy, or super weird, because they'll stick better.

Also, if you google for anatomy mnemonics, you'll find most of the classics. I think there's even a thread around here from a year or two ago. I'd find it for you, but I have to go study. :)
posted by vytae at 8:10 AM on May 13, 2008

Best answer: I graduated in 2001, and I've forgotten every mnemonic I ever knew, except one, for the order of the carpal bones:

She loves to p***, her c***'s too tight.

It doesn't even make sense, but the lurid imagery has had it stuck there these last 7 years.

I'm not sure I have any other advice, except that the best pre-clinical anatomy book I owned was Instant Anatomy, which is all online now.
posted by roofus at 8:48 AM on May 13, 2008

Response by poster: You guys! You're so helpful and encouraging. Thank you! I wish I'd thought to ask for different approaches sooner. It's refreshing to hear different takes on the same material. I just hope the girl who loves to p*** doesn't end up in the blood war in my mind.

MUCH appreciated. Much.
posted by houseofdanie at 11:10 AM on May 13, 2008

Response by poster: Update:

I got a 92! I think it was the hardest test I've ever taken in my life. Again, my many thanks.
posted by houseofdanie at 7:06 PM on May 15, 2008

Yay, congratulations!
posted by vytae at 10:11 PM on May 15, 2008

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