Friday, January 30, 2009

Anki learning system

This is a great tool for learning the terminology of A&P . . .

My friend Jane Zeiser told me about this tool. Jane is a foreign language professor and her students use it to learn their vocabulary words.

It's called Anki and it's a FREE program that creates a database that is something like a virtual deck of flash cards. Students can load in (and share) their A&P terms and learn them by practicing with them.

The program is SMART because it uses a proven algorithm to repeat items that are missed in a pattern that promotes efficient learning. As the student learns, the program alters the pattern to focus on the terms that need more practice . . . without forgetting to review the terms already learned.

Anki can be downloaded and used on a PC or Mac, it can be used on a mobile device (such as an iPod, iPhone, or SmartPhone), or on the web.

Of course, memorizing the meaning of terms is just the first step in thoroughly learning A&P . . . but a very important first step. Success with the first step leads to success during the rest of the journey, eh?

Please "comment" on this article if you've already had experience with Anki . . . we'd love to hear some first-person reports!

Find Anki at

Watch this screencast to learn about Anki . . . .

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

HAPS 2009 in Baltimore

Heads up! The "early bird special" for the 2009 Annual Conference in Baltimore MD is about to expire. After January 31, you'll have to pay a premium to attend the event of the year for A&P professors.

Go to the home page for HAPS (Human Anatomy and Physiology Society) to find the link to register for this great conference. If you've never been to one of these, you have no idea how great they are. Really. I guarantee that no matter what type of A&P course you teach, you'll find this meeting to wildly exceed any expectations you have.

While you're there, you can amplify your experience by also participating in one of several short graduate biology courses offered by HAPS Institute (HAPS-I). For more information on the HAPS-I program and the "conference courses" offered in conjunction with the Baltimore meeting, go to the HAPS-I start page.

Fair warning! The HAPS-I courses were opened about a week ago, and they are already nearly half full! These are great courses, so they fill up fast. Don't dilly-dally, my friends!

Brain Research 2009 Progress Report

I just received my copy of the print version of the FREE annual journal The 2009 Progress Report on Brain Research published by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives.

As I told you in an earlier article about The 2008 Progress Report on Brain Research this is an interesting book that each year summarizes breakthrough research and conceptualizing in the fascinating area of brain research. I especially appreciate that it's written in an easily accessible style . . . I don't have to pretend to be a neuroscientist and get out my science dictionary to wade through layers of jargon. Nope. Instead, it's written in plain English and a clean style.

Every year, an essay by a prominent neuroscientist is featured. This year there is an essay from Floyd E. Bloom on recent advances in substance abuse research--advances that help us understand the normal pathways and receptors involved in everyday brain function.

This essay is of particular interest to me because it helps me consolidate and focus some of these recent advances that were revealed to us at a recent HAPS Annual Conference and explored in a related HAPS Institute course.

There are also interesting and timely updates in other areas of neuroscience, as you can see in this list:
You can access the contents FREE online at The 2009 Progress Report on Brain Research. You can also register to get a FREE copy of the print version of next year's issue.

Check out my list of free journals at The A&P Professor website for more FREE journals related to human anatomy and physiology.

Feedback system protects ear against damage

A new discovery summarized in the current edition of PLoS Biology reveals an interesting mechanism that helps to protect the spiral organ of the ear against damage from exposure to loud sounds.

According to the article, the cilia of the outer hair cells in the spiral organ (of Corti) change their ability to lengthen when triggered by acetylcholine released in a feedback response to loud noises. This mechanism thus reduces vibrations in the inner ear and thereby protects the sensitive structures from further damage.

Find out more in this brief and well-written summary:

Feedback System Protects Inner Ear
Richard Robinson

PLoS Biology Volume 7(1) January 2009


If your inner ear is undamaged by loud sounds, you may want to try clicking the Talkr icon at the end of this message to hear this article.

For more FREE journals like PLoS Biology, see my growing listing at The A&P Professor website.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


The term epigenetics refers to the idea that the phenotype of an individual (or of a cell) is affected by inherited factors beyond the sequence of the DNA code.

By processes such as adding methyl groups to specific locations in a DNA molecule--a reaction called methylation--the expression of the DNA can be regulated. Various experiences, such as exposure to certain chemicals or other stimuli, during the lifetime of an individual can cause methylation at certain locations in the DNA. Methylated regions are often transmitted to offspring, thus carrying the regulatory "imprint" to the next generation and beyond.

Chemical changes to a DNA molecule (or DNA histones) such as methylation are often called imprinting. Imprinted information can trigger or affect various disease processes. For more information on the basic idea of epigenetic imprinting and its role in disease, see our coverage of the topic in Chapter 34 of Anatomy and Physiology. Our new 7th edition (due out in a few weeks) will have an expanded web article (A&P Connect) linked to the text coverage.

A recent article in Science News tells us that researchers are far from figuring out how this imprinting by methylation works. To read more about the recent findings . . . and new questions raised by them. . . check out this article:

One study finds tissue-specific methylation signatures in the genome; another a similarity between identical twins in DNA’s chemical tagging.
Science News web edition : Sunday, January 18th, 2009

Learning styles

How do you learn best?

Do your students know how they learn best?

In a recent post at The A&P Student blog, I mentioned the concept of learning styles. Some of my student readers wanted to know more about that. We often assume (incorrectly) that our students know about themselves and about the learning process.

So yesterday I posted an expanded article on learning styles. Perhaps you want to share this link to that blog article with your own students:

Here's what I told them:

Some folks learn a new concept in A&P best by hearing their instructor explain it. Some favor learning it from the textbook. Others need to play with specimens in the lab to really "get it."

All of these differences in learning among individuals are often called their "learning styles." There are MANY learning styles. So many, they probably can't be counted.

But folks (like me) interested in understand how students learn best often distill the major patterns into four categories of learning style:

  • Visual learners, who learn best by seeing a concept illustrated.
  • Auditory learners, who learn best by hearing explanations.
  • Reading learners, who prefer to read about a concept to understand it.
  • Kinesthetic leaners, who like to use movement or manipulate objects in a "hand on" approach.

[NOTE: The word kinesthesia means "muscle sense," which is your perception of body position and movement.]

But only rarely does a person rely solely on one approach when learning a new concept. Most of us are multimodal, meaning that we operate in more than one of these primary learning styles or "modes."

Even us multimodal folks, have certain preferences within our "mix" of learning styles. For example, I learn best when I can see and put my hands on it. But like other multimodals, I can also learning mainly by reading or hearing. In other words, we are not restricted to our favorite learning styles any more that I'm restricted to my preferred flavor of ice cream (vanilla).

So how does this help me learn?

By knowing what works best for me, I can develop learning strategies for myself that play to my own strengths and preferences.

Perhaps I can draw or label pictures while I'm listening to an explanation. That engages both my visual and kinesthetic senses while I'm listening. Thus adding my preferred modes (visual & kinesthetic) to one that is not my preferred mode (auditory).

You probably already know what your preferred learning styles are. If not, take the FREE online quiz using the link at my Learning Styles page in the Lion Den.

And then use the links on that page to find all kinds of ways to help you understand your learning styles and use them to make your studying of A&P more efficient.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The A&P Student blog

I recently started a separate blog directed at A&P students!

It is called (believe it or not) The A&P Student.

As with my The A&P Professor blog, there is a FREE companion newsletter that automatically delivers articles to subscribers each week.

[NOTE: if you want to subscribe to The A&P Professor newletter click here]

The blog features study tips, test-taking strategies, hints for using their textbook more effectively, and more. The conversational, occasionally silly, tone of the blog will engage students looking for more efficient ways to learn A&P . . . or tips on simply surviving.

Please pass this information along to your students and colleagues:

The A&P Student blog

The A&P Student newsletter

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Endocrine talking point?

Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, recently announced that the noticeable weight loss he's had over the last year are due to a treatable "hormone imbalance." He further stated that he is not on his deathbed, as had been rumored.

Click here for the story.

Some of you probably covered the endocrine system at the end of last term. Some are about to start it. Either way, now would be a good time to bring up the term "hormone imbalance" to trigger a discussion of what in the world that could mean.

A lot of folks, including physicians, throw this term "hormone imbalance" around as if it is a complete explanation. Which hormone(s)? What kind of imbalance? What are the causes and effects of the imbalance? (the story gives some clues, but not many)

Based on the little information that is currently available, it may be hard to guess what the answers are. But it may be instructive to try out several possible scenarios for the sake of discussion. Just like they do on the TV series House. Except I'd try to avoid being an ass like Dr. House . . . if at all possible.

Another discussion may also be appropriate (depending on the goals of your course) regarding health privacy. Does Jobs owe the public a detailed account of his current health issues? What about his company's board? Investors?

The Anatomist

Having just just celebrated the 150th anniversary of the original publication of Gray's Anatomy, and with most of us having a bit of time between terms to catch up on our reading, why not check out the story behind this classic?

A book called The Anatomist: A True Story of Gray's Anatomy not only reveals the roots of the classic anatomy text, it tells the personal and fascinating stories of the principle players. We find out, for example, that it wasn't Gray who drew the classic dissection sketches that we've come to love, but rather his fellow anatomist Henry Van Dyke Carter.

For more details, including a FREE timeline of the history of Gray's Anatomy, and a source of FREE images from the original Gray's Anatomy, visit this entry at The A&P Professor website:

Virtual dissection

The science magazine New Scientist recently published a collection of prize-winning "virtual dissections."

These images reconstruct portions of a body using advanced CT imaging techniques that allow the operator/artist to use precise medical images to build a 3D view of one or more parts of a body.

For teaching A&P, such images could be useful in helping students understand the anatomical relationships among the structures of the body in ways that ordinary medical illustrations cannot. And these images are FREE to access!

Check them out yourself at this New Scientist online gallery:

Virtual Autopsies Dissection Humans and Animals

All galleries from New Scientist

More sources of FREE images at The A&P Professor website.