Background Neurophobia, defined as a fear of neural sciences and clinical neurology, has been recognised since 1994. This study sought to determine evidence for global existence and perceived causes of neurophobia among medical students and junior doctors.
Methods Published studies using a common Likert questionnaire to identify neurophobia were retrieved using multiple sources (PubMed, Medline, EMBASE, MD Consult, EBSCO, Proquest, ERIC, BEI, ISI web of knowledge, Google Scholar and Cochrane library databases). Mean scores were determined from the Likert scale for different medical specialties. A hierarchy of perceived causes of neurophobia was identified.
Results Six studies, which met the inclusion criteria, involved 1800 medical students or junior doctors. Interest in neurology was second only to cardiology, but perceived knowledge and confidence were consistently scored lower than other medical disciplines. Neurology was also perceived as more difficult than any other medical specialties. There were many reasons cited for difficulty with neurology, including the need to know basic science, neuroanatomy, poor or inadequate teaching as well as complexity of the subject with a wide range of diagnoses.
Conclusions Interest, knowledge, perceived difficulty and confidence in neurology compare poorly with other medical specialties among medical students and junior doctors. Poor and insufficient teaching were among the main contributory factors. Future research and teaching should address factors, which can contribute to a culture of ‘neurophilia’.
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