Thursday, February 24, 2005

Night-time fun

Last week I went orienteering. It's so much fun! It was a nighthike organised by one of the clubs at College, and my friend Kevin and I entered as novices. We had six hours to visit as many stations as possible, and started off really well. After a few hours though, the beginner's luck ran out, our torch (flashlight) died, and we found ourselves royally lost. Eventually, we had to clamber over some electric fences and dodge a few angry farmers, arriving back at base just after sunrise and half an hour after the deadline. Our team (The Stumblers), lost so many points as a result that we lost our lead, and got the wooden spoon for the last team back. There's always next year though...

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Exam update

Today for me is a good day. After all the heartache of Tuesday, I finally think all your combined prayers and all those long nights in the library paid off. The exam today was on 'Neurodegenerative Disorders' and I gave it my best shot. First there were some short answer questions all about regeneration within the CNS, and then an essay on astrocytomas. On the advice of friends from a USMLE prep forum, a while back I bought HY Neuroanatomy and all the main information was there. Thanks so much!

Yesterday's exams were tougher. For some reason I still don't understand myself, myopic me had completely ignored revising head movements, the vestibuloocular and optokinetic reflexes and they came up! I was desperately racking my brains and moving my head from side to side trying to see which semicircular canals would be stimulated when. The afternoon was nicer though, with stuff on schizophrenic hallucinations, alcohol's effects on the brain and Huntington's ethical implications.

I got back from our post-exam get together a couple of hours ago, and feel really refreshed. It was great seeing friends from med school again after being by my shelf(!) these past few weeks. We're all still really tired though. All the revision-time beards had been grown as we moved and most of us could barely keep awake. In the desperation of the time though, I'd started taking Proplus, a caffeine pill. I never normally even drink coffee, so I now can't get to sleep at all. It will allow me to put some more work hours in tonight, though. It's USMLE all the way until ... Monday. That's when we start our nine weeks in the lab, but I should have a lot more free time. The plan is to start with my second listening of Goljan on the way to college, get a couple of hours of Kaplan done in the morning, and trying as many questions done in the evening as I can. Hopefully I too will book that exam date soon. And I'll start updating my progress daily! Gotta be more accountable. Your plans?

Stay well,

Monday, February 14, 2005

My BSc project

Let me tell you a little bit about my BSc Neuroscience project, which I'll be working on for the next two months. I'll be investigating the role played by a protein, p35, on the development of the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in learning and memory formation. p35 is an important neuronal-specific activator of Cdk5, which plays a critical role in neuronal migration and brain development, and has many neurocytoskeletal substrates. Click here for an abstract of a review paper. Mice lacking Cdk5 or p35 expression demonstrate marked cortical abnormalities, but the effect of p35 loss on the hippocampus has not been extensively investigated. Hippocampal tissue extracts from Cdk5 knockout mice show significantly decreased axonal outgrowth and axonal growth cone morphology, and my short project will investigate whether similar effects are observed in hippocampal tissue from p35 knockout mice. I won't discuss the methods I'll use here as they're quite technical and boring to read through, but please send me a message if you're interested and I'd be happy to tell you about them.

Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day!


Thursday, February 10, 2005

The exam

Well, I've been preparing for this day for the last few months. My first end-of-year BSc Neuroscience exam. I finished it a few hours ago but now I'm weeping. I made a classic and ridiculous mistake. The exam was three hours long on two separate modules. In the first one there were three short answer question and then a choice of one from three different essay questions. That was ok. Then I moved on to the second module. In the stress of the situation I didn't read the question properly and didn't realise that in this one the essay questions were first. I was thinking that the questions seemed quite detailed to only require a short response, but I didn't stop to check, and ended up speed writing in the most shockingly bad handwriting. When I then got onto the first short answer question I tried to write an essay but could fill more than half a page. Realised the mistake fifteen minutes before the end and desperately got a few lines down on the remaining two questions. But they are more or less nonsense. I'm going to write an email to the coordinator now explaining what happened and pleading for mercy for my stupidity! Well, the second exam's in eighteen hours so I'd better get back to work. 'Vison and Visual Dysfuntion' and 'Neuropsychiatric Disorders' await. Thanks for dropping by.