Background: Medical students perceive neurology to be a difficult subject, a phenomenon described as "neurophobia". Studies investigating student attitudes towards neurology have so far been limited by small sample sizes as a consequence of being conducted within a single medical school or region. We aimed to conduct the first national survey of the perception of neurology among UK medical students.
Methods: A 24 question online survey was designed and distributed in the form of a web-link to all UK medical schools. Responses were collected for 10 weeks with reminders sent at 3 and 6 weeks. A prize-draw of £300 was offered upon completion of the survey.
Results: 2877 medical students from 25 of 31 medical schools responded. Students found neurology to be significantly more difficult than other specialties and were least comfortable drawing up a neurological differential diagnosis compared to other specialties (p < 0.0001 for neurology vs. each of the other specialties). Neuroanatomy was regarded as the most important factor contributing to neurology being perceived as difficult.
Conclusions: The findings of the first national survey addressing this issue are consistent with previous research. The perception of neurology remains unchanged, in contrast to the rapidly changing demands of neurological care in an ageing population. Neurological examination and formulating a differential diagnosis are important skills in any medical specialty, and combatting "neurophobia" in medical students is therefore essential.