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Connection to the World

Course Directors

Course Description


Connection to the World (CTW) focuses on the structure and functions of the nervous system and related disorders. CTW integrates several distinct courses taught previously in the course of the first two years of medical student education - fundamentals of Neuroscience, Neurophysiology and Biological Basis of Behavior, Psychiatry, Neurology and Ophthalmology.

CTW is built upon the neuraxis beginning with a description of the anatomy and physiology of the spinal cord and ascending up to the cerebral cortex, adding disease mechanisms and pathophysiology at each anatomical station. Students have a comprehensive understanding of the normal anatomy and physiology of the central and peripheral nervous system along with abnormalities in key neurological, psychiatric and ophthalmologist disorders.

The course incorporates neuropharmacology, neuropathology and neuroimaging into specific disease models and also as distinct and separate pedagogical entities.


CTW blends both didactic and interactive pedagogies in large and small group settings along with labs and patient presentations. An emphasis is placed on active learning with flipped curricula, and interactive sessions with labs, workshops and live patient presentations forming the majority of the course. It provides students with ample opportunities for spaced repetition, analytical thinking and active application of their understanding of anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology and pharmacology in diagnosing and treating disease. Students are introduced to and encouraged in their practice of clinical reasoning.



  • Optional weekly quizzes
  • Two mandatory, mid-course self-assessments
  • Neurobiology lab practicals


  • End-of-course, pass/fail qualifier

Learning Objectives

  • Define the terms commonly used to describe the divisions of the central and peripheral nervous system, and the enclosing membranes and their functions.
  • Describe the cellular and molecular basis for excitability, conductivity, synaptic function and plasticity of the nervous system. • Identify and describe the functions of major regions of the brain on gross inspection and in coronal, axial and sagittal sections.
  • Identify major blood vessels of the brain and spinal cord, describe their vascular territories and apply this knowledge to functional deficits in stroke disorders
  • Describe, compare and contrast the different radiological imaging modalities and their use in identifying the various compartments of the brain (bone vs fluid vs soft tissue) in normal and diseased states.
  • Discuss the eye exam and the criteria for significant eye disease.
  • Develop a comprehensive understanding of the structures and physiological properties of the nervous system
  • Be conversant in identifying functionally specified regions of the nervous system, correlating these functional units to specific neurological diseases and their pathophysiological mechanisms.
  • Describe brain mechanisms underlying common behaviors, (e.g. sleep, food intake and stress), and discuss a related disorder based on your observations in the clinical correlation sessions
  • Discuss fundamental neurological diseases (eg. degenerative diseases including Alzhiemer's, Parkinson’s and ALS, stroke, diseases of peripheral nerves and muscle, epilepsy, tumors) and their structural, physiological, or molecular substrates • Identify and discuss major psychiatric diseases including depression, mania, schizophrenia, OCD, addiction, their distinguishing features, epidemiological prevalence and the impact of social and structural factors.
  • Describe prototypical empiric and targeted pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions in neuropsychiatric and neurological diseases and discuss underlying mechanisms.
  • Correlate neuroradiological and neuropathological diagnoses with clinical manifestations of disease.
  • Discuss the eye exam and the criteria for significant eye disease. • Integrate across disciplines: neurobiology > neurology, ophthalmology, ENT and psychiatry.
  • Define the role of gender in the manifestation of disease and treatment outcomes
  • Begin to formulate basic differential diagnoses, approach to definitive diagnosis, and preventative measures for common neurological, psychiatric, and ophthalmic disorders.
  • Demonstrate and observe professionalism and communication skills in clinical correlation sessions, e.g. arriving on time, respecting patient and patient privacy, listening and asking appropriately framed questions, expressing appreciation etc.