Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Neural Science and A Piece of Puzzle

I realize that I have been posting less and less of my life, and more and more of trivial online stuff... You may say that, "Right, this guy is indeed a geek, half of his life is spent online doing trivial stuff, and his blog just tells everything about his lifestyle." Well, I have to say that this is partly true. No rebuttal is going to refute the fact that I spend a lot of time online. But for the time being, the main reason for my trivial blog posts is because of a subject called Neural Science. Sometimes it's really getting on my nerves.

Principles of Neural ScienceNeural Science is not exactly the hardest thing on earth. Or to be precise, the Neural Science we are taught now is not the hardest thing. As always, if you only want to pass this subject, it's really not hard at all. The problem is, if you really want to get a good result, you have to sacrifice lots of time in the studies. I guess I am somewhere in between the two extremes. Sometimes I feel that I ought to study more than I currently do (which is little, relatively); but sometimes I feel that I ought to go out and socialize more. But whenever I don't know something but somebody else knows, and whenever I feel that I ought to have known the things people know had I spent an extra hour studying, kiasuism kicks in. I spur myself to study more.

It's not that Kiasuism is a bad thing or a good thing, it's just a dilemma a medical student (or rather, every student) faces. Yes, I told myself that education is not about scoring or beating others, and I always tried to light up when there are stressful tests around the corner. I have always told myself that whether you are successful or not doesn't depend on whether you score 81 or 85. But there is no veil to my emotion - when I came home after the first final paper last semester, Yong Chin asked if I was alright - I had muka tension. I couldn't get over things that I didn't do well in.

I started looking up on successful people, on how they become a success. In my random surfing, I stumbled upon the autobiography of Eric R. Kandel, the co-author of the ultimate 1400-page Principles of Neural Science. In year 2000, he was awarded Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering the relationship between memory and biochemical processes in neurons.

As I skimmed through the autobiography, I discovered this line about his opinions of note-taking and lecture notes:

I have loved teaching and have learned a great deal from lecturing to medical and graduate students. It was in the context of the neural science course at Columbia [University] that the idea arose of doing a textbook, Principles of Neural Science. In college and medical school I was never a good note-taker. I always preferred sitting back, enjoying the lecture, and just scribbling down a few words here and there. When I came to Columbia to develop the neural science course, I was struck by how much energy students were devoting to writing out every single word of lectures, and I wanted to help them get over that.

Eric R. Kandel
I was awestruck. That's the way Kandel jotted down his notes. That was so counter-intuitive to what I have been seeing... Kandel is absolutely right about the note-taking - medical students are definitely the most accomplished scribers in the world. In our lecture hall, in almost every instance there would be people writing down every single sentence the lecturer said. Furthermore, there are almost 20 state-of-the-art voice recorders at the lecturer's desk. Reading Kandel's thought leaves me wondering: Is Kandel such a genius, or our lecturers such bad teachers, or we have been doing it wrong all the time?

I am not sure. It might be a piece of puzzle as interesting as this one. Or as hard.

3 comments:

JasonLau85 said...
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JasonLau85 said...

I completely agree with you, we are born in a state of Kiasuism. The three voice recorders in my lecture room are best to prove this.

[Note: the only three in the room, and all owned by anak malaysia! Of course I am one of them. Ironically, I hardly replay them after lectures. see, just being kiasu!]

The note taking technique is a must! but I always ended up drawing 太上老君出入平安符especially on the hangover tueday morning. lol

I think the best way to take note is to do your own notes days before. Only take the important points or sth you've missed - it's useful!

p.s. I might not be the best person to give advise on study 班門弄斧:p

youngyew said...

jasonlau85: Haha, I agree with the drawing nonsense thingy! I used to do the same, until I found caffeine to be the solution when I was tired.

I am not sure whether doing pre-reading note is practical, because most of the time we would have trouble finishing the lectures on that particular day, so we don't really have time to pre-read the subsequent lectures.. But I guess it depends on how much time you allocate for your studies though.