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A novel approach to learning the neurological physical exam


UC San Francisco has launched a new app for the Apple iPad that presents a novel approach to learning the neurological physical exam, a challenging series of assessments aimed at diagnosing neurological disorders in patients. 

The app, called UCSF NeuroExam Tutor, helps medical students, residents and physicians overcome "neurophobia," the feeling many people get when given the seemingly impossible task to learn and master the comprehensive version that has been traditionally taught.

"At UCSF, we are committed to using technology to enhance our students' ability to learn," said Catherine Lucey, MD, vice dean of education at the UCSF School of Medicine. "This app represents a wonderful collaboration between app developers, clinicians and educators, and will help our students master a traditionally difficult set of skills."

The UCSF NeuroExam Tutor was developed by the UCSF School of Medicine under the leadership of Vanja Douglas, MD, assistant professor of neurology and Susannah Cornes, MD, assistant professor and director of the Epilepsy Resident Rotation. It was designed in partnership with Bandwdth, a global educational development company. Fourth-year medical student Dylan Alegria helped spearhead the project as part of his medical education technology fellowship. In recent years, UCSF has invested heavily in the development of a variety of information technology and management resources to give health care providers, educators, scientists and students the tools to succeed in the rapidly evolving digital age.

"It has been a wonderful opportunity for me to help drive this project," said Alegria. "Having students at the table, alongside clinical experts, designers and programers, helped create an innovative tool that suits the needs of both educators and learners."

Neurological Exam: Essential examination (UCSF School of Medicine) from UCSF iROCKET on Vimeo.

App Features Real Patients and UCSF Experts

Available in the iTunes Store, the app costs $19.99 and covers seven areas: coordination and gait, cranial nerves, mental status, motor control, reflexes, and sensation. As learners move through the app, they have access to more than 60 high-quality videos, 50 different physical exam maneuvers, flashcards, and advice from master clinicians at UCSF.

UCSF NeuroExam Tutor also offers six interactive case-based approaches with real patients and health experts. For example, medical students can learn what they should do if a nurse requests help with an elderly patient who is suffering from severe migraines or how to respond to a 40-year-old male suddenly experiencing vertigo.

"Our goal from the start was to highlight the most essential parts of the neurological exam and to present these components in a logical and problem-focused manner," said Daniel Lowenstein, MD, professor and vice chair of the Department of Neurology and one of the app's authors. "To this end, I think UCSF NeuroExam Tutor will be welcomed by health professionals everywhere."

According to the World Health Organization, more than a billion people across the globe suffer from more than 600 neurological disorders, ranging from epilepsy to Alzheimer disease.