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Tips for telling my cranial from my caudal?

  1. Aug 14, 2005 #1


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    (If I got those right, that title should be mildly funny.)

    Does anyone have tips for memorizing the terms of direction and position (anterior, superior, proximal, etc.), i.e., something other than just drilling them into my head? I've forgotten them and remember having had trouble learning them the first time around.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 14, 2005 #2
    Learning words by their roots and by root-related words

    Learn the meanings of the word roots and relate the terms to words that use the same roots. Ante = before, so it is in the front (when you are walking, the front, or anterior, of your head arrives before the rest, and the posterior (root=post) arrives last) (antebellum; antecedent). Supe = above (superscript; superego; superstructure; superheated). Superior brain areas are located above the others. Proximare = near, and in biology proximal means near everything else which would necessarily be the center of the brain or center of the body. (A related word is 'approximate' which means near something else.)
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2005
  4. Aug 14, 2005 #3

    Crania is Medieval Latin, from Greek kranion. I don't know of any related words. Cranium is a common substitution for the word "head" or the word "skull" on TV and in movies, though.

    Caudal is from New Latin caudalis, from Latin cauda = tail. Sometimes it means the same thing as posterior or things associated with the posterior. The rest of the time it means "tail" or things associated with the tail. Interestingly, it is related to the word "coward."

    Caudal as an adjective:

    1 : constituting, belonging to, or relating to a tail <caudal appendage> <caudal veins>
    2 : situated in or directed toward the hind part of the body or the part from which the tail arises : POSTERIOR <a caudal nerve> <the caudal end of the body>

    Edit: Hmmm. Looking at your title, now, I would guess you had those two figured out.
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2005
  5. Aug 14, 2005 #4


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    Love it, thanks, looking at the roots works. (I wish I would have thought of it. I was trying to think of some spatial trick.) I can handle the rest - it'll be good practice for this budding linguist. :biggrin:
  6. Aug 14, 2005 #5
    I had some technological help in looking up the related words. I have an unabridged dictionary loaded onto my hard drive. In browse mode, I simply start typing letters and all of the words that start with those letters show up in a list in real-time.
  7. Aug 14, 2005 #6


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    Yep, understanding the roots of the words makes it far easier. Oh, and since you're working on learning them, also keep in mind they change slightly in meaning if you are bipedal (two-legged) or quadripedal (4-legged).

    If for some reason this doesn't make sense to visualize, get two sticky notes (or any paper), write anterior on one, and posterior on the other. Now, while standing, place them on the floor in front of and behind you, to indicate the correct directions. Now, get down on your hands and knees and see how anterior and posterior have changed in relation to the axes of your body. The same happens with superior (think of that as the ceiling). Those are the terms that refer to in front of, behind, above, below.

    The other set of terms are relative to parts of the body, dorsal (back), ventral (belly), cranial (head), caudal (tail). Leave your anterior/posterior cards on the floor. Now have some fun and get someone to tape "dorsal" to your back and stick "ventral" on your belly, "rostral" on your nose (that's another term not in your list here...rostral comes from rostrum for nose) and "caudal" on your butt. Now, see where each of the labels are on your body relative to the labels on the floor when you stand on two legs vs getting down on all fours.

    We don't really use rostral and caudal for humans since the other terms work better, but you'll never mix up your terms for bipeds and quadripeds after you do this exercise (though you might break out in laughter when recalling it for an exam).
  8. Aug 15, 2005 #7


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    Ahhh, I remember my first game of "biological orientation twister", I ended up with a contusion on my caudal region :bugeye: ....what fun! Then we played "Spin the Sample Collection Device" and watched a movie about the morphological strategies of flowers as they relate to insect pollination behavior - if that doesn't get you in the mood I don't know what will. Memories... :biggrin:
  9. Aug 15, 2005 #8


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  10. Aug 16, 2005 #9


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    Nice find HRW! You can never know too many fancy scientific words. :approve:
  11. Aug 16, 2005 #10
    welll imagine a baby crawling with his head up(like a cat/mouse which is what the system is based on) remember if you stand up-> the alignment of body and head is differed by 90degrees..it got me good the first time i tried to remember

    The lettered opposite pairings,
    A-P(front/back) -> remember posterior
    D-V(top/bottom) -> remember dorsal
    S-I(top/bottom) -> this should be the easiest, but i only remmember it being
    in the hindbrain, thalamic regions.
    M-L(mid/side) --> remember medial
    R-C(front/back)--> this one I didn't even learn, but i saw it in so many papers it got me confused when i was trying to map out the brain for my ug research

    the trickiest will probably be swapping dorsal and posterier. but if you draw a side view
    A---P P---A
    just remmeber which side view you memorized.
  12. Aug 17, 2005 #11
    Ah this is so true. Its fun to mess with people's minds when they have no idea about anything you have just said to them. The looks on their faces are priceless! :rofl:
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