Do you have any tips for how to study histology? I'm about to begin and really nervous!
Every picture tells a story
Thanks for your question anon!
There is a short answer to your question - and that is that there is no magic bullet that works for everyone. You have to find what works best for you. Having said that, I have never been one for short answers so here is something much more lengthy that will hopefully help you.
It isn’t a trick or a mnemonic. It isn’t a method to improve your memorization capacity. It is merely a shift in the way you think about histology. For many, a simple adjustment in the way you think about the subject can bring into focus a whole new world from what was once was vague pinky purpleyness.
Think of it like this. Every histological image you look at is a work of unique biological art. Instantly recognizable by experts (even at high magnification) based upon the patterns, shapes and colors of its constituent connective tissue and cells.
Take another look at the pictures I posted above:
I bet you recognized the Mona Lisa from a highly magnified shot of those brow-less eyes? Or the album artwork for Abbey Road by the Beatles from a close up shot of that pedestrian crosswalk? Or Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon from that ‘prism’?
Those patterns are instantly recognizable - iconic.
Histology is the same (except the club is more exclusive). Every image has unique features that make it what it is. Can you instantly recognize the cartilage of the ear in its highly magnified state? Maybe not, but with practice you will be able to.
The first time you saw Mona Lisa you probably had no clue who she was but seeing her image in countless magazines, art class, on TV, in museums made even the tiniest details of her face instantly recognizable.
So my first tips for learning histology are:
1. Pattern recognition. Learn to see those unique histological patterns that make that tissue that tissue. Patterns don’t lie.
2. Expose yourself. Not in the Friday night nudity get arrested kind of way. But expose yourself to as many images of the same tissues as possible. Pattern recognition skills only improve with plenty of varied (look at different slides not the same one) practice.
Very soon you will see that the Pancreas and Parotid gland are as different as a Da Vinci and a Van Gogh.
But remember, histology is not just about identifying tissues…which brings me to my last piece of advice (promise).
Every one of the images above tells a story…
a. Mona Lisa’s story
Some say that Mona Lisa is Lisa del Giocondo a member of the Gherardini family of Florence and Tuscany the wife of wealthy Florentine silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo. The painting is thought to have been commissioned for their new home, and to celebrate the birth of their second son. Others say that this is actually a Da Vinci self portrait which explains the fact that the more I look at this painting the more I see her more masculine features.
b. The Abbey Road story
Did you know that Paul is not wearing any shoes? Or that the VW Beetle car was owned by the guys in the flat opposite Abbey Rd studios? After release of the album the cars license plate was regularly stolen! It is now on display in a museum in Germany. The distracted man in the image is an American tourist in London, his name is Paul Cole. He died in 2008 forever immortalized on this iconic album sleeve. And stoutly disliked the music of the Beatles. [Whether Mr Cole was telling the truth or lying is debated, either way it is a great story and I feel there is a novel in this somewhere…]
c. The Dark Side story
The spectrum (missing indigo) from the prism is said to represent the magnificent light shows the Floyd wowed crowds with at their live shows. But at the same time it could be a rainbow…which feeds the theory that if you start playing the album at the same time as you start watching The 19439 Judy Garland classic ‘The Wizard of OZ’ the lyrics sync with the events on screen. Full version here. Maybe there is something over that rainbow?
d. The Ear story
The ear is pretty flexible. Those jug handles protrude from the sides of our head and are at risk of being torn off every time a kid pushes his/her head into a tight space where a head is not meant to go. Think about how many times a dog or cat does this. To avoid this, those black filaments you see make sure that the ear bends and springs back into its original position - they are elastin fibers. Like those in the waistband of your pants. The cells are chondrocytes, beady eyes peering at you. they make the cartilage matrix which is lightweight (so our heads aren’t overly heavy), flexible (so the ears can bend) but really strong (so they can take some abuse before they get damaged).
So my second tips for learning histology are:
1. Learn the tissue’s story. The reason the patterns exist in the first place is because the components play a distinct functional role in that tissue that make that tissue that tissue. If you make this link between structure and function histology will make much more sense.
2. Enjoy it. If you enjoy science/biology/medicine then embrace histology. It is the story of your body. How it is put together, how it works. It is not often you get to gaze into the building blocks of your own soul and marvel at them in full vivid color. And for those of you who don’t have that insatiable curiosity about how your own body works then…maybe…maybe medical science is not the wisest career path to venture down.
I wish you the very best of luck with your studies in histology.
‘In Russia, 'men on the other side of the law decorate their body in tattoos.’ Now, some of these tattoos are proof of allegiance to underground organisations, which are the sworn enemies of the Royal household. So, it’s customary in Russian Royal households to check for such tattoos before engaging a man in business.And as we approach the allotted day, these ladies here would like to make sure that you’re not assassins or infiltrators… - Thomas Shelby