Review: YouTube and ‘Neurological Knowledge’


The article reviewed here is a short report in the Lancet Neurology by Adrian Burton on the applications of YouTube in neurology with a particular focus on neurodegenerative conditions (Burton, 2008). Burton looks at a few channels on YouTube and provides opinions on the likely success of such channgels with the helpf interviews with relevant figures in the field. Although a number of channels are discussed, two in particular are focused on – the UK Alzheimer’s Society channel and the UCSF Memory and Aging channel. There is a discussion of whether these channels will remain in the ‘background’ in terms of viewings given the competition they face from other videos on the site which include those from television companies as well as viral marketing videos from large companies trying to reach a global audience.

At the time of writing, the Alzheimer’s Society channel has 53 clips uploaded. In this clip for instance, Neil Hunt, Chief Executive of the Alzheimer’s Society talks about Alzheimer’s Disease. At the time of writing the channel also has videos in Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi and Bengali. There are also interviews with people with Alzheimer’s Disease who describe their experiences and discuss some of the stigma that has been associated with the condition as well as educating viewers about misconceptions which contribute to this stigma.

The University of California San Francisco channel contains a number of videos about dementia including one on cognition in dementia, moral reasoning in Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD), FTD and emotions, and in this video Dr Bruce Miller explains how useful YouTube can be in education about dementia.

I had looked at videos on vascular dementia on YouTube in this post and concluded at that point that it required a lot of searching to find a few videos that were useful (which of course depends on the purpose of the video and the needs of the audience). However it is only a matter of time before this becomes a very useful medium. There are a number of reasons why I would expect this to become a more important medium for education purposes. Firstly it is not unreasonable to assume that the number of videos on YouTube will continue to increase. If a static proportion of these videos comprises useful educational material then such an increase would be expected in such educational material also. Secondly indexing methods may be expected to improve, be this within the YouTube site itself or through external sites which index some of the useful material in YouTube. The assumption here is that the videos will remain on YouTube indefinitely. Thirdly the methods for video production within the general population may be expected to improve with time as more sophisticated technology becomes available to the general population thus facilitating communication. Fourthly the proportion of the population (globally) with internet access will be expected to increase with time and assuming that a certain proportion of this population contributes videos to YouTube this would again be expected to increase the amount of educational material available (which ties in with the first point) but may also improve the drive for video production as there should be a larger potential audience for this material.

The article is a useful starting point for discussion around this topic and it will be interesting to see developments even within the next year in this field.


Burton A. YouTub-ing Your Way to Neurological Knowledge. Lancet Neurology. Vol 7. December 2008. pp1086-1087.


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The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.


  1. It’s nice that you took your time to write all this up; it’s inspiring to see another’s point of view. I appreciate your work on this site, and I’ll come back for more reading.


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