Quick, can you answer the question about the dog with the neuromuscular disease myasthenia gravis?   If not, you'd be lost at Neurobowl, the highlight of the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology.

Poseurs need not apply.  Though they all know the drinking game, these cats make fun of the medical riddles and the doctors on the TV show "House."   Except for Olivia Wilde ("Thirteen").   They all like her.

Olivia Wilde

Take a stab at these as you read and see how you did at the end.

A man has abdominal pain and loses skin on the palms of his hands and soles of his feet. What is the diagnosis? (1)

It's basically a quiz show or College Bowl.   You get points for answering questions correctly first and they're subtracted for wrong answers. Harder questions have higher point values.   Panelists are asked to diagnose perplexing neurological conditions, based on symptoms, X-rays, etc. And every so often, the host will try to trip them up with a pop culture medical question.   Here's an easy one, if you're over 50.   Otherwise, not so much.

On the old TV doctor show, who played the title role of Dr. Ben Casey?(2)

Like in any event involving humans, competition will be fierce.   A team known as the All-Stars has won 8 times in the last 11 years.    They're like the Yankees, except instead of "Murderer's Row" we'd have to call them "Biopsychosocial Characteristic Victims Row" or something.

"Our team has been winning the Neurobowl for many years, but we are aging, so you never know what may happen," says All-Star Dr. Jose Biller, chairman of the Department of Neurology, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, clearly trying to lull the competition into complacency with false modesty.

They say up to 3,000 will watch this year's event Sunday, April 26 at the annual meeting in Seattle.  The academy has 21,000 members so what will the rest be doing?   Right, something else.    Maybe NeuroIdol is more their speed.


A 17-year-old girl falls from a horse and develops a headache.What is the diagnosis? (3)

In the preliminary round, the East Team will face the West Team, with the winner taking on the All-Stars.   That explains why the All Stars have won 8 out of 11; they get a bye to the finals.  AANnews, the Academy's newsletter, says Neurobowl competitors are among "the best and brightest in neurology" though they seem to be able to find 15 people who can answer  trivia questions, which rules out osteopaths if my neck starts to hurt.

Each team has five members. If you're going to follow the action and like to root for winners, in addition to Biller the All-Stars include Dr. Anthony Lang of the University of Toronto, Dr. Nancy Newman of Emory University, Dr. Marc Patterson of the Mayo Clinic and Dr. James Russell of the Lahey Clinic near Boston.

A lung cancer patient suffers progressive weakness and numbness in the legs.  What is the diagnosis? (4)

These folks are not kidding around.    Each All-Star apparently has a different strength. Biller is point guard of stroke, Lang holds the post in movement disorders, Newman takes it to the hole in neuro-ophthalmology, Patterson is a scrappy rebounder in pediatric neurology and Russell in big man in neuromuscular disease. Russell is making his first appearance as an All-Star.

So someone was basically the Wally Pipp of neurology trivia and Russell got to take his place.   But unlike baseball, the only things you have to watch out for are oddball questions. 

"You have to have a good sense of humor," Biller said. "It's entertainment."

It  is for my column anyway.  And if you got more than one of the above entertainments correct, I'll be the cool guy making fun of you at the all-night seminar on Euclidean geometry.


(1) Arsenic neuropathy
(2) Vince Edwards
(3) Cerebrospinal fluid hypotension syndrome
(4) Leptomeningeal carcinomatosis