Volume 10, Issue 8 (August, 2006)


Welcome to the Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter.

Here is what you will find in this issue:

1. What's New at Neuroscience for Kids
2. Neuroscience for Kids Site of the Month
3. Back to School
4. Brain Camp
5. Neurologists at the Front Line
6. Rice Krispies Speak About Autism
7. Media Alert
8. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
9. Reminder
10. Support Neuroscience for Kids
11. How to Stop Your Subscription


Neuroscience for Kids had several new additions in July including:

A. July Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. 2006 UW Summer Brain Camp
C. FDA Warns About Unapproved Treatment for Lyme Disease

In July, 14 new figures were added and 32 pages were modified. We have been busy getting old pages reformatted in the new design. Also, Dutch and Hebrew translations of Neuroscience for Kids are in the works.


The Neuroscience for Kids "Site of the Month" for August is "Sylvius" at:

The Neuroscience for Kids "Site of the Month" rarely selects a commercial web site. However, this month is one of those rare occasions. "Sylvius" is resource on a CD-ROM that teaches about the structure of the human nervous system. Although the makers of the CD would like you to buy their product, they have a FREE visual glossary that you might enjoy.

When you enter the site, you will see a list of words on the left side of your screen. Areas of the brain, such as the corpus callosum and central sulcus, and general terms, such as dorsal and contralateral, are listed. Scroll down the list of words and click on one to select it. A picture and description of the structure will appear in the center of the screen. The colors in the pictures make it easy to see where the structures are located.

You will see ads around the borders of the glossary, but they are easy to ignore. Just enjoy the beautiful pictures as you explore.


School will be back in session soon. Why not start the school year with a lesson about the most important part of your body? The brain!

Here is a quick activity to kick off a lesson: think about how a brain is similar or different than some everyday items. For example, how is a brain similar to a book? How is the brain different from a book? Think about other objects that could be compared to a brain. For other activities to start or end your exploration of the brain, see:


In July, I hosted 16 middle school students at the first University of Washington Summer Brain Camp. We started the week by discussing the structure and function of the brain and building neuron models with string and clay. We also played "brain charades" where students acted various functions of the brain and then identified the part of the brain responsible for the action. On the second day of camp, we built beady neurons and played outside brain games such as synaptic tag.

A highlight of the week was the sheep brain dissection. Students started in pairs with one sheep brain. After examining the outside features of the brain, the students cut through the corpus callosum to divide the sheep brain into right and left sides. Each student then had a half brain to identify internal brain structures such as the thalamus, corpus callosum, cerebellum, superior colliculus and ventricles. A special thanks goes out to Bryan White, a graduate student in the University of Washington Neurobiology and Behavior program, who helped with the brain dissection. Bryan brought a few of his fellow graduate students to help out the following day with a lesson about the senses.

We ended the week with a trip to the UW Department of Anesthesiology Simulator Center. Dr. Brian Ross, the director of the center, showed us how doctors learn to use surgical instruments and the kids got to practice with the equipment. We then anesthetized "Chris." Chris is a life-sized mannequin that is connected to a computer to control its heart rate, eyes and breathing.

The kids liked the fast pace of the summer camp with lots of indoor and outside activities and games. Who knows? Maybe Brain Camp will be an annual event! The following web site has some photographs of the kids in action at the camp:


Neurologists are needed everywhere, even at the front lines of a war. A fascinating account by Dr. Geoffrey Ling and Dr. Cornelius Maher describes the work of these two neurologists on the battlefield in Iraq during 2005.

After Drs. Ling and Maher were issued weapons and armor, took a military refresher course and attended classes about Arabic customs, they were shipped off to Baghdad. Their job in Iraq -- to take care of wounded American soldiers -- was made difficult by extensive dust and heat reaching 125 degrees F (52 degrees C). Most of the patients seen by the doctors did not require surgery. However, critically injured soldiers were not uncommon and the neurologists had to work closely with neurosurgeons.

The most common reason soldiers visited Drs. Ling and Maher was for a headache. These headaches were caused by both simple injuries (bumps to the head) and serious injuries (explosive blasts). Those soldiers who could be treated successfully with medications were sent back to duty while others were sent away from the battlefield. Drs. Ling and Maher are now out of the war zone and busy helping patients in the U.S.

Reference: Ling, G. and Maher, C., U.S. neurologists in Iraq, Neurology, 67:14-17, 2006.


This summer, the Kellogg Company will place a message about autism, a neurological disorder characterized by communication problems, repetitive motions and problems with social interactions, in a side panel on more than five million boxes of Rice Krispies cereal. The Kellogg Company has teamed with "Autism Speaks," a non-profit organization, to develop this message and to increase public awareness about autism. For information about autism, see:


A. "The New Science of Siblings" by Jeffrey Kluger (Time magazine, July 10, 2006) discusses how brothers and sisters influence a person's behavior.

B. "The Deepest Cut" by Christine Kenneally (The New Yorker, July 3, 2006) describes a hemisphectomy (removal of one hemisphere of the brain) and how it can be used to treat seizures in children.

C. The cover story of the journal Nature (July 13, 2006) discusses connecting the brain to machines.

D. "Do I Know You?" by Sora Song (Time magazine, July 17, 2006) discusses the rare condition called prosopagnosia or face blindness.

E. "How Deep-Brain Stimulation Works" by Sora Song (Time magazine, July 24, 2006).

F. "Shiny Happy People--Can you reach nirvana with the aid of science?" Discover magazine, August 2006, pp. 62-65.

G. "Why Girls Will Be Girls" by Peg Tyre and Julie Scelfo (Newsweek magazine, July 31, 2006) discusses differences in the brains of females and males.

H. The cover story of the August 7, 2006 issue of Time magagize is titles "The Truth About Stem Cells: The Hope, The Hype and What It Means To You."

I. "The Expert Mind" (Scientific American, August, 2006) by Philip E. Ross discusses how studying chess grandmasters reveals how others can become experts in other fields.


A. With special receptors in an organ to detect heat, a pit viper can find a mouse 30 cm (11 inches) away. Heat detectors in pythons and boa constrictors are used to find mice 15 cm and 7 cm away, respectively. (Source: Kardong, K.V., Vertebrates, Dubuque (IA): Wm. C. Brown Publishers, 1995.)

B. Birds typically have 38 pairs of spinal nerves: 12 cervical, 8 thoracic, 12 sacral and 6 caudal nerve. Humans have 31 pairs of spinal nerves: 12 cervical, 8 thoracic, 5 lumbar, 5 sacral and 1 coccygeal. (Source: Proctor, N.S. and Lynch, P.J., Manual of Ornithology. Avian Structure and Function, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993.)

C. The facial nerve in elephants is 5.2 times larger than that in humans. The elephant facial nerve and part of the trigeminal nerve unite to form the great proboscideal nerve that controls the elephant's trunk. (Source: Shoshani, J., Kupsky, W.J. and Marchant, G.H., Elephant brain. Part I: Gross morphology functions, comparative anatomy, and evolution, Brain Res. Bulletin, 70:124-157, 2006.)

D. The bacteria Clostridium botulinum produces neurotoxins that are the most poisonous substances known: 1 gram evenly distributed and inhaled could kill more than a million people. (Source: Arnon, S.S. et al., Botulinum Toxin as a Biological Weapon, Medical and Public Health Management, JAMA, Vol. 285 No. 8, February 28, 2001.)

E. Sunfish have very short spinal cords -? a seven-foot sunfish has a spinal cord less than one inch (2.5 cm) long. Its spinal cord is shorter than its brain! (Source:


The new school year will start for many people in the next few weeks. If you will be changing your e-mail address and would like to continue to receive this newsletter, make sure I have your new address by sending me a note at:


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To remove yourself from this mailing list and stop your subscription to the Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter, send e-mail to Dr. Eric H. Chudler at:

Your comments and suggestions about this newsletter and the "Neuroscience for Kids" web site are always welcome. If there are any special topics that you would like to see on the web site, just let me know.


Eric H. Chudler, Ph.D.