Volume 11, Issue 10 (October, 2007)


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. Decade of the Mind
4. Tall Tales Conference
5. Mystery Photo
6. Media Alert
7. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
8. Support Neuroscience for Kids
9. How to Stop Your Subscription


Neuroscience for Kids had several new additions in September including:

A. September Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. Lead in Toys: Again, Again and Again

In September, 10 new figures were added and 19 pages were modified.


The Neuroscience for Kids "Site of the Month" for October is "UW Neurobiology and Community Outreach" at:

UW Neurobiology and Community Outreach is a program set up by graduate students at the University of Washington. These students have created a great Web site with information about classroom visits, lessons and interactive exhibits. Photos from the past three UW Brain Awareness Week Open Houses show the type of projects and activities that the students have created. The students bring many of these activities to local schools when they visit classrooms.

Videos on the Web site make the resource special. For example, the "demos" page uses videos to illustrate the McGurk effect, visual and temperature adaptation, mirror drawing and challenges to teach about sensory systems. These videos show how much fun it can be to learn (and teach) about the nervous system.

I asked Hiro Watari, the Co-founder and Webmaster of UW Neurobiology & Behavior Community Outreach about the Web site; here is his reply:

"Each year, our graduate student-led outreach group develops and presents new interactive exhibits for the Brain Awareness Week Open House at the University of Washington. We take photographs from the actual event and film video demonstrations in order to develop educational resources and to train our outreach volunteers. These educational resources help to promote the worldwide Brain Awareness Week campaign, and our website serves as an open access library of these resources for other students and teachers interested in neuroscience education.

This year we began offering a service that seeks to bring interactive exhibits about the brain into Seattle area K-12 classrooms. Teachers in the Seattle area may go to our website and contact us to set up a visit by a team of enthusiastic neuroscience graduate students. This service is offered year round and is free of charge."



The "Decade of the Brain" lasted from 1990 to the end of 1999 and we are currently in the "Decade of Behavior." Now, a group of scientists would like to create a new decade: the "Decade of the Mind."

In a letter to the journal SCIENCE (September 7, 2007), ten scientists describe the Decade of the Mind as one that focuses research on four areas:

a. Healing and protecting the mind
b. Understanding the mind
c. Enriching the mind
d. Modeling the mind

Such research would require experts from many different fields including neuroscience, medicine, engineering, psychology, mathematics, and computer science. The scientists believe that this research will have a "revolutionary impact on national interests in science, medicine, economic growth, security and well-being."

Reference: Albus, J.S., Bekey, G.A., Holland, J.H., Kanwisher, N.G., Krichmar, J.L., Mishkin, M., Modha, D.S., Raichle, M.E., Shepherd, G.M and Tononi, G., A proposal for a Decade of the Mind initiative, Science, 317:1321, 2007.

Decade of the Brain:

Decade of Behavior:


Last month I traveled to the beautiful city of Edinburgh, Scotland, to participate in the "Tall Tales about the Mind and Brain" conference. This conference was sponsored by The Royal Society of Edinburgh and the University of Edinburgh.

Just a six hour flight from Seattle (WA) to Newark (NJ) and a 6.5 hour flight from Newark to Scotland brought me to Edinburgh. After quickly checking into my hotel, I went to the offices of The Royal Society of Edinburgh where I spoke with 20 high school teachers about neuroscience in their classrooms. My presentation was followed by several free public talks about the brain, including one about the myth of using only 10% of the brain.

The main Tall Tales meeting was held the following two days at the science museum called "Our Dynamic Earth." The purpose of the meeting was to discuss topics about the brain that often appear in magazine and newspaper articles and on television. Are these stories based on scientific research or are they myths? Speakers at the meeting discussed questions about memory, eyewitness testimony, intuition, brain size and intelligence, aging, language, brain dominance, lie detection and the formation of beliefs. My presentation focused on the myth that the full moon causes an increase in abnormal human behavior. There were also presentations by scientists who were also magicians; they showed how magicians used distraction and other psychological tactics to perform their tricks.


NEWSWEEK magazine (September 24, 2007 issue) published an article about some teachers who are receiving bonuses when their students pass tests. Although the article did not discuss the brain, it contained a very interesting photograph on page 53. Can you identify the objects that the teacher (standing) and student (sitting) are holding?


A. "The Future of the Brain" is a special feature in POPULAR SCIENCE (October, 2007) with several neuroscience articles including:

i. "The Deadly Five" by Eric Hagerman lists the "biggest, scariest enemies of the brain" as depression, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, stroke and autism.

ii. "The Brain Surgeon's New Toolbox" discusses new surgical methods used by neurosurgeons.

iii. "Happiness is a Warm Electrode" by Gregory Mone discusses how electrical stimulation of the brain is used to treat depression.

iv. "Head Games" by Veronique Greenwood discusses mysteries of perception including out-of-body experiences, mirror-touch synesthesia, deja vu, seeing sounds and the feeling that someone else is in the room with you.

B. "Football's $1,000 Helmet" by Julie Rawe (TIME magazine, September 17, 2007) discusses new advances in helmet technology.

C. "When Lead Lurks in Your Nursery" by Claudia Wallis (TIME magazine, September 17, 2007).

D. "Homeroom Zombies" by Lawrence Epstein and Steven Mardon (NEWSWEEK magazine, September 17, 2007) discusses how most teenagers are not enough getting sleep.

E. "Hyper Kids? Check Their Diet" by Claudia Wallis (TIME magazine, September 24, 2007) discusses a possible link between hyperactivity and diet.

F. WIRED magazine (October, 2007) interviews neurologist Oliver Sacks about music and the brain and Sacks' new book. This magazine also has an interesting timeline showing the history of psychiatric drugs in the United States.

G. "How Does Consciousness Happen?" by Christof Koch and Susan Greenfield (Scientific American, October, 2007).


A. An early patient of neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield (1891-1976) was his sister. Dr. Penfield operated on his sister to remove a brain tumor. (Source: Bynum, W.F. and Bynum, H., editors, "Dictionary of Medical Biography," Westport (CT): Greenwood Press, 2007.)

B. During development, the brain creates 30,000 synapses per second for every square centimeter of cortical surface. (Source: Rose, S., "The Future of the Brain. The Promise and Perils of Tomorrow's Neuroscience," Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.)

C. Bumblebees have a brain volume of about 1.16 cubic millimeters; honeybees have a brain volume of about 0.64 cubic millimeters. (Source: Mares, S., Ash, L., and Gronenberg, W., Brain Allometry in Bumblebee and Honey Bee Workers Brain, Behavior and Evolution, 66:50-61, 2005.)

D. Manatees "see" with 3,000 hairs on their bodies to help them maneuver in murky waters. Each hair is connected to 20-50 nerve fibers. In other mammals, each hair is connected to 5-10 nerve fibers. (Source: Discover, August 2003.)

E. Children with autism spectrum disorder are not as susceptible to contagious yawning as other children. (Source: Senju, A., et al., Absence of contagious yawning in children with autism spectrum disorder, Biology Lett., August 14, 2007 (DOI 10.1098/rsbl.2007.0337). _________________________________________________________


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Eric H. Chudler, Ph.D.