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. Neuroscience for Kids Drawing Contest - Judging has Begun
4. Life Without Pain
5. Scorpions (Not Snakes) on a Plane
6. Media Alert
7. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
8. Support Neuroscience for Kids
9. How to Stop Your Subscription
A. January Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. Portuguese Translations of Neuroscience for Kids
C. March and April Neurocalendars
In January, 10 new figures were added and 54 pages were modified.
NIHSeniorHealth.gov is a web site with information about health problems that affect many older adults. The web site is useful not only to older people, but also to young people who might have parents or grandparents with a particular problem.
There are currently more than 30 different diseases and conditions described on the web site. Many of the conditions are related to the nervous system, for example, Alzheimer's disease, balance problems, cataract, depression, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, hearing loss, low vision, macular degeneration, problems with smell, problems with taste, sleep disorders, and stroke. The causes and prevention, symptoms and diagnosis, and treatment and research about each disorder are provided and video clips and illustrations help readers learn about the conditions. Answers to "Frequently Asked Questions" about each disorder are also listed.
NIHSeniorHealth.gov was developed by the National Institute on Aging and
the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health.
The first case was a 10-year-old boy who performed on the streets in Pakistan. He would place knives through his arms and walk on burning coals without feeling any pain. Unfortunately, he died on his 14th birthday when he jumped off of a house roof. The researchers were able to study six other children (ages 4 to 14 years old) from three related families with this condition.
None of the children in the study has ever felt any pain, anywhere on their bodies. They all had injuries such as bruises, cuts, and broken bones and damage to their tongues because they would bite themselves. These injuries were not found because the children complained. Rather, the injuries were diagnosed because the children were limping or not using an arm or leg. The children were considered to have normal intelligence and could perceive touch, warm, cold, tickle, and pressure; vision and hearing were also normal.
The inability to detect pain often leads to infections and permanent injuries because people do not know when they have hurt themselves. So, pain is not always a bad thing if it warns us of danger and teaches us to avoid situations that might harm us.
The researchers isolated the mutation to a gene called SCN9A. The mutation reduces the function of a sodium channel on nerve cells that send pain messages. Now that scientists know more about this gene and how it affects nerve cells, they might be able to develop new treatments for people with pain problems.
Reference: Cox, J.J. et al., An SCN9A channelopathy causes congenital
inability to experience pain, Nature, 444:894-898, 2006.
Scorpion stings can be painful, but they are rarely fatal. One component of most scorpion venoms is a neurotoxin that blocks potassium channels on nerve cells. For more about neurotoxins used by different animals, see:
B. "Spice Healer" by Gary Tix (Scientific American, February, 2007) discusses how an ingredient in curry might be used to treat Alzheimer's disease and other diseases.
C. "Beyond Wrinkles" by Sarah Baldauf (cover story, US News and World Report, January 22, 2007) discusses how Botox is being used to treat many neurological disorders including pain, cerebral palsy and Parkinson's disease.
D. Visit the "BRAIN: The World Inside Your Head" exhibit at the John P. McGovern Museum of Health & Medical Science in Houston, TX, until May 6, 2007. While you are at the museum, take a walk in the Sensory Garden.
E. "The Brain. A User's Guide" is the cover story of TIME magazine (January 29, 2007) with articles including "The New Map Of The Brain," "The Mystery of Consciousness," "Time Travel in the Brain," "What Do Babies Know?," "The Flavor Of Memories," and "Who Should Read Your Mind?"
F. "Eight Arms, With Attitude" by Jennifer A. Mather (Natural History, February, 2007) describes the behavior and intelligence of the octopus.
G. WIRED magazine (February, 2007) list 40 of the "biggest questions in
science." Included in these questions are several related to
neuroscience: Why do we sleep? Why do placebos work? How does the brain
produce consciousness? How does the brain calculate movement?
B. In the late 1800s, heroin was used as a cough medicine.
C. Heterochromia iridis (or heterochromia iridium) is when a person has eyes with two different colors; it is the result of differences in the pigment of iris in each eye.
D. The retina is the only part of the central nervous system that can be seen from outside of the body...you have to look through the pupil of the eye to see it.
E. The leech has five pairs of eyes on its head. This animal also has
other photosensitive cells on other parts of its body. (Source: Schwab,
I.R., A backseat driver, Br J Ophthalmol 90:1447, 2006.)
Help Neuroscience for Kids
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.