Volume 12, Issue 10 (October, 2008)


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. Grants for Teachers
4. Give Me 5 Campaign
5. Fringe is Out There
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. Contagious Yawning and Dogs
C. Ayurvedic Medicines and Toxic Metals
D. Real Genius is Awarded

In September, 14 new figures were added and 52 pages were modified.


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

Do you work on your homework as you watch TV, listen to your iPod, and eat a snack? You may think this "multitasking" is easy, but you would be mistaken. Effective multitasking is difficult and the web site will prove it.

The web site has several online activities that will demonstrate the problems with multitasking. For example, the "Visible Bottleneck I" activity requires that you pay attention to both sounds and letters at the same time. Think it is easy? Try it yourself! Most of the demonstrations require a JAVA-enabled browser.


BONUS Site of the Month -- "NERVE: Neuroscience Education Resources Virtual Encycloportal" from the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) at:

Visit the SfN's new NERVE Web site, a dynamic, online gateway with a wide range of education resources, including lesson plans, multimedia presentations, animations and games, and searchable by grade level and topic.


Are you a teacher who has an idea for a great program for your class or school? Are you looking for money to fund a program or field trip? Are you a student who wants to help your teacher get some money for a project? If you answered "Yes" to any of these questions, then here are some grant opportunities that might help:

A. Toyota Tapestry Grant for Science Teachers

Tapestry Grants are sponsored by the Toyota company and administered by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). A total of 50 one-year grants (maximum of $10,0000) and at least 20 mini-grants (maximum of $2,500) will be awarded in early 2009. Perhaps the innovative NEUROSCIENCE program you have been thinking about can now become a reality! The NSTA web site has a list of proposals awarded in the past, an online application for 2009 grants (due January 21, 2009) and tips for writing a winning proposal:

B. Target Community Field Trip Grants

The Target company will award 5,000 field trip grants of up to $800 each to elementary, middle and high school teachers. Perhaps this grant can fund a trip to a neuroscience lab or a Brain Awareness Week activity! Applications are due on November 1, 2008:


A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is stopped. If this happens for enough time, neurons will start to die because they will not get enough oxygen. Movement and speech problems are possible consequences of a stroke. Why should you know the signs of stroke? So, you can help a relative, friend or neighbor who is having a stroke. Anyone can have a stroke. In fact, in the United States, stroke is the third leading cause of death.

The "Give Me 5" campaign is a joint effort of the American Academy of Neurology, the American College of Emergency Physicians, and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association "to encourage Americans to recognize stroke symptoms, call 9-1-1, and get to the emergency department." Here are the FIVE SIGNS of stroke and questions to ask about a person who you think is having a stroke:

WALK: Is their balance off?

TALK: Is their speech slurred or face droopy?

REACH: Is one side weak or numb?

SEE: Is their vision all or partly lost?

FEEL: Is their headache severe?

The campaign encourages you to call 9-1-1 immediately if you see just one of these symptoms.


Have you watched the new TV show called "Fringe" on the FOX network? The first episode was about an FBI agent investigating the strange deaths of passengers on a flight to Boston. Without going into details about the plot, I want to point out some nonsense, especially about the science, on the show.

First, the FBI agent enlists the help of a doctor who has been in a psychiatric hospital for the past 17 years. This doctor is a classic "mad scientist." Unfortunately, Hollywood too often portrays the many hardworking, dedicated scientists in labs around the world as these mad scientist characters. I wish TV shows and movies showed scientists more realistically -- it could still make good drama.

Second, the doctor is taken back to his old lab at Harvard where his equipment has been sitting idle for almost two decades. Within a couple of days, the doctor is able to do some wonderful things such as make new chemicals, test new medications, and record electrical activity from the brain. You might think this is amazing. And it is, but here are some things that I found even more incredible:

* The lab and equipment were still available! Most universities have very little space that sits idle. Unused lab space is quickly cleaned up and then occupied by new researchers.

* Within a few days, the doctor had new equipment, chemicals and supplies and the lab was operational! Even with help from the FBI, the doctor would not receive new equipment and supplies for several days. Also, much of the equipment (perhaps supplied by the FBI?) looked very new, but the doctor seemed to know how to use it. Science, and the technology that goes along with it, has made significant advancements in the past 20 years -- it is surprising that the doctor knew how to use the equipment immediately.

* The university allowed the experiments! All research and experiments must be reviewed by committees to insure the safety and protection of human and animal subjects. It can take weeks to get approval to do new research. Ok, ok...perhaps the FBI pulled a few strings to speed up the review, but a couple of days to get approval? Very unlikely.

Third, the science in the show was very weak. In one scene, the FBI agent was put in a sensory isolation tank, injected with a combination of psychoactive drugs (including LSD), and connected with electrodes to record her brain waves. This procedure was used so the agent could synchronize her brain waves with another person in a coma. According to the doctor, if the brain waves of the two people became synchronized, the FBI agent could read the thoughts of the person in the coma and see what the comatose person saw (the face of a suspect). Now, I like science fiction as much as the next person, but this was a bit too unbelievable to me. There is no evidence that such mind reading is possible. There is no evidence that synchronizing brain waves will allow one person to see another person's thoughts.

If you like mystery and action shows, you might enjoy "Fringe." Just remember that the science is fiction.


A. If you will be in Chicago, drop by the International Museum of Surgical Science.

B. If you will be in Houston, visit the "Body Worlds 2 & The Brain. Our Three Pound Gem" exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The exhibit opened on September 12, 2008, and runs until February 22, 2009. For more information about the exhibit, see:

C. "Sad Brain, Happy Brain" by Michael Craig Miller, "My Mother's Case of 'Pleasant Dementia'" by Sara Davidson, "Silent Demons" by Donald Goff, "Sing, Brain, Sing" by Mary Carmichael, "Is Morality Natural" by Mark D. Hauser and "Mysteries of Memory" by Jeneen Interland are all brain-related articles in Newsweek magazine (September 22, 2008).

D. "Could an Inner Zombie Be Controlling Your Brain?" by Carl Zimmer (Discover magazine, October, 2008) discusses the unconscious parts of the brain.

E. "Neural Light Show" by Gero Miesenb?ck describes how scientists use genetics to study brain function and "Searching for Intelligence in Our Genes" by Carl Zimmer discusses how genes shape intelligence. Both articles are in Scientific American (October, 2008).


A. The size of the eye's pupil changes with age. In total darkness, the diameter of the pupil is 7.6 mm at age 10 years, 6.2 mm at age 45 and 5.2 mm at age 80. In the light-adapted state, the diameter of the pupil is 4.8 mm at age 10 years, 4.5 mm at age 45 and 3.4 mm at age 80. (Source: Rabbetts, R.B., Clinical Visual Optics, Edinburgh: Butterworth Heinemann Elsevier, 2007.)

B. The president of Zambia, Levy Mwanawasa, died in a French hospital on August 19, 2008, about two months after suffering a stroke.

C. The "Intellect Tree" is a plant (scientific name, Celastrus paniculatus) found in India that is used as an herbal medicine to sharpen memory. The herb rosemary is known as the "herb of remembrance" and has also been used to help people with memory problems. (Source: Daniel, M., Medicinal Plants. Chemistry and Properties, Enfield (NH): Science Publishers, 2006.)

D. The aqueous humor of the eye is 98% water. (Source: Rabbetts, R.B., Clinical Visual Optics, Edinburgh: Butterworth Heinemann Elsevier, 2007.)

E. Batrachophobia is an irrational fear of frogs.


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Eric H. Chudler, Ph.D.