Volume 13, Issue 5 (May, 2009)

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. Sport Legacy Institute
4. Strange Neuroscience Words
5. Media Alert
6. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
7. Support Neuroscience for Kids
8. How to Stop Your Subscription


Neuroscience for Kids had several new additions in April including:

A. April Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. Brain Facts Animated Movie (about 2 minutes long)
(Uses Flash plug-in and sound)
C. New Long-Lasting Painkiller

In April, 12 new figures were added and 49 pages were modified.



The Neuroscience for Kids "Site of the Month" for May is "The Beautiful Mind" at:

"The Beautiful Mind" is a photo exhibition developed by the Cooperation in Research and Training for European Excellence in the Neurosciences. The exhibit will tour in 2009 and reach London, Berlin, Zurich, Stockholm, Prague, Oslo, Helsinki and Bochum.

Navigation through the photographs on the Web site takes a bit of practice. The images are organized into six sections - Generation, Memory, Maze, Coupling, Nova and Peacock field - but it is unclear why these sections are named this way or why the selected photos have been placed in each section. To see the photos, click on one of the boxes in the upper left corner of the screen. This will display a column of small photos on the right side. To enlarge one of the small photos, just click on one. If you want to find out more about each picture, move your mouse over the image. You can scroll down the column of small images to see more photos.

The site would be more useful if additional details about each photograph were given. Nevertheless, the site provides some fascinating, beautiful images of the cells that make up your brain.


I've played sports for most of my life: T-Ball and Little League baseball when I was in elementary school and soccer and basketball on my high school teams. Although my skills were not good enough to play on my college teams at UCLA, I participated in intramurals (basketball, flag football, ultimate frisbee, volleyball, badminton, racketball) whenever I could. Even now I stay fit by playing basketball a few times each week. In all the years that I have played sports, I have never suffered a concussion. However, many athletes are not as fortunate. Concussions are a major problem facing athletes of all ages. According to published reports, there are at least 2 million sports and recreation concussive injuries each year in the United States and approximately 300,000 sport-related traumatic brain injuries result in the loss of consciousness each year!

The non-profit Sports Legacy Institute (SLI) was established in 2007 to study the long-term effects of head injuries in sports. Led by its founding members Christopher Nowinski (a former professional wrestler) and Dr. Robert Cantu (a neurosurgeon at Emerson Hospital), the SLI mission is "to advance the health and wellness of athletes and the overall safety of sports and athletic endeavors." The initial focus of the SLI has been to study concussions.

One program the SLI has started is the collection and analysis of the brains of professional athletes. So far, several National Football League players have agreed to donate their brains to the SLI after they die. Most recently, former National Hockey League center, Keith Primeau, has joined this group. The SLI hopes the study of brains from athletes who have suffered concussions will provide useful information about how the brain reacts to injury and about how to prevent and treat such injuries.

Did you know? SLI founding member Christopher Nowinski ended his career as a professional wrestler when he suffered a concussion in 2003.

References and more information:

Sports Legacy Institute

CDC Web site about consussions

Reddy, C., Collins, M. and Gioia, G., Adolescent sports concussion, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America, 19:247-269, 2008.

Meehan, III, W. P. and Bachur, R.G., Sport-Related Concussion, Pediatrics, 123:114-123, 2009.


The names of most brain structures have their origins in the languages of Greek and Latin. Early scientists named parts of the brain by the look of a structure. For example, when they saw a group of cells that formed the shape of an almond, they called it the "amygdala" for the Greek word that means almond. You might think you are in a foreign language class when you are learning the names of brain structures. Here is a list of some strange-sounding brain areas:

Septum pellucidum (Sep tum / pel lu see dum; Latin for "transparent separation"): the thin tissue that separates the right and left lateral ventricles of the brain.

Locus ceruleus (Lo kus / sir ru lee us; Latin for "blue place"): this brainstem structure is important for attention and sleep.

Arbor vitae (Are bore / vee tay; Latin for "tree of life"): formed from the white matter of the cerebellum.

Insula (In sue la; Latin for "island"): an area of cerebral cortex buried within the folds of the brain.

Corpus callosum (Core pus / ka low sum; Latin for "tough body"): the major fiber tract that connects the right and left cerebral hemispheres of the brain.

Pulvinar (Pul vin nar; Latin for "cushion" or "pillow"): located at the back part of thalamus in the middle of the brain; important for vision and eye movement.

Indusium grisium (In due see um / grees see um): the origin of this term is a bit unclear, but I like how it sounds; it is located on top of the corpus callosum.

Fasciculus retroflexus (Fa sick u lus / retro flex us; Latin for "backward bending bundle"): a fiber tract that runs from the habenula to the interpeduncluar nucleus; two more strange names!


A. The cover of the April 20, 2009, issue of Newsweek magazine is titled "The Mystery of Epilepsy." Inside the magazine are three articles about epilepsy: a) "A Storm in the Brain" by Jon Meacham; b) "In the Grip of the Unknown" by Jerry Adler and Eliza Gray and c) "Agony, Hope & Resolve" by Susan Axelrod.

B. "Birds May Have Used Big Brains to Outlast the Dinosaurs" by Emily Anthes and "The Big Similarities & Quirky Differences Between Our Left and Right Brains" by Carl Zimmer (Discover magazine, May, 2009).

C. "10 Questions for Michael J. Fox" (Time magazine, April 27, 2009) ask the actor about how he is dealing with Parkinson's disease.

D. "What Makes Us Human" by Katherine S. Pollard (Scientific American, May 2009).

E. There are two articles about memory in the April 27, 2009, issue of Newsweek magazine: "Sleep Now, Remember Later" by Robert Stickgold and Peter Wehrwein and "To Pluck a Rooted Sorrow" by Claudia Kalb.


A. The medical term for a "hiccup" is "singultus."

B. The loss of 1 to 1.5 hours of nighttime sleep can reduce daytime alertness by one-third. (Source: Bonnet, M.H. and Arand, D.L., We are chronically sleep deprived, Sleep, 18:908-911, 1995.)

C. The three most common causes of fatal car accidents are alcohol (18%), poor attention (15%) and sleepiness (10%). (Source: Bonnet, M.H. and Arand, D.L., We are chronically sleep deprived, Sleep, 18:908-911, 1995.)

D. The brain of the estuary stingray (Dasyatis fluviorum) weighs approximately 11.5 grams (Source: Lisney et al., Variation in brain organization and cerebellar foliation in Chondrichthyans: batoids, Brain Behav. Evol., 72:262-282, 2008.)

E. Umami, the fifth basic taste, was discovered in 1908 by chemist Kikunae Ikeda. (Source: Scientific American, March, 2009).


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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.