In this issue:
A. August Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. New NeuroCalendars
C. Optogenetics: Shedding Light on Monkey Behavior
D.Baby Bumbo Seats Bumped from Shelves
In August, 7 new figures were modified and 30 pages were modified.
As part of a Psychology 1 unit, the Florida Virtual School has created a
module about neuroscience and behavior. The module has eight lessons
after a preassessment: a) the brain, b) communication in the brain, c)
tasting, smelling, hearing, d) seeing and feeling, e) perception, f) sleep
and dreams, g) consciousness and h) review and exam. Each section takes
between 30 minutes and 3 hours to complete. You can jump around from
lesson to lesson, skipping any you like, but I suggest you follow the
lessons in order. Many interactive activities and short videos sprinkled
throughout the lessons help explain concepts and open new doors for
The teachers worked through all of the lessons we have developed so far. They had a chance to make extracts and decoctions from plants and herbs and to test these substances on various invertebrate preparations such as planaria (flatworms), daphnia (water fleas), lumbriculus (brown worms) and cockroach leg nerves. The teachers also toured the UW Medicinal Herb Garden, the Herbarium and Burke Museum Garden.
With the feedback from the teachers, the Sowing the Seeds of Neuroscience staff now have information about how to revise the lessons. The staff will work over the next few months to improve the material and will then create kits with everything a teacher will need to teach the lessons to their middle school students. The kits will be available to the teachers next winter and spring.
Another Sowing the Seeds of Neuroscience teacher workshop will be held
during the summer of 2013. Teachers who complete the workshop will be
allowed to check out the kits to use with their students. Stay tuned to
this newsletter and the Sowing the
Seeds of Neuroscience web site for workshop registration information.
The NEI will select up to 20 winners who will receive a prize of $3,000 and an additional $2,000 in travel funds to attend a special meeting. The deadline for entry submissions is November 12, 2012. Challenge rules and entry information are available at:
UW Medicine sponsors a weekly Summer Concert Series held in a local mall parking lot not too far from the University of Washington. They invite a band to play for two hours with a 15 minute intermission. During intermission, the crowd likes to be entertained while the band takes a break. When I asked the sponsors about past people who had taken this 15 minute intermission slot, they mentioned that the University of Washington mascot, "Harry the Husky," was a crowd pleaser. UW Medicine had never before asked a scientist or faculty member to speak at the concert intermission. The sponsors also asked if I could have a booth with activities to help concert-goers learn about the brain.
For several days, I thought of some possible ways to speak to a crowd who had come to hear music, not learn about the brain. Eventually, I decided that it would be best if I could somehow get the crowd to interact with me. I also asked several undergraduate students if they could help staff a booth with visual illusions, coloring sheets, reaction time tests, brain puzzles and neuroscience crafts.
The day of the event was one of the warmest in Seattle: sunny, with temperatures in the high 80s. I was sure that many people would be drawn to the music and band ("The Paperboys") and I was not wrong: about 800 people showed up! The students and I quickly set up our booth and soon many kids came by to see what we had on display. The kids seemed to enjoy making pipe cleaner neurons, color pictures of the brain and spin Benham's tops.
When intermission came, it was my turn. I was escorted onto the stage and as I set up between instruments and microphones, a DJ from a local radio station introduced me. I started by welcoming the crowd and then asked how many people had come to the concert by car or bike. I congratulated those people who wore seat belts and helmets, and scolded those who did not. I then moved on to basic anatomy and I held up a brain model as I pointed out the different parts of the brain and explained the function of each part. It's likely that people at the back of the parking lot could not see the brain very well, but it was the best I could do. The crowd was especially interested in my discussion of brain size and gender differences.
Finally, I invited several people on stage to create a giant nerve cell model from rope and plastic containers. Some people held ropes to represent dendrites, others held the cell body and one person held a container with ping pong balls that modeled the synaptic terminal and neurotransmitters. We got a big round of applause when the "neurotransmitters" shot out of the "terminal."
I ended intermission by teaching the crowd a short song, sung to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star":
Twinkle, twinkle brain of mine,
How I think you're really fine.
Up above in my head so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle brain of mine,
How I think you're really fine.
It was great to hear the crowd sing!
I thought the event went well and hope I generated some interest in
neuroscience. If the audience went home with questions about the brain,
then I consider the presentation a success.
B. SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN (September, 2012) includes the articles "Can We Keep Getting Smarter?" by Tim Folger, "The Case of the Sleeping Slayer" by James Vlahos, "Mind in Motion" by Miguel A.L. Nicolelis, and "Machines of the Infinite" by John Pavlus.
C. "The Complex Call of the Carolina Chickadee" by Todd Freeberg, Jeffrey
Lucas, and Indrikis Krams (AMERICAN SCIENTIST, September-October, 2012,
issue) discusses communication and language.
B. Hair cells in the cochlea are replaced in birds, but not in humans. (Source: Birkhead, T., Bird Sense. What It's Like to Be a Bird, New York: Walker & Company, 2012.)
C. The nucleus comprises up to 80 to 90 percent of the volume of small neuron cell bodies in tiny insects. (Plenty of Room at the Bottom? by: Eberhard, William G., Wcislo, and William T., American Scientist, May/Jun 2012, Vol. 100, Issue 3.)
D. The eyes of a human occupy 2% of the face; the eyes of a European starling (a bird) occupy 15% of the face. (Source: Montgomery, S., Birdology, New York: Free Press, 2010.)
E. Wild Bactrian camels can locate water from 50 miles away by smelling
bacteria that live in the water. (Source: "Numbers Game: Sniffing Out
the Facts," Audubon magazine, May-June 2012.)
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.