Volume 16, Issue 9 (September, 2012)

In this issue:

1. What's New at Neuroscience for Kids
2. Neuroscience for Kids Site of the Month
3. Sowing the Seeds of Neuroscience Teacher Workshop
4. National Eye Institute Challenge
5. Summer Concert Series Entertainment
6. Free Museum Day
7. Media Alert
8. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
9. Support Neuroscience for Kids
10. How to Stop Your Subscription


Neuroscience for Kids had several new additions in July including:

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.


The Neuroscience for Kids "Site of the Month" for September is "The Body, Brain and Behavior" at:

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 scientific exploration.


Last month, five teachers spent one week with me and other staff at the University of Washington to help develop materials for the Sowing the Seeds of Neuroscience project. Sowing the Seeds of Neuroscience is working to develop lessons and activities to encourage middle school students to become interested in neuroscience. The project is creating classroom materials to study how chemicals in plants and herbs affect the nervous system.

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 National Eye Institute (NEI) at the National Institutes of Health is sponsoring a contest to identify goals related to research, training and information dissemination about eye disease, vision problems and sight. They are looking for "big, bold ideas" that would advance the mission of the NEI. Entries from the general public (you must be at least 18 years old) are welcomed.

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:


I am often invited to go to schools, libraries and teacher meetings to talk about the work I do or to speak about neuroscience. Last month brought an unusual request: could I speak during the intermission of an outdoor music concert?

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.


Science, art, history and more: it's all happening at a museum near you and now you can get in free! That's right. Something for free. Smithsonian magazine is hosting "Free Museum Day" on Saturday, September 29, 2012, at many museums around the country. To find a participating museum and get a free ticket, visit:


A. A new issue of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MIND magazine (September, 2012) is available with articles including "Dating in a Digital World" by Eli J. Finkel, Paul W. Eastwick, Benjamin R. Karney, Harry T. Reis and Susan Sprecher, "Studying Drugs in All the Wrong People" by Gabriella Rosen "Re-creating the Real World" by Bruce Hood, "Changing A Child's Mind" by the magazine editors, "The Education of Character" (about remaking schools as gyms for the brain) by Ingrid Wickelgren, "Building Better Brains" by John Jonides, Susanne M. Jaeggi, Martin Buschkuehl, and Priti Shah and "Treating a Toxin to Learning" by Clancy Blair.

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.


A. 1906 Nobel Prize winner neuroscientist Santiago Ramon y Cajal spent two years in Cuba as a military doctor and returned to Spain in 1875 suffering from malaria (Source: Serrano-Castro, P.J. and Garcia-Torrecillas, J.M., Cajal's first steps in scientific research, Neuroscience, 217:1-5, 2012.)

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.)


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Eric H. Chudler, Ph.D.