Welcome to the Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter. Happy New Year!! This issue is a bit longer than last month's issue. The most important section of this newsletter is the description of Brain Awareness Week.
Here is what you will find in this issue:
1. What's new on the Neuroscience for Kids Web Pages
2. The Neuroscience for Kids Page of The Month
3. ** Brain Awareness Week (March 16-22, 1998) **
4. The Society for Neuroscience Meeting
5. Web Philosophy, Methods and Tricks
6. What's coming up in future issues
7. How to stop your subscription.
Nose Knows at:
Weapons - Nerve Agents at:
Neurotransmitter Animations at:
d. Do We
Use Only 10% of Our Brain? at:
Brain Jokes at:
g. New Word
Search Puzzle - The Cranial Nerves at:
In December, 91 new figures were added and 60 pages were modified.
The web site has a membership directory, neuroscience news and on-line neuroscience publications. These publications include "Brain Briefings" and "Brain Backgrounders" which are short, well-written reports about different neuroscience topics. The site also has a professional publication called the "Journal of Neuroscience". You can see the abstracts of articles in this journal for free, but you need a subscription (or membership in the Society for Neuroscience) to read entire articles. Information about Brain Awareness Week (see below) is also available here. "Neuro" books, videos and T-shirts can also be ordered from this site.
3. BRAIN AWARENESS WEEK (MARCH 16-22, 1998)
It doesn't matter if you are a student, teacher, professor, parent
or physician; you should be doing something for Brain Awareness Week
"What is BAW?," you ask. BAW is a week that has been designated as a time to raise public awareness about the brain and of the benefits of brain research. BAW is co-sponsored by the DANA Alliance for Brain Initiatives and the Society for Neuroscience, but the entire event is powered by people like you. BAW is a national event with hundreds, probably thousands, of people involved with neuroscience events. Isn't it worth devoting some time to talking about the brain?
"What can I do for BAW?," you say. I'm glad you asked. First, you should read more about BAW at:
http://www.dana.org/brainweek" AND http://www.sfn.org/
Then, if you are a:
a) Student: get your teacher to plan and organize some activities for your class or your entire school - maybe an assembly. Maybe you can organize a contest to see who can design the best helmet for protecting a "brain" (see http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/chmodel.html for a description of this project). You or your teacher can contact the DANA Alliance and ask for more advice. The people at the DANA Alliance are very helpful and can give you some ideas. If you don't know how to approach the people at the DANA Alliance, tell them that I (Dr. Eric Chudler) sent you. They know me. Don't be afraid to ask them for help.
Their regular mailing address is:
745 Fifth Avenue, Suite 700, New York, NY 10151
You may also get some help by contacting the Society for Neuroscience at: firstname.lastname@example.org
b) Teacher: you should read about Brain Awareness Week. A good way to start off BAW is to invite a local neuroscientist to visit your class. Call the Psychology, Physiology or Neuroscience department or medical school at your local university to see if there is a neuroscientist who would like to visit your class. Many scientists like to visit schools but they do not know how to schedule a trip to a classroom. Also ask about any BAW activities that the university has planned. There may be an "open house", lab tours, workshops or public lectures for you and your students. In-class activities, presentations and demonstrations during BAW are a great way to show parents and school administrators what you and your students have been working on. For classroom activities, check the experiments and activities page on the Neuroscience for Kids site at:
To involve the whole school, consider setting up a display in a central area such as the library or cafeteria. The next issue of this newsletter will include suggested activities for 1, 3 and 5 day lessons for BAW. Contact local newspapers and TV stations who might publicize your activities. You are sure to see newspaper reports and TV news about BAW during the month of March - why not see yourself and your class!
c) Professors, Post-docs and Graduate Students: if you don't know about BAW, read about it. Plan public lectures, workshops, laboratory tours and/or open houses. Contact local schools and offer to visit a classroom. If you have children in school, why not visit their classes. The Neuroscience for Kids pages have many good ideas for activities to do with students who cannot listen to a 45 minute lecture. Look for lessons in the next issue of this newsletter. Your involvement in BAW can go a long way with university administrators who value public outreach activities.
d) Parent: ask your children and their teachers what plans they have for BAW. If they have no idea what you are talking about, tell them about BAW, this newsletter and Neuroscience for Kids. Read about BAW and suggest some activities for class. Volunteer to help gather materials and plan, organize and run the events.
e) Physician: contact local schools and offer to visit a class. Give hands-on demonstrations to illustrate concepts about the brain. This could be in a classroom or an exhibit in a central area such as the school library. Provide a display about the brain with "neuro-related" articles, magazines and books for your patients.
Yes, it will take some planning and work to put something together, but you have almost 3 months. And don't worry - I'll remind you about BAW and include some lesson plans in next month's newsletter. Also, remember that you can get many classroom activity ideas for BAW at the "Neuroscience for Kids Experiments and Activities page.
At the American Pain Society meeting, I participated in a session called "Parkinsonian Pain". I talked about how patients with Parkinson's Disease have pain problems in addition to the well-known movement problems. Also, I presented my own data that suggest that one area of the brain (the caudate nucleus and putamen) that is affected by Parkinson's Disease contains nerve cells (neurons) that respond to painful stimulation. Another speaker during this session talked about how dopamine (a neurotransmitter with reduced levels in people with Parkinson's Disease) may change pain perception. The last speaker talked about the symptoms and treatment of pain in Parkinson's Disease patients.
For the next several days I attended the Society for Neuroscience meeting that was held down the street from the American Pain Society Meeting. The Society for Neuroscience meeting was a huge event: there were over 14,000 different presentations! Every aspect of neuroscience was covered at this meeting: emotions, pain, consciousness, drug effects, neurological disease, sleep, aging, memory, vision, movement, neurochemistry, and more. Most of the presentations were in the form of posters. A poster presentation is when someone puts together graphs, charts, photographs and text to illustrate his or her data. During the meeting, the presenter stands by the poster for a few hours and answers questions from people who come by to visit. Another way people share their research is with a short speech using slides.
I had two of my own poster presentations. One poster was in a session called "Teaching of Neuroscience" and the other poster was in a session called "Pain: pathways-subcortical". In the "Teaching of Neuroscience" poster, I presented my work on the "Neuroscience for Kids" web pages. Many of the people who stopped by my poster had already used the web site. Other people had never heard of Neuroscience for Kids and wanted to get back to their computers and give the site a try. My other poster, in the "Pain: pathways-subcortical" session, was a basic science presentation. I described the results of my recent experiments. In these experiments, I recorded from neurons in the caudate-putamen area of the brain in anesthetized rats and looked at how these neurons responded to heating of the skin. I found that some of these neurons "encode" the heat. In other words, as the temperature increases, the neurons fire more action potentials. Other neurons in the same area of the brain did not do this. Rather, these other neurons fired to some level of temperature, but did not fire any more even when the temperature was raised. Also, I found that these neurons responded to stimulation just about anywhere on the body. Therefore, neurons in this part of the brain do not provide much information about what part of the body is being stimulated. My hypothesis is that these neurons are important for processing sensory information and then for transforming this information to be used in making an appropriate movement. Perhaps these neurons are used to organize an "escape" to avoid or reduce bodily harm caused by a painful event.
I also gave a workshop for local science teachers who were interested in using the Internet to teach neuroscience. I used my laptop computer to show the teachers how to evaluate a web site and also highlighted some of the best neuroscience sites on the Internet.
Immediately after the workshop, I ran over to another room for another presentation. I was asked by the Society for Neuroscience to talk about my experiences last March during Brain Awareness Week 1997. I was one of several people who gave a short talk to about 200 people who wanted to know more about planning activities for BAW. I had a short video from a local TV newscast of my visit to an elementary school during BAW. After the meeting, one of the people who attended the meeting wanted a copy of the videotape. I just pulled the video tape out of my briefcase and gave it to her!
Next Fall, the Society for Neuroscience and American Pain Society meetings will be in Los Angeles.
5. WEB SITE PHILOSOPHY, METHODS AND TRICKS
It is my belief that a web site is never finished. There are always more
graphics and information to add, new technology to incorporate and
language to correct on any web site. I have tried to make the
"Neuroscience for Kids" pages content rich - that is, filled with
information, illustrations and tables. Some people who have used the site
have told me that there is not enough information; some have said that
there is too much information! It is hard to find just the right balance
especially since people who are using the site include students and
teachers at all levels, university professors, physicians and parents. I
think it is better to have too much information rather than too little.
This way the person using the web site can read as much or as little as he
or she wants. That is also why I include many links on the pages - to
allow everyone to explore a particular topic in more detail by visiting
another web site. Of course, I cannot control the content on these other
pages and sometimes these other pages just disappear from the Internet.
Creating a web page is not too hard. I am NOT a professional web page designer. I learned how to make web pages by reading a few books and looking at the "source code" on pages that I thought were well-designed. (By the way, to view the source code of a page that looks interesting, click on "View", then on "Document Source" on your browser.) Believe it or not, I do NOT use an HTML Editor. For those of you who don't know what this is, an HTML Editor is like a word processor. It allows you to make web pages without knowing too much about HTML (HTML is the coding part of web pages). HTML editors are supposed to save time by automatically formatting parts of the pages so that they can be read on the Internet. I never use these editors - every character you read and the formatting codes that you don't read I typed in myself. I do not use an HTML editor because I like to see what I am doing to the pages.
Of course, I do use some software to help me out. For many of the graphics, I use a program called Photoshop 4.0. This program allows me to get graphics into a form that can be read over the Internet. I have also found that there are some "on-line" programs that can be a big help in designing web pages and I would like to share these with you. I hope if you have your own web page or are thinking about starting a web page, that these sites can help you. They have helped me!
A. My favorite web page "helper" is a site called "Gif Wizard". This is a site that will take a image (in "gif" format) and shrink the file size. This is especially important so that pages will load faster. The larger the size of the image, the slower the page will load. I try to keep all the image sizes on my pages as small as possible for this reason. The "Gif Wizard" reduces the file size for free!
B. One way that I add graphics to my site is by using clip art. There are several great places on the WWW to get free clip art. Here are the ones that I find to be the best:
Iconolog | Iconbrowser | Barry's Clip Art Server
C. There are also some web pages that will check the spelling, the load time, HTML coding and the links on pages. This is like taking a car in for a tune up - these sites check to see if the pages are running smoothly. In fact, there is one page called the "Web Site Garage"!
Your comments and suggestions about this newsletter and the Neuroscience for Kids web site are always welcome. If there are any topics that you would like to see on the web site, then just let me know.
Eric H. Chudler, Ph.D.
"Neuroscience for Kids" is supported by a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) from the National Center of Research Resources.