Welcome to the Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter. Brain Awareness Week is this month!
Here is what you will find in this issue:
In February, 41 new figures were added and 59 pages were modified.
http://thalamus.wustl.edu/course/ (Link not working)
When you go to this site you will find that it is intended primarily for first-year medical students. So you might be wondering why I am recommending this site for the readers of "Neuroscience for Kids". I am suggesting this site to you because the authors of the Washington School of Medicine neuroscience tutorial have tried to explain neuroanatomy in easy to understand language. Challenge yourself a bit and explore this extensive site.
The neuroscience tutorial covers many parts of the nervous system: vision, somatosensory (touch) pathways, motor systems, neurotransmitters, audition (hearing) and the hypothalamus. Each page is illustrated with colorful figures and photographs. Sometimes you might get overwhelmed by the detail and vocabulary at this web site, but this page is a great place to learn about the structure of the brain.
Even if your class or school is not doing anything special for BAW, I have a way to get you involved - join the on-line "experiment/chat" session that I am participating in with the NeurOn page at NASA! In mid-February, I visited Ms. Kristi Gustafson's class at North City Elementary School in Shoreline, WA. We made a videotape of a memory experiment and also explored the senses of vision and audition. On Wednesday, March 18th from 10 to 11 am. (Pacific Standard Time), you too can do these experiments and chat about them with me on-line. To join this experiment/chat session, just go to the NeurOn page and sign up before March 18th. Also make sure you download the extra materials from this site. It is all very easy to do. On March 18th, after a brief introduction from NASA by Linda Conrad and one from me from my lab, the video tape will be played back over the Internet and you will be able to follow along and perform the same experiments. Then we will have a chance to chat about the results on-line. I look forward to "talking" to many Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter subscribers.
If your school or class is doing something for BAW, let me know about it. I will try to feature your activities on a special BAW page. Let's try to get the whole country - no - the WHOLE WORLD represented on this page. Just send a note or photo about your BAW activities to me at:
Dr. Eric H. Chudler
Department of Anesthesiology
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195-6540
Here in Seattle, there are plenty of BAW events. I will be conducting a workshop for University of Washington (UW) neuroscientists who are interested in visiting local schools. I will demonstrate the activities and experiments that I do when I visit schools and I will have the workshop attendees do these activities too. After the workshop, I will try to match these neuroscientists with teachers who want a neuroscientist to visit their class. Later in March I will conduct another workshop for elementary school teachers who want to incorporate more neuroscience in their own classes. Other BAW activities in Seattle include public lectures about brain research and addiction that will be held throughout the month of March around the Seattle area. Several local bookstores will also have special "brain-related" displays. The highlight of BAW at the University of Washington should be the first annual UW Brain Awareness Week Open House. A few hundred middle school students are expected at the UW Health Sciences Building on March 20th for the first BAW Open House. Here are some of the 15 exhibits scheduled for the Open House:
The Brain Power Exhibit (from the Pacific Science Center and Group
Demonstration of the recording of brain waves (electroencephalography)
Demonstration of brain blood flow recording
Multiple Sclerosis and the Brain
An interactive neuroanatomy CD
"Bruise It or Lose It" (How the Brain Learns)
The University of Washington School of Nursing Sleep Lab
You can find out more about BAW in Seattle and beyond at:
I wish you all the greatest success with your own BAW plans.
What would have happened if we stopped making discoveries in aviation after the Wright Brothers flew? Would we have gone to the moon?
Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. Should we have stopped there? Of course not. We have made great discoveries that have led to advances in communication...e-mail, anyone?
Mr. Hayden mentioned a few things about the brain that still need to be discovered and I would like to expand on this a bit. Here is my list, in no particular order, of the top 10 discoveries about the brain that still need to be made:
1. What are the causes and best ways to treat neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease? Are there better drugs to treat such diseases? Will new techniques, such as lesions, electrical brain stimulation and fetal transplants, have long term success in treating these disorders?
2. What causes mental illness such as schizophrenia and depression? What are the cures? Can these disorders be detected before symptoms appear? If they can, this may lead to many ethical and moral questions. Would you want to know that you were going to become schizophrenic?
3. Is transplantation and regeneration of central nervous system tissue possible and what are the benefits of such treatment? If these treatments are possible, will they cure spinal cord injuries? Can we replace damaged parts of the brain?
4. What causes chronic pain? What is the best way to treat pain? How can we tap into the brain's own system of pain relief (the endorphins)?
5. What causes drug addiction? Smoking? Alcohol abuse? What is the best way to treat drug addiction?
6. How and where are memories formed, stored and lost?
7. What is the neurological basis of emotions such as anger, happiness and sadness? How does the brain "form" personality and intelligence?
8. What are the differences in the brains of men and women and what do these differences mean?
9. How does experience and learning affect the brain and how can we use this information to improve our daily lives?
10. What is consciousness? Why do we sleep? How can we shift our internal body clocks?
This is only the top 10! I am sure you can come up with more. By the way, some of these challenges for future neuroscientists were mentioned in my online seminar "Another Day, Another Neuron" for the Genentech Access Excellence web site at:
5. DOS AND DON'TS FOR A VISIT BY A
Over the past year or so, I have visited about one elementary or junior
high school classroom each month with a presentation on the brain and
nervous system. After the first few school visits, I learned some tips
about what worked and what didn't work. I would like to share what I
think makes for a good visit.
A. For the Neuroscientist
i) Communicate with teacher before you visit. Many teachers have access
to email and the WWW. Suggest web pages for review before you arrive. If
I may be so bold, I might suggest that you tell teachers about the
"Neuroscience for Kids" pages, including the lesson plans at:
If you know HTML, you could make a special web page containing worksheets and other materials to be used during your visit. Even if your don't know HTML, you can send materials to teachers the old fashion way...the mail. By making materials available in advance, you will allow teachers to get a chance to examine your plans and make sure they are appropriate for their students.
ii) Make sure you know how to get to the school. Also, ask if there are any special "check-in" procedures at the school's main office. Schools often require visitors to sign-in and wear "visitor" or "volunteer" badges. There could also be restrictions on bringing in food, like brain jello or items for taste tests, so ask about this before preparing these items.
iii) Try not to lecture. A brief introduction of who you are and what you do should get things off to a good start.
iv) Visual demonstrations of ideas and concepts enhance the presentation. Hands-on activities for the students to work with are even better. Check out the Neuroscience for Kids pages and lesson plans for many simple but powerful activity ideas.
v) I always like to leave something with the students like blind spot bookmarks, plaster brain molds, buttons, etc. This way the students have something to take home and show the rest of their family. There are some worksheets and bookmarks that you can download at:
vi) Leave time for questions. This is a good time to interact with the students and to dispel myths about the nervous system. This is also a good time to find out what the students have learned. Often it takes a few minutes for students to get up their courage to ask a question, but once they get going, the questions start flowing as fast as you can answer them. Be patient and practice waiting in those awkward firsts few minutes.
B. For the Teacher
i) Communicate with the neuroscientist. Make sure he or she knows how to get to your school and ask if there are any supplies or materials that are necessary. Also let the neuroscientist know how to check-in at your school and whether your school allows food to be brought in from outside sources.
ii) Prepare your students for the visit. The neuroscientist visit probably should not be the first project in your unit on the nervous system. Introduce the nervous system to your students first. The "Neuroscience for Kids" pages are a good place to start.
iii) Encourage your students to ask questions. This is the most important part of my presentations. Whenever I give a talk (at a school or a scientific meeting), I know how well the audience was listening by the quality of their questions. Consider having students prepare some questions ahead of time so they can make good use of the neuroscientist's time in the classroom.
C. For the Student
i) Ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask a question even if you think that it is not very good. It is likely that other students have the same question.
ii) I know you have heard it before, but LISTEN to the instructions. The presentation will go much more smoothly if you understand the directions the first time. If you don't understand how to do an experiment or activity, ask.
iii) Thank the scientist for taking time to get out of the lab and into your class. Most of us volunteer our time to visit your class. Although I do not expect thank you notes, I always appreciate them when I receive them. Some of them even appear up on my web pages. For some student artwork, see:
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.
"Neuroscience for Kids" is supported by a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) from the National Center of Research Resources.