Welcome to the Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter. I hope you all had a successful Brain Awareness Week last month!
Here is what you will find in this issue:
In March, 69 new figures were added and 63 pages were modified.
The NeurOn (Neurolab Online) project has been developed to allow students and teachers to join NASA personnel as they prepare for the Space Shuttle Launch of the Neurolab mission (STS-90). Astronauts and scientists on the Neurolab mission, scheduled for launch on April 16, 1998, will conduct neuroscience experiments to study neurological and behavioral changes in space.
The NeurOn project uses e-mail, web chat sessions and web pages to show what goes on during the Neurolab mission. There are hands-on activities for the classroom, a photo gallery, a newsletter, video segments and other material to keep students and teachers informed about the mission. So, blast on over to the NeurOn page and join the NeuroLab mission.
During the first week of March, I also conducted a workshop for University of Washington (UW) neuroscientists who wanted to visit schools. Most neuroscientists and many university professors have never been trained as teachers. A scientist may be a fantastic researcher but a terrible teacher. Of course, this is not always the case. I know some neuroscientists who are excellent teachers. My workshop was designed to show UW neuroscientists some of the things that I do when I visit schools. I also provided the neuroscientists with a list of local teachers who wanted a UW neuroscientist to visit their class. I know that some of the neuroscientists visited some schools during Brain Awareness Week. I have included some pictures from the workshop at:
In the middle of the month (March 18th), I had the chance to "chat" with many students around the world during the NASA NeurOn Salute to Brain Awareness Week. I hope that many of you participated. This program was organized and coordinated by Linda Conrad of the NeurOn home page at NASA. Viewers of this show watched a video tape that I made with Kristi Gustafson's class at North City Elementary School in Shoreline, WA. The tape was broadcast over the Internet using the "RealVideo" player. The people who were watching the tape were supposed to follow along and do the experiments that they saw on the tape. These experiments included testing memory, finding the blind spot, and demonstrations of depth perception and sound localization.
After the video portion of the show, a "chat room" was opened and I chatted with students about the experiments and answered some questions about the nervous system. I was particularly impressed with the questions from students at Seeds Elementary School in Los Angeles and Lindbergh Middle School in Peoria, IL. I hope people liked the show...I really do not know how it went because I was sitting in my office with the door closed watching the show and then chatting online.
The day after the NASA NeurOn web chat, I conducted a workshop for local elementary and middle school teachers who were interested in bringing neuroscience to their students. The workshop was much like the workshop for neuroscientists: teachers worked through stations and gathered resource material to bring back to their classes. Also in attendance at the workshop were several members of the Pacific Science Center/Group Health Brain Power Team. The Brain Power Team, the teachers, and I were all able to learn from each other. A few pictures taken during the workshop can be seen at:
On March 20, about 250 elementary, middle and high school students visited the first Brain Awareness Week Open House at the University of Washington (UW). On arrival to the Open House, each student received material provided by the DANA Alliance for Brain Initiative including a BAW button, BAW bag and the "Brain Connections" and "Exploring the Mysteries of the Brain" pamphlets. There were several UW departments and other organizations with interactive exhibits for the students to see. Students were connected to EEG machines for recording of their brain waves, a transcranial doppler machine to measure their brain blood flow and a visual/auditory response time device to measure their reaction time. The Pacific/Science Center Brain Power Team provided many of the exhibits that they bring out to schools and even had a real human brain for the students to hold. The ThinkFirst! organization also provided a powerful demonstration of the importance of wearing helmets during bike riding and other potentially dangerous activities.
I have already heard back from several teachers, students and exhibitors who were at the BAW Open House. It appears that everyone had an enjoyable time because they all want to know when the next BAW Open House will be! (By the way, the next BAW is scheduled for March 15-21, 1999.)
On March 21, I attended a public lecture by Dr. William Calvin called "How Brains Think." Dr. Calvin is the author of 9 books including "The Throwing Madonna," "The Cerebral Code," and "Talking with Neil's Brain." This BAW activity was organized by Dr. Susanna Cunningham of the UW School of Nursing and director of the "Making Connections, Making Choices" program. Prior to Dr. Calvin's lecture, there was an exciting, audience participation Brain Power Assembly by the Pacific Science Center/Group Health Brain Power Team. For more information about Dr. Calvin's books, see: http://faculty.washington.edu/wcalvin
For more about the "Making Connections, Making Choices" program, see: http://www.son.washington.edu/centers/MakingConnections/
All in all, I think BAW was a huge success for the University of Washington. The school visits, Internet chat, open house, public lectures and workshops were all well attended. I think this shows just how curious people are to learn about those 3 pounds of tissue we call our brain.
A. "Exploring Your Brain"
In April and May, a 3 hour TV series on PBS will show how breakthroughs in brain research are changing people's lives. The programs include "Men, Women and the Brain," "Memory," and "Fear and Anxiety". To see when these shows will be broadcast in your city, go to the WETA web page at:
B. "Moyers on Addiction: Close to Home"
Learn about how drugs affect the body and the causes and treatments for drug addiction. This program started to air at the end of March, but it is sure to be repeated in the next several weeks. I feel that this program is most appropriate for grades 8 and up. Follow the show with a free viewer's guide available on the web site:
5. SOUND SLEEPERS
I promised that I would highlight some of the recent findings in brain
research in these newsletters and I will. But as I was doing some reading
recently, I noticed an older research paper with some incredible data that
I would like to share with you.
This paper discussed how difficult it is to wake up people. The people in this study were boys, about 10 years old. The boys had EEG electrodes to record brain waves and other electrodes to record eye and muscle movements attached to their heads. They were also fitted with an earphone one hour before their bedtimes. Then they went to sleep in the sleep laboratory.
At certain times during the night, the researchers would play a sound through the earphones and try to wake up the boys. The boys were told to press a button and say "I'm awake", if the sound woke them up.
The researchers found that it was very difficult to wake up the boys. In fact, on average, the sound had to be LOUDER than 100 dB to wake them up...that's louder than a lawn mower. In some cases, a sound of 123 dB did not even awaken them. A 123 dB noise is louder than a chain saw or a jack hammer! The researchers also found that it was more difficult to wake the boys up during the first part of the night compared to the last part of the night. One other finding of the study was that it was more difficult to wake people up during slow wave sleep compared to rapid eye movement sleep.
So, if you want to wake up to get to school or work on time, make sure you set you alarm loud...really loud!
(The reference for this paper is: K. Busby and R.T. Pivik, in the journal called "SLEEP", Vol. 8, pages 332-341, 1985)
For more on sleep, see the neuroscience for Kid sleep pages at:
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.