Volume 2, Issue 8 (August, 1998)


Welcome to the Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter.

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. A Shocking Experience - Lightning and the Brain
4. Mozart Effect Update
5. Web Page Pet Peeves
6. Special TV Program on PBS - Oliver Sacks: The Mind Traveler
7. What's coming up in future issues
8. How to stop your subscription



Neuroscience for Kids had several new additions in July. Here are some of them:

A. Brain Quote Bookmarks
B. The Invertebrate Nervous System
C. Dream Journal Worksheet
D. Creature Sense Experiment
E. July Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
F. Brain Cartoon Page
G. Multiple Dice Page (for Brain Bingo Game)
H. Brain Limericks (send in your own if you want)
I. Synaptic Tag Lesson Plan
J. "Free" Page (free posters, videos and other stuff for your room)

In July, 49 new figures were added and 90 pages were modified.



The Neuroscience for Kids "Page of the Month" for August is "Mind and Brain", an electronic magazine on neuroscience at:

The Mind and Brain pages are created by a team of Brazilian neuroscientists. The well-written magazine is published several times a year and explores a variety of neuroscience topics. Some of the subjects that have been covered in previous issues include night terrors, consciousness, the limbic system, phobias, clocks and rhythms, biofeedback, stress, dreams, epilepsy, brain mapping and memory.

"Mind and Brain" uses clear language to explain complicated neuroscience concepts. This makes "Mind and Brain" appropriate for students, teachers, and scientists. The magazine is divided into sections on basic mechanisms, neuroscience history, technology, disorders and an open forum where people can write in to express their viewpoints on particular issues. "Mind and Brain" is an excellent example of what can be done with an "electronic journal".


3. A Shocking Experience - Lightning and the Brain

What would summer be without the loud booms of a thunderstorm and the crackling of lightning? With summer now in full swing in the northern hemisphere, many places are in the middle of thunderstorm season. In fact, in the United States, almost all (92%) lightning injuries and deaths occur between May and September. The four states with the highest incidence of lightning casualties (per million people) are New Mexico, Wyoming, Florida and Arkansas.

Although lightning kills about 85-100 people per year in the United States, some studies have shown that only about 30% of the people who get struck by lightning actually die from the lightning strike. With quick treatment and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), the chance of survival is good. The two major causes of death following a lightning strike are 1) cardiac arrest and 2) damage to the part of the brain stem that controls breathing. Injury may also occur if a person's head hits the ground after being thrown by lightning.

Getting hit by lightning is different from receiving an electrical shock at home or school. Lightning is a form of direct current; the electricity that powers your toaster is alternating current. Obviously, lightning carries a bigger jolt than a "regular" electrical shock. Lightning can strike with 100,000,000 volts and currents of up to 30,000 amperes, but it lasts only about 0.2 seconds. Don't expect a bicycle helmet to protect your brain and head from lightning - there is a report (Neurology, 48:683-686, 1997) of a bicyclist in the Colorado mountains who had a large hole blasted in his helmet by a "bolt from the blue". He was knocked unconscious, went into cardiac arrest, had burns on his head, chest and leg and had lasting mental problems and physical damage.

Lightning strikes do not have the same effect on all people. This is probably because lightning hits people on different parts of the body. Therefore, the path of electricity through the bodies of different people will not be the same. Some lightning survivors have immediate behavioral problems, while others show any symptoms for several days. Most victims become unconscious, lasting between a few minutes to a few days, as well as confused and disoriented immediately after being hit by lightning. Most lightning survivors also do not remember having been struck. This amnesia can last for several days.

Lightning can cause paralysis, memory and concentration problems, headaches, emotional and personalities changes and movement disorders. There are several possible ways that the brain can be damaged by lightning. First, lightning may cause injury to blood vessels of the brain. Bleeding inside of the head and in the brain (epidural hematomas; subdural hematomas; intraventricular hemorrhage) has been reported to occur in patients. Smaller blood vessels in the brain stem may also be damaged. Second, the heat of the lightning may destroy brain tissue. Third, the brain appears to swell after a lightning strike. This swelling can damage the brain. Fourth, damage to cells in the cerebellum and medulla may occur. Fifth, damage to the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system may explain some of the behavioral symptoms that occur after a lightning strike.

So, what can you do to protect yourself in a lightning storm? Here are some safety tips I have collected from several sources including the National Lightning Safety Institute, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service:

a. Use common sense and stay indoors and away from windows during a thunderstorm. Unplug electrical appliances such as computers and televisions because power surges can damage these items and may cause fires. Do NOT use the telephone except for emergencies.

b. If you are outside during a thunderstorm, try to find shelter (but not in a small, isolated shed). Do NOT stand under an isolated, tall tree that will act as lightning rod. Also, do NOT stand on a hilltop, on the beach or in an open field since lightning tends to strike taller objects.

c. If you are out in the open and there is no shelter, try to find a low spot away from trees and other tall objects. Make sure your spot will not have a flash flood. If no such spot is available, try to make yourself as low as possible by crouching down on the ground.

d. If you are swimming, get out of the water and stay away from open water.

e. Stay inside your car if you are caught in a thunderstorm.

Enjoy the rest of your summer and...let's be safe out there.

For more on lightning and safety tips, see:


Here is a quick update on the most recent happenings concerning the "Mozart Effect". If you have read the "Music and the Brain" page, you would know that the Mozart Effect is the apparent increase in memory ability after listening to the music of Mozart. You would also know that this effect is very controversial. It just so happens that politicians have jumped on the Mozart Effect bandwagon. On June 22, 1998, the governor of the state of Georgia (Zell Miller) started to distribute free CDs with classical music to newborn babies in his state. He hopes this program will improve the intelligence of new citizens of his state. Is Governor Miller's project a waste of time, money and resources? You be the judge. The "Music and the Brain" page is located at:



Pet peeves are those things that are irritating and bothersome. You just want them to go away. I have several pet peeves about web pages and the Internet that you may have too.

Peeve #1: slow loading web pages. Don't you just hate it when it takes forever for a web page to appear on your monitor? Sit, sit, sit. Wait, wait, wait. This sometimes happens because of heavy traffic on the Internet, but usually this happens because a large graphic file is being loaded. There are several techniques that creators of web pages can use to help people reduce web page loading time. I have tried to use these techniques throughout the Neuroscience for Kids pages. For those of you who make web pages, here are a few tips that I use to avoid the dreaded wait.

a. Speed up the loading time of a page by keeping image sizes small and by reducing the number of colors contained within each image.

b. Specify the "width" and "height" dimensions of an image in the HTML code so you can outline a box for the image and still let the viewer have some text to read before the image is loaded. The width/height coding should look like this:

img src = "name.gif" width="XXX" height="YYY"
where "name.gif" is the name of your image; XXX = the number of pixels in the width of your image; YYY is the number of pixels in the height of your image. You can find out the dimensions of your image in most graphics programs or you can open the image in your browser and read the width/height number at the top of the screen.

c. Keep the entire page small. Of course you still want to say everything you want to say, but you may be able to break a page into several pieces. However, some people do not like this because they have to click back and forth to many separate pages.

Peeve #2: web pages that charge you to use their resource and web pages that require you to register. Of course some people create web pages to make money...I don't have a problem with this. What I do have a problem with is when a web page creates a link to Neuroscience for Kids and then charges people to use their resource. Neuroscience for Kids is free to anyone who can get to the WWW. If someone wants to link to this resource, I say "great". However, when this other page starts charging people to use their resource which has a link to a free resource, I feel it is not fair. They have taken a free resource and are now charging people to use it.

Peeve #3: Spam, Spam, Spam. If you have an e-mail account, you know what I am talking about...SPAM! Spam: the e-mail that you didn't ask for, don't care about, don't know where it came from, and don't ever want to see again. I just delete this kind of junk mail and hope it goes away and never comes back. I only send the newsletter to people who have written to me and have asked to be placed on the Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter mailing list. If you ever want to be removed from the mailing list, just tell me (see the bottom of this newsletter).



Neurologist/author Dr. Oliver Sacks will host four PBS TV shows that will explore the brain and neurological disorders. The shows will be shown on Tuesdays between August 25 and September 15. The episodes that are scheduled include segments on Usher's syndrome, congenital color blindness, autism, and William's syndrome. These shows are sure to be fascinating!

Check your local listings for the channel and times these "specials" will be broadcast. For more information on these shows, see:



A. What's new to the pages. I will let you know what new features have been added in August.
B. A new Neuroscience for Kids "Page of the Month."
C. Some of the pages I am currently working on are:
The Blood Brain Barrier
Understanding Statistics
A Virtual Neuroscience Laboratory
AVI "movies"


To remove yourself from this mailing list and stop your subscription to the Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter, send e-mail to Dr. Eric H. Chudler 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.