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. Brain Awareness Week
4. Science Fair Time
5. Food for Thought? No, Thought for Food!
6. Book Reviews
7. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
8. 1999 and Beyond - What's Ahead for Neuroscience for Kids
9. What's Coming Up In Future Issues
10. How to Stop Your Subscription
A. December Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. NeuroCalendars - December 1998 and January 1999 are now available
C. First use of "neuro" words in recorded history
D. 1999 Brain Awareness Week
E. NO is for Nobel (nitric oxide)
F. Interactive Quiz on the Eye
G. Michael J. Fox Deals with Parkinson's Disease
H. On-line Reaction Time Experiment - 1
I. On-line Reaction Time Experiment - 2
J. On-line Reaction Time Experiment - 3
K. Another Day, Another Neuron
In December, 41 new figures were added and 93 pages were modified.
The Neuroscience for Kids "Page of the Month" for January is "The Sleep Well" at:
The Sleep Well is a web site developed by one of the world's leading authorities on sleep and sleep disorders, Dr. William C. Dement. Dr. Dement is director of the Stanford University Sleep Disorders Clinic.
Insomnia, circadian rhythms, dreams, narcolepsy, snoring, SIDS and more - it's all here at the Sleep Well. If you want to learn more about sleep or just want to find out how to "sleep well," visit the Sleep Well.
There may be BAW activities like laboratory tours and public lectures in the city where you live. Many neuroscientists make classroom visits to local schools during BAW. Maybe you can have a neuroscientist visit your class.
Here in Seattle I have teamed up with the Making Connections/Making Choices program in the University of Washington School of Nursing to bring BAW to local schools. We will have lectures, school visits, library displays and an interactive, hands-on Open House for local students. The Pacific Science Center/Group Health Cooperative "Brain Power Team" will have a special assembly for students who come to the Open House. You can read more about our plans for BAW at:
If you live in Seattle, you may want to attend some of these events. If you do not live in Seattle, you can still participate in BAW by organizing your own activities or attending events sponsored by an organization in your area. Check out the DANA Alliance web site for BAW events near you:
A. Insect Senses
B. Effect of music on memory (in humans and other animals)
C. Effect of gender on memory and reaction time
D. The Stroop effect
E. Effect of color on taste
F. Effect of age on learning (both human and animal experiments)
G. Lateralization (handedness)
H. Taste/smell interactions
I. Caffeine and memory
J. Subliminal learning
K. Perception of Time
J. Subliminal learning
K. Perception of Time
I received an interesting letter about a science fair project that was banned by a school district. The experiment, found on the Neuroscience for Kids pages, was going to compare the sense of smell between boys and girls. The school district feared that some of the smells would cause an allergic reaction in some of the students. This story shows that it is very important for you to get your teacher's approval for any science fair project before you start.
Some students have told me that their projects have already received awards and have moved on to district competitions - you know who you are. Everyone keep up the good work!
What would it be like if you "HAD" to have a good meal? Apparently this is the case for people with a disorder called "gourmand syndrome." A gourmand is a person who takes pleasure in eating fine food. However, people with gourmand syndrome don't just like food; their life is centered around food. But not just any food...gourmet food. Thoughts of fine food are so strong in these people that they can do little else other than think, talk, buy, and eat fine food.
In 1997, two researchers in Switzerland (Dr. Marianne Regard and Dr. Theodor Landis) published a paper in the journal Neurology (vol.48, pages 1185-1190) which described people who developed a passion for fine food after suffering brain damage.
The first patient in the paper was a 48-yr-old political journalist who had a stroke that affected the right, front part of his brain. While he recovered in the hospital, he kept a diary. A sample entry from his diary reads: "...it is time for a hearty dinner, e.g. a good sausage with hash browns or some spaghetti bolognese..." It is not surprising that he would want a good meal after dining on what may have been tasteless hospital food. However, this patient had trouble thinking of anything other than fine food. In fact, after he left the hospital, he quit his job as a political journalist and became a successful restaurant and food critic!
The second patient was a 55-yr-old businessman who had a stroke that affected the same part of the brain as the first patient - the right, front area. Like patient #1, patient #2 became obsessed with food. It was not so much the quantity of food, but its quality. Neither patient was particularly concerned with food prior to the brain injury and surprisingly, neither gained much weight after the injury despite the change in behavior.
These two patients convinced Dr. Regard and Dr. Landis to look at more patients. They studied 723 patients who had damage to various parts of the brain. Dr. Regard and Dr. Landis found 36 of these patients with gourmand syndrome. In 34 of these 36 cases, there was damage to the right, front area of the brain. Many of the patients did not seem to mind their new eating habits and considered their preoccupation with food a "...positive consequence..."
It is not clear why damage to the right frontal area of the brain caused the abnormal craving for fine food. Other types of eating disorders are sometimes seen in people after a right-side brain injury. Despite the unknown cause of gourmand syndrome, Dr. Regard and Dr. Landis believe that strong feelings, actions, and thoughts that center around fine food in people who have not shown these behaviors previously may be signs of brain damage.
The Brain: Our Nervous System by Seymour Simon. New York: William Morrow, 1997.
For ages 8 and up.
When you have a clever idea, do you feel brainy? On the other hand, do you feel brainless when you forget something you obviously should not? As Simon says, "The brain is really what makes you, YOU."
With a collection of eye-catching photographs, models, and diagrams, Simon explains how the brain works together with other parts of the nervous system. Parts of the brain are discussed in terms of their sizes, locations, and functions. Questions are addressed clearly. For example, when describing the cerebral cortex, Simon gives readers a sense of its size by bridging the unknown with the known. In his words, "If it was flattened out, it would take up as much space as the top of a kitchen table."
Although the book introduces many new vocabulary words (neurons, glial cells, dendrites, cerebrum, cerebellum, brain stem, etc.), the overall message is one of wonder and power, interwoven with a presentation of the brain's complexity in the human body. Students will appreciate exploring the brain further after reading this book.
It's All in Your Head: A Guide to Understanding Your Brain and Boosting Your Brain Power, by Susan L. Barrett. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing, 1992.
For ages 10 and up
Have you ever read a book that reads as if the author is talking directly to you? Susan Barrett has drawn from several disciplines to bring brain facts and statistics to the young and curious reader. Each chapter presents a topic in a logical sequence with introductory quotes from astronauts, physicists, songwriters, physicians, educators, authors, and poets. Their wisdom sets the perspective from which to draw inquiry and to respond to questions at the end of each chapter. As readers move through the book with brilliant illustrations, a "dance" between art and science, they will take multiple steps back into the book using both print and cartoon-like pictures. Barrett also encourages readers to examine the power of their own brains as she writes about the mind, intelligence, dreams, memory, learning and creativity.
The book ends with a chapter titled "Mysteries of the Mind." The text is well-balanced with informative and at times comical illustrations that will trigger any student to make further inquiries. The book's content, organization, and humor make "It's All in Your Head" a thoroughly absorbing and enlightening experience.
B. Most people dream about 5 times during each 8-hour period of sleep. Based on this number, people have about 1,825 dreams every year.
C. An average yawn lasts about 6 seconds.
D. The distance separating two neurons at a synapse is 20-40 nanometers. (1 nanometer is equal to one-billionth of a meter.)
E. People typically blink about 15 times per minute. If you are
awake for 16 hours each day, then you blink approximately 14,400
each day! (Source: Schiffman, H.R., Sensation and
Perception. An Integrated Approach, New York: John Wiley and Sons,
An exciting addition coming up later this year is the development of QuickTime Virtual Reality (QTVR) resources. QTVR programs simulate a 360-degree view. It's like standing in one spot looking through a pair of binoculars. You can look around in all directions and even zoom in or out on what you are looking at. I hope to create a "Virtual Brain," "Virtual Neuron," and "Virtual Synapse." A "Virtual Laboratory" is also planned where you can step right into my lab and say, "Hello!"
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.