Volume 3, Issue 2 (February, 1999)


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 Pages
2. The Neuroscience for Kids "Page of the Month"
3. Brain Awareness Week - It's Next Month - March 15-21, 1999
4. Book Review
5. Winter Sports News
6. Chess - A Brainy Game
7. Neuroscience for Kids Milestone
8. Media Alert
9. The Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia 10. Future Newsletters
11. How to Stop Your Subscription



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

A. January Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. Schizophrenia
C. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
D. Interactive Quiz on Olfaction (the sense of smell)
E. Things to Make (Bookmarks and Greeting Cards)
F. February Neurocalendar
G. Helmets for the Slopes?

In January, 24 new figures were added and 64 pages were modified.



The Neuroscience for Kids "Page of the Month" for February is the "Virtual Neurophysiology Lab" from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at:

Step right into the Virtual Neurophysiology Lab (VNL) to explore the sensory system of the leech. Before you enter the lab, make sure that you have the Macromedia Shockwave plugin for your browser. If you don't have Shockwave, you can get it through a link at the VNL.

Your tour of the lab starts with the laboratory set-up where you can learn more about the leech and the equipment you will use in the VNL. Your leech is waiting for you at the bottom of a frame on the left side of your monitor.

Click on the "enter" sign to get into the lab and watch as your equipment floats into position. Click on the dissecting tongs and follow the directions under the picture to pin your leech to the tray. You will be directed through several more steps to prepare the leech for recording from nerve cells.

Once your leech is ready, you can test neurons by stroking the skin of the leech with a probe, forceps, and a feather. You can also see what a particular neuron looks like by injecting it with dye. Your job is to identify the type of neuron from which you are recording an electrical impulse. To do this, you must compare the shape and response of the neuron to several examples of neurons found in the leech.

The file sizes of these pages are quite large (> 100 KB) so downloads may be slow through your modem. Therefore, you may have to wait between steps as you go through the different procedures in the experiment. However, the VNL is an entertaining and interactive introduction to neurophysiology and best of all, you don't have to pick up a real leech.


3. Brain Awareness Week - It's Next Month - March 15-21, 1999

There is just one more month until Brain Awareness Week (BAW). The official dates for BAW are March 15-21, 1999, but you can have your activities any time in March. Do you still need some ideas for BAW? If you do, then check out a one-week lesson plan at:

Both the DANA Alliance and the Society for Neuroscience have on-line BAW calendars that list events going on across the country. If you are still trying to find BAW events, these calendars may list activities near you. If you already have plans, let the DANA Alliance know what you are doing.

The DANA Alliance calendar is located at:

The Society for Neuroscience Brain Awareness Week page is located at:

Here in Seattle we have scheduled public lectures and visits to classes. On March 17th, a University of Washington BAW Open House for about 300 students will feature the Pacific Science Center/Group Health Cooperative "Brain Power Team" which will present a 45 minute "Brain Power" show. Students will also work with hands-on, interactive exhibits set up and staffed by researchers at the university. For more on activities in the Seattle area, see:

Let me know what is going on in your area. I can always use new ideas.


4. Book Review (by Daisy Lu; Music Specialist, Cascade View Elementary School, Tukwila School District, WA)

Big Head! A Book About Your Brain and Your Head by Pete Rowan. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998, 44 pages

Ages: middle school and up

Big Head is a visual treat with its rich informative content on the scientific aspects of the brain. Dr. Rowan, a physician, uses a unique artistic approach to illustrate this book with life-sized and see-through realistic pages. The cover's inner flap poses questions to the reader to stimulate interest. The journey begins through the discovery of the different parts of the brain and the functions they control. Lift-off acetate pages and hands-on experiments enhance the basic information.

Each topic is discussed on two information-filled pages highlighted by colored boxes with facts related to the main text. Photographs of a child also appear on each main section to portray the ratio of specific brain parts to the whole head. Colorful detailed illustrations enhance the interaction between the reader and the author. Dr. Rowan goes beyond neuroanatomy and includes such information as the importance of dreams and their relationship to the subconscious. For readers who are curious about the brain's functions, this is a good introduction and an engaging start.



Have you been skiing or snowboarding this winter? Did you wear a helmet? On January 8, 1999, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) released recommendations for the use of helmets by skiers and snowboarders to prevent head and brain injuries. The CPSC estimates that helmets worn by skiers and snowboarders under 15 years of age could prevent or reduce the severity of 53% of the head injuries. Helmets worn by adults would prevent or reduce the severity of 44% of the head injuries. You can read the complete CPSC report (in PDF style) at:

Head and brain injuries caused by skiing have been in the spotlight since celebrities Sonny Bono and Michael Kennedy died in ski accidents about one year ago. Although skiing and snowboarding are generally safe sports, improvements in ski equipment and snow grooming methods have allowed people to ski faster. Recreational skiers can reach speeds of 40 miles per hour. Most ski injuries occur when people ski too fast, get out of control, and hit fixed objects like rocks or trees.

For a news story on the ski accidents of Bono and Kennedy, see:

So how can injuries to skiers and snowboarders be prevented and reduced? Here are some suggestions:

A. Slow down!
B. Ski and snowboard under control!
C. Ski area operators should pad lift towers, trees and other objects on the slopes.
D. Ski area operators should label all trails carefully so inexperienced skiers and snowboarders stay off steep terrain.
E. As the CPSP recommends, "Wear a helmet."



If you haven't been out skiing or snowboarding, perhaps you stayed inside for entertainment. Checkers and chess, for example, are games that can be played anytime. Chess, perhaps one of the most sophisticated and difficult games to master, has been the subject of a few studies attempting to find out how the brain works. Chess is intriguing because of the memory, concentration and planning skills necessary for playing the game.

It is believed that Chess has its origins in a game called "chatuanga," invented in India around 600 AD. In the last 1,400 years, chaturanga has undergone changes and is now known as chess. Psychologists, physiologists, neurologists and other neuroscientists have taken an interest in how playing chess affects the brain. Some brain researchers believe that playing chess requires mainly the right side of the brain because the game requires non-verbal, visual/spatial and pattern recognition skills. The right hemisphere of the brain is dominant for both visual/spatial and pattern recognition skills.

Some world-class masters have played chess while connected to machines that record brain waves. In general, these chess masters had brain waves just like everyone else. The only difference in the brain waves of some players was a slight change in "alpha wave" activity that may indicate that they were a bit more relaxed.

Two studies have used brain imaging methods to look at brain function while people played chess. In one study (Nature, 396:191, 1994), researchers found that the left temporal lobe and left hippocampus were activated when players were shown a chess board and asked "Can the white knight capture a black rook?" When players were shown a chess board and asked if checkmate could happen in one move, the prefrontal cortex and an area near the border of the parietal and occipital cortex on both sides of the brain were active.

Another study (Neuroscience Letters, 198:169-172, 1995) examined brain blood flow in expert chess players. When right-handed players had to solve a complex chess problem, blood flow to the right prefrontal cortex and right middle temporal lobe increased.

These types of experiments are important because they help to determine how the brain is involved with problem solving, planning and memory. Data from these studies may also provide clues about treatment for people who suffer brain injuries that impair higher cognitive functions.



The Neuroscience for Kids newsletter reached a milestone in January. Last month the number of newsletter subscribers exceeded 2,000. From Australia to Venezuela (and 35 countries in between), people are reading the Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter.



In January, two national publications highlighted brain research. The USA TODAY Weekend newspaper supplement (January 1-3, 1999) had a cover story about new advances in brain research. On their web site, they picked "Neuroscience for Kids" as a featured site.

The cover story of Newsweek Magazine (January 11, 1999) discussed new discoveries on the causes and treatments of migraine headaches.



A. Bicycle helmets reduce the risk for head injury by as much as 85% and reduce the risk for brain injury by as much as 88%. (Statistics from the Center for Disease Control.)

B. Percentage of total cerebral cortex volume (human): frontal lobe = 41%; temporal lobe = 22%; parietal lobe = 19%; occipital lobe = 18%. (Statistics from Caviness Jr., et al. Cerebral Cortex, 8:372-384, 1998.)

C. People can distinguish between 3,000 and 10,000 different smells.

D. Schizophrenia affects about 1 out of every 100 people.

E. Bees and butterflies can see ultraviolet light.



A. What's new to the pages. I will let you know what new features have been added in February.
B. A new Neuroscience for Kids "Page of the Month."
C. Some of the pages I am currently working on are:
A Virtual Neuroscience Laboratory
AVI "movies"
Neurological and Mental Disorders



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.