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 Wrap-Up
4. Book Review
5. Media Alert
6. Free CD from the National Institute of Mental Health
7. Heading Toward Brain Damage?
8. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
9. What's Coming Up In Future Issues
10. How to Stop Your Subscription
A. March Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. Greeting Cards (Graduation Cards/Secretary's Day)
C. Moonstruck: Does the Full Moon Influence Behavior?
D. Tourette Syndrome
E. April NeuroCalendar
F. Brain Awareness Week at the University of Washington
G. Soccer and the Brain
In March, 36 new figures were added and 66 pages were modified.
You may notice that this newsletter is coming from the e-mail address of "firstname.lastname@example.org". I was required to create a "listproc" to handle the large number of newsletter subscribers. Most subscriber e-mail addresses were transferred successfully, but I may have lost some. If you or your friends do not receive the Neuroscience for Kids newsletters on the first of each month, your e-mail address has been erased from the mailing list. Just send me a message and I will get you back on the list.
The Neuroscience for Kids "Page of the Month" for April includes six pages from The Mining Company:
Biology Resources -
Mental Health Resources - http://mentalhealth.miningco.com/
Neuroscience Resources - http://neuroscience.miningco.com/
Pharmacology Resources - http://pharmacology.miningco.com/
Science/Nature for Kids - http://kidscience.miningco.com/
Substance Abuse Resources - http://substanceabuse.miningco.com/
Each of these pages is created by an expert "guide" who writes feature articles and news stories and reviews other web sites. The pages are updated regularly and each has a bulletin board discussion and chat area.
The Neuroscience Mining Co. resource contains the most brain-related material of these six sites. Dr. Richard Schuerger, the neuroscience guide, has categorized hundreds of links related to the nervous system. In addition to providing these links, Dr. Schuerger has written original articles on new discoveries and historical events in neuroscience. Regina Bailey, the biology guide, is a science educator who has also written several neuro-related articles including one on brain imaging. Dr. Leonard Holmes, a clinical psychologist, is your guide on the mental health site where you will find discussions of depression, schizophrenia, drug abuse and other mental illnesses. Dr. Mary Ann Elchisak guides you through drug-related sites on her pharmacology page. The effects of drugs are also discussed by guide Leslie Franzblau on the substance abuse page. Finally, Gayle Olson, your guide through the kid science pages, recommends her choices for the best science web sites for students, teachers and parents.
Visit these Mining Co. sites and dig for some information...you may hit "gold."
If you have any photographs or artwork from BAW that you would like to share on the Neuroscience for Kids web site, please send it to me at:
Dr. Eric H. Chudler
Department of Anesthesiology
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195-6540
To protect the privacy of people who contribute material to the page, I will use only first names and last initials to identify work that is sent to me. A new Brain Awareness Week web page with pictures and information about BAW activities at the University of Washington is now at:
I was especially busy in March. My first BAW classroom presentation was on March 1 to a group of 20 students at the Lake Forest Park Cooperative preschool class of Ms. Nola Beeler. These students were only four or five years old! As I was setting up, a few of these young scientists came over to see what I was doing. One four-year-old said, "That's a brain, right?" It was. I wonder...how does a four-year-old know what a brain looks like?
My next stop (March 4) was at North City Elementary School in Shoreline, Washington, to visit the 2nd/3rd grade class of Ms. Kristi Gustafson. This was the fourth year that I had made a trip to Ms. Gustafson's class for BAW. Her class is always prepared with great questions for me and is always ready to dive into the hands-on activities that I bring. This year, in addition to my usual presentation, I brought some large visual illusions that kept the students guessing.
On March 9, I ventured north of Seattle to Centennial Middle School in Snohomish, Washington. I spent the first four periods of the school day with 240 students in 7th and 8th grade. During each period, the students and I modeled the way neurons communicate by passing vials of colored water ("neurotransmitters") around the room and making giant neurons out of rope. Students also compared the real brains of a cat, rat, monkey, sheep, cow, and human. We spent the last 15 minutes of each period viewing and discussing a video called "Brain Storms" about a 16-yr-old boy who had brain surgery to control his epilepsy.
The second graders at Lake Forest Park Elementary School (taught by Ms. Francia Johnson) had their BAW visit on March 12. Ms. Johnson's students had worked on several brain/nervous system worksheets in preparation for my visit. I received very nice thank-you notes from these students, many with additional questions about how the brain works.
At the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, it was "Brain Day" on March 15. I set up the brain comparison activity, visual illusions, a computer running the Neuroscience for Kids web site, and a microscope with slides of neurons for the museum visitors. I also tried a new activity that I call "Let's Make a Neural Network." For this activity, visitors constructed neurons from colored pipe cleaners and then added them to a wire screen. By the end of the day we had a pipe cleaner neural network connecting many colorful examples of different types of neurons, some complete with myelin!
The University of Washington BAW Open House was held on March 17. Over 300 students attended a multimedia show produced by the Brain Power Team from the Pacific Science Center and Group Health Cooperative. Following the show, students were connected to EEG machines (to measure brain waves) and to a transcranial Doppler machine (to measure brain blood flow). They also listened to talks about brain injury and the importance of wearing helmets and participated in reaction time experiments. Many students had the chance to hold a real human brain. Of course, all students wore gloves while handling the brain.
Brain Awareness Week came to Lake Forest Park Science Night on March 18. There were many exhibits including marine mammals, geology, microbiology and my BAW booth. The brain comparison activity was a hit again. I also gave away two copies of the book "101 Questions Your Brain Asked About Itself But Couldn't Answer Until Now" by Faith Hickman Byrnie, Brookfield: Millbrook Press, 1998, 176 pages.
Looking back over the month of March, I estimate that more than 1,000 students, teachers and parents participated in the BAW activities I prepared. Many students and teachers have asked to be on the schedule for next year. So, mark your calendars for BAW 2000: March 13-19, 2000. Only 11 more months!
Last month a Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter reader recommended a book called "The Number Sense. How the Mind Creates Mathematics" by Stanislas Dehaene. I immediately connected to the online catalog of my local library, found the book and placed it on hold. One week later, the book was in my hands.
Author Dehaene is a mathematician/cognitive neuropsychologist who has written this fascinating book about math, language, education and the brain. Although he draws heavily on research papers, Dehaene has written the book for a wide audience, not just scientists.
Many of the research findings in "The Number Sense" will surprise you and you may not always agree with Dehaene's interpretation of the data. That's fine. A good book should make you think and ask questions. Some of the topics discussed:
Can animals count and do math?
Do infants have the ability to count?
What are the origins of numbers?
How does language affect math and memory?
Why do students in China and Japan score best on math tests?
What is the best way to teach math?
What are "idiot savants" and math geniuses? What can and can't they do?
How do brain injuries affect mathematical ability?
What parts of the brain are involved with mathematics and numbers?
When you add up all the interesting facts in this book, the results are sure to surprise you.
A. "Biology Computes" by Chris O'Malley in the March 1999 issue of Popular Science. This article discusses how knowledge about the brain may help build better computers.
B. "Conquering Pain" by Catherine Arnst in the March 1, 1999 issue of Business Week. The article discusses new treatments for pain.
C. "Brain Awareness Week Open House" by Eric H. Chudler, Trez Buckland, Susanna Cunningham and Jenny Williamson in the March 1999 issue of Science Scope. Discussion of last year's Brain Awareness Week Open House and how you can get involved in your own BAW activities.
D. The New York Academy of Sciences publication called "The Sciences" (March/April 1999 issue; page 5) had a nice review of the Neuroscience for Kids web site. This magazine (page 14) also has a provocative criticism of using brain imaging methods in behavioral experiments in an article by Richard J. DeGrandpre called "Just Cause."
E. "Thinking Will Make It So" by Sharon Begley in the April 5, 1999 issue of Newsweek (page 64) discusses new research that allows people to use their brain waves to control objects.
"Leonard Nimoy leads viewers deep into the brain, introducing the physical, chemical and electrical events that occur in the normal brain and provide clues to what goes awry in mental illness."
Using special plug-ins, you can view the program on the NIMH web page, but you can also get a free copy of the program on CD-ROM just by asking. Go to the following NIMH home page and find the e-mail address to send your request:
Soccer is a relatively safe sport. As you might expect, most (50-80%) soccer injuries affect the feet and legs. Head injuries are somewhat more rare; they account for between 4% and 22% of all soccer injuries.
Soccer balls kicked by highly skilled players can travel over 100 km/hour. Although these ball speeds are not reached during most recreational games, some people believe that young players should wear protective helmets. Although it is unlikely that occasional heading of a soccer ball will injure the brain, some data show that repeated heading may cause brain damage. Professional soccer players head the ball thousands of times during their careers. A Norwegian study found that 35% of 69 Division I soccer players had abnormal electroencephalogram (EEG) patterns. This is more than twice the rate of abnormal EEG patterns in control subjects. Over 25% of retired soccer players had several brain abnormalities including reduced cortical tissue, increased lateral ventricle size and cysts in the area of the brain called the septum pellucidum. Only 1.5% of the general population has cysts of this type. Over 80% of these retired players had problems with attention, memory and concentration. On the other hand, a study of Swedish soccer players did not show any of the abnormalities.
Although it is possible that the neurological problems reported in the players may have been caused by heading the soccer ball, it is also possible that other types of head injury were responsible for these abnormalities. For example, many professional soccer players suffer head injuries when they collide with other players or hit the ground. Therefore, soccer-related brain injury may not necessarily be due to heading the ball.
As you probably know, there are very few soccer-related deaths. However, the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that between 1979 and 1993, 18 players had been killed by falling goalposts. Of these 18 people, 14 had head injuries and most were children who were climbing on unstable goalposts, not playing soccer.
For the complete story about soccer and the brain, look on the Neuroscience for Kids web site at:
B. The brain of the great physicist Albert Einstein weighed 1,230 grams. This is far below the average brain weight of 1,400 grams. (Reference: Neuroscience Letters, 210:161-164, 1996.)
C. A 12 oz. can of Coca Cola has 46 mg of caffeine, a central nervous system stimulant. A cup of coffee has 60-150 mg of caffeine.
D. It is estimated that there are 60 trillion (yes, trillion) synapses in the cerebral cortex. (Reference: G.M. Shepard, The Synaptic Organization of the Brain, 1998, p. 6.)
E. Sounds as loud as 130 dB can cause pain. Listening to sounds louder than 90 dB for an extended period of time can cause hearing damage. The loudness of normal speech is between 50 and 60 dB.
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.