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. The Ups and Downs of Trampolines
4. Einstein's Brain...Back in the News
5. Book Review
6. Media Alert
7. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
8. How to Stop Your Subscription
This new address will make the web site faster and more reliable...at least that is what the University of Washington Computer Center told me. If you try to access the Neuroscience for Kids pages with an old address, you will be guided to a new address. The web site will look the same, but if you find something that doesn't work properly, I would appreciate it if you would let me know.
Neuroscience for Kids had several new additions in June. Here are some of them:
A. June Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. Archives of the Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
C. July NeuroCalendar
D. Trampolines and Injuries
E. More "Brain Cards" (Father's Day; Thinking of You; Get Well Soon)
F. Interactive Word Search Puzzles - More than 10 new puzzles you can play on-line! See all of them at:
G. Larry Dierker, From Dugout to the Operating Room
In June, 31 new figures were added and 67 pages were modified.
The Neuroscience for Kids "Page of the Month" for July is "SandlotScience.com" at:
"SandlotScience.com" is filled with great visual illusions, many of which
are hands-on and interactive. This site contains the best collection of
illusions that I have found on the Internet. Choose from impossible
objects, ambiguous figures and after-effects to explore the world of
vision and the brain. There are also many games and puzzles to try. Make
sure your browser is "java-enabled" for maximum enjoyment of the site.
Then dive right in and don't worry about getting your hands dirty in the
In a policy statement released in May 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) estimated that in 1996 there were 83,400 trampoline-related injuries. Of these injuries, two-thirds were to children between the ages of 5 and 15 years old. Although injuries to the leg, foot, arm and hand were most common, 14% of the injuries were to the head or face. About 15% of all head injuries involved fractures, concussions and internal head injuries.
Fatal trampoline injuries are rare. Nevertheless, six trampoline-related deaths have been reported since 1990. Most of these fatalities occurred when people fell off of the trampoline and injured the upper part of their spinal cords.
Because of the high risk of injury associated with trampoline use, the AAP has recommended:
A. "The trampoline should not be used at home, inside or outside."
B. "The trampoline should not be part of routine physical education classes in schools."
C. "The trampoline has no place in outdoor playgrounds and should never be regarded as play equipment."
A complete story about trampoline-related injuries can be found on the Neuroscience for Kids pages at:
Oh...and remember to look both ways before crossing the street!
The researchers found that compared to normal brains, the brain of Einstein was wider and had a shorter groove on the parietal lobe of the cerebral cortex. This area of the cerebral cortex is thought to play a role in mathematical abilities and spatial reasoning. The researchers think that the characteristics found on Einstein's brain permitted better connections between neurons important for these functions.
Although these results are interesting, it must be remembered that this study had only ONE subject in the experimental group...Albert Einstein. It remains to be seen if other mathematical geniuses also show these distinguishing brain characteristics. Moreover, the study did not investigate the brain at a microscopic level. In other words, they did not look to see if there were differences in how neurons were connected and of course, could not tell if there were differences in the way the neurons functioned. Further research using modern brain imaging techniques (MRI/PET) that look at the anatomy and function of the brain in living geniuses may help solve some of these questions. For more on Einstein's brain, see:
[This book review was written by Ira Surolia, second-year medical student, B.R. Ambedkar Medical College, Bangalore, India]
Ramachandran, a neurologist from the University of California, San Diego, has written a highly readable book about the human brain. In my opinion, "Phantoms in the Brain" is most appropriate for high school students and adults who are not experts in neurology. The book, written in a clear, story-like style, starts with an introduction to the brain and continues with stories of people who have unusual neurological conditions. These conditions include phantom limbs (people feel the presence of a body part that has been amputated), false pregnancies (women feel sure they are preganant when they are not), scotomas (people are blind only in parts of their visual field), neglect (people ignore parts of their bodies), denial (people refuse to believe something is wrong with them), and epilepsy (people have seizures).
Ramachandran starts each chapter with the description of a particular problem, then follows with ideas about the underlying cause of the disorder. These theories are then supported or thrown out, depending on the evidence that doctors find when examining the patients or by doing experiments.
Throughout the book, readers are treated to Ramachandran's clever ways of thinking about neurology, including:
A. You don't always need expensive or state-of-the-art equipment to make important discoveries. Rather, keen observation and questioning of patients often help to solve some neurological puzzles.
B. If you study the normal functioning of the brain and then figure out what can happen if this is interrupted, you will see how neurological disorders come about. For example, in a chapter called "Knowing Where To Scratch," Ramachandran suggests an explanation for pain or sensation in arms and legs that have been amputated ("phantom limbs"). He describes how changes in the normal structure and nerve connections in the cerebral cortex could cause such sensations. In a chapter called "God and The Limbic System," he discusses how some people with epilepsy become overly involved in religion. This may be explained by neurological problems in the temporal lobe, which is involved in emotions and is often damaged or abnormal in people with epilepsy.
B. "The Amazing Octopus" in National Geographic World, July 1999, pages 6-9. A short article on the intelligence of the octopus.
C. "Mind Over Time" in Discover Magazine, July 1999. Biological rhythms and behavior.
D. "Was Einstein's Brain Built for Brilliance" in Time Magazine, June 28,
1999. New findings about Albert Einstein's brain.
B. The "four-eyed" fish ("Anableps") has TWO pupils in each of its eyes. Therefore it can see above and below the water simultaneously. (From E.B. Goldstein, "Sensation and Perception," 1999.)
C. The human cerebral cortex has an area of about 2.5 square feet, has 25 billion neurons, is interconnected by over 100,000 kilometers of axons and receives 300 trillion synapses. (Statistics from J. Nolte, "The Human Brain. An Introduction to Its Functional Anatomy," 1999.)
D. Approximately 50% of the population of the United States is nearsighted. (Statistic from Purves et al., "Neuroscience," 1997.)
E. The human hypothalamus weighs about 4 grams.
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.