Volume 4, Issue 1 (January 2000)


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. Frozen in Time
5. Book Review
6. New US Postal Stamp - Brain Image
7. Cool Web Tool
8. Media Alert
9. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
10. How to Stop Your Subscription


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

A. December Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. January NeuroCalendar
C. The Dragon Bites Back
D. Unraveling Dyslexic Brains
E. New Year's Greeting Card and Brain Awareness Week Greeting Card
F. Brain Awareness Week 2000
G. The Effects of Barbiturates on the Nervous System
H. Free, Electronic Brainy Postcards
I. Year 2000 Calendar

In December, 74 new figures were added and 98 pages were modified.


The Neuroscience for Kids "Page of the Month" for January is "Synapse Web" at:

Synapses, synapses and more synapses...Synapse Web has more information about synapses than you can shake a neuron at. A synapse is the small gap through which neurons communicate and at Synapse Web you can learn all about them. The page has plenty of photographs taken with light and electron microscopes to show you what neurons and synapses look like. The site focuses on the hippocampus, an area of the brain important for memory.

Synapse Web is funded by a grant from the Human Brain Project.


Brain Awareness Week (BAW) is coming in March.

What is Brain Awareness Week? It's a time of year to celebrate the brain. It's a time to discuss the advances and discoveries made in neuroscience. It's a time for you to share your knowledge about the brain with your teachers, your parents, your students, and the public.

I hope you have plans to celebrate BAW. BAW is a time when neuroscientists around the world interact with the public. Some universities invite the public to open houses or lectures and many elementary, middle and high schools hold science fairs with a brain theme during BAW. You will find other ideas for BAW activities at the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives and Society for Neuroscience BAW web pages:

You can also download two BAW "greeting cards" from the Neuroscience for Kids pages at:

or send "electronic BAW postcards" to a friend from:

Here at the University of Washington, I am planning a BAW Open House for March 7, 2000. About 300 local students will be invited to attend a presentation by the Pacific Science Center/Group Health Cooperative Brain Power Team. After the presentation, students can explore interactive, hands-on booths set up by UW neuroscientists. Last year the BAW Open House was a tremendous success and I hope to have many of the same exhibits back this year. For a description of this year's BAW activities including the Open House, please see:


It's a mystery: a man buys an automatic, self-winding (no battery required) watch for his wife and one for his daughter. The wife's watch works fine if she wears it on her right wrist, but it stops working when worn on her left wrist. The wife exchanges watches with her daughter. Now the wife's watch (being worn by the daughter) works, but the daughter's watch (being worn by the wife) stops working. The wife decides to get a new battery-operated watch so she can once again keep track of time.

Three years later, the wife develops a tremor (shaking) in her left arm. When doctors examine her, they notice the tremor and also some rigidity and slowness of movement in her left arm. These are the characteristic signs of Parkinson's disease. The woman's symptoms improve when she is given a drug called L-dopa that is used to treat Parkinson's disease.

Dr. P. Mazzoni and Dr. B. Ford who reported this case suggest that the wife's problem with her self-winding watch was the first sign of Parkinson's disease. They think that the self-winding watch stopped working because the rigidity in the woman's left arm prevented the movement that is required to wind the watch. It is possible that a device to measure limb movement can be developed to provide an early diagnosis of Parkinson's disease.

Reference: Mazzoni, P. and Ford, B., The freezing of time as a presenting symptom of Parkinson's disease, New England Journal of Medicine, 341:1317-1318, 1999.


[This book review was written by Dr. Daisy Lu.] Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain By Antonio R. Damasio, New York: G.P. Putnam, 1994, pp. 312 (ISBN: 0399138943)

Damasio lays out a provocative theory - that emotion is part of cognition. His lucid demonstration that human emotions are worthy of scientific investigation poses a challenge to neuroscience which has long theorized that emotions interfere with reasoning. The heart is, after all, in the head!

This fascinating journey into the process of feeling is introduced by the case of a severely brain damaged patient, Phineas Gage. This case demonstrates that certain brain regions are responsible for reasoning and decision-making. Throughout the book, Damasio illustrates his points with other intriguing case histories, attempting to synthesize what is already known about the human brain with the endeavor to link mind and body, emotion and reason. Laid out in organized chapters with underlined topics in each chapter, Damasio's ideas about intelligence, memory, creativity and passion offer sound, accessible and reliable information about the organization and functions of the forebrain.

This book makes a huge and enlightening contribution to ongoing debates about emotion and rationality and between physiological and psychological bases of feelings. A few illustrations also help the reader understand the physiology of the brain in relation to emotions. The title, Descartes' Error, leads us to question the mind, the brain, and the body. A postscript presents the human heart in conflict, offering a note on the limits of neurobiology. Ingenious and wide ranging, this book should catch the interest of many people - physicians, psychologists, neurologists, anthropologists, lay people, educators, and students. The writing itself is delightful and intellectually stimulating - a passionately penetrating tour of the human mind in relation to feeling and emotion.


As part of the US Postal Service (USPS) commemoration of the 1970s, a new stamp featuring a brain image was released in November. If you can't find the stamp at your post office, you can see it at the USPS web site:


Isn't it frustrating to go to a web page only to find that the links to other pages don't work? If you have web pages of your own, here is one way to reduce the number of broken links. It's an on-line tool called "LinkChecker" and is located at:

Just enter the URL of the page you want to check and LinkChecker will do the rest. LinkChecker will go to your page and tell you whether the links on the page are: 1) working; 2) on-line, but either slow or not responding; 3) broken or 4) completely dead.

LinkChecker will not fix the broken links for you, but it will alert you to the problem. "Neuroscience for Kids" has hundreds of links to other web sites and LinkChecker helps to keep these links up-to-date. Try it on your own pages.


A. "Narcolepsy" in the January, 2000 issue of Scientific American.

B. Two articles in the January, 2000 issue of Discover: "Polly Wanna PhD?" discusses bird intelligence (pages 70-75); "The Shape of Madness" discusses schizophrenia and brain imaging (pages 76-83).

C. "Rewiring Your Gray Matter" in Newsweek magazine (January 1, 2000)


A. When asleep, humans spend 23.1% of the time in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. (Aserinksy, E., in Rapid Eye Movement Sleep, edited by B.N. Mallick and S. Inoue, Narosa Publishing, New Delhi, 1999.)

B. Venomous snakes can be dangerous even after they are dead. In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), it was reported that 14.7% of the people envenomed by rattlesnakes were "bitten" by snakes that were dead or thought to be dead. (NEJM, June 17, 1999, vol. 340:1930.)

C. The word "carotid" (carotid artery) comes from the Greek word karotis meaning "deep sleep." This is because it has been known for a long time that pressure on the carotid arteries causes animals to become sleepy.

D. The cerebellum makes up 10% of the total volume of the human brain. (Statistic from Trends in Neuroscience, November 1995.)

E. Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness in the United States. About 3 million Americans have glaucoma; 120,000 of these people are blind. (Statistics from the National Eye Institute -

*** January 2000 is Glaucoma Awareness Month ***


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.