Volume 4, Issue 11 (November, 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. Neuroscience for Kids Drawing Contest
4. Is Fetch Colorblind?
5. Nobel Prize Goes to Neuroscientists
6. Book Review
7. Media Alert
8. E-mail Changes?
9. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
10. How to Stop Your Subscription


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

A. October Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. November NeuroCalendar
C. Face Recognition Memory Game
D. Feeling Sick to Your Stomach? It's All in Your Head
E. Hibernating Ground Squirrel Brains Weather the Cold
F. Feeling Illogical? Take a Nap
G. Survey Tackles Football Concussions
H. Three Nobel Neuroscientists
I. Our Sense of Hearing Lesson Plan (Student and Teacher Guides)>

In October, 48 new figures were added and 59 pages were modified.


The Neuroscience for Kids "Page of the Month" for November is the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) Kids and Teachers page at:

The NIDCD is a branch of the National Institutes of Health dedicated to research and training about normal and abnormal hearing, balance, smell, taste, speech, and language. As part of its mission, the NIDCD has created a special web site for kids and teachers. With interactive activities, video clips and audio examples, the NIDCD web site is a fun place to learn about the ear and hearing. The site also has a set of activities in "I Love What I Hear." These activities are most suitable for upper elementary school students.


The Neuroscience for Kids Drawing Contest is still open. Get the rules and entry form for the contest at:

There are some great books available as prizes. I look forward to seeing your drawings.


About six months ago, a new member joined my family: Fetch. Fetch is a dog, a yellow Labrador Retriever. With a kind temperament and a big appetite, Fetch has made himself at home. Having Fetch around the house has inspired my son and daughter to wonder about dogs. What do they think about? What do they see? Do dogs see color?

Of course, dogs cannot talk so I don't know what they think about or what they see. However, neuroscience has provided some information about a dog's ability to see color. The dog eye is one that is typical of mammals. The back of the eye contains a layer of cells that responds to light. This layer of cells is called the retina. Within the retina are two special types of cells, rods and cones, that respond to different types of light. Rods work best in low light, but do not respond to colors; cones work best in bright light and do respond to colors. Humans have three types of cones, each responding best to a particular color or wavelength of light. Other animals with three types of cones are freshwater fish, some reptiles and amphibians, many insects and some spiders.

What about dogs? In 1989, researchers at the University of California in Santa Barbara trained dogs to discriminate different colors. The dogs were given a choice of three panels. Two of the panels were of the same color; the other panel was a different color. If the dogs chose the panel that was unlike the other two, it was rewarded with a beef and cheese-flavored food treat. The experiments showed that the dogs could not see all the colors that humans see. It appeared as if the dogs had only two types of cones in their retinas. Does this mean that Fetch sees only in black and white? Probably not. Although I can't ask Fetch what he sees, it is likely that he can see some colors, but he probably confuses reds and greens. This type of vision is similar to many people who are red-green colorblind. Other animals with only two types of cones are squirrels, cats and cows.

Birds, turtles and butterflies have four or five different types of photoreceptors. This may allow these animals to see ultraviolet or infrared light. Some animals, such as the rat, raccoon, opossum, and deep sea fish, have little or no color vision. Some people are born without color vision. These people have a very rare condition called achromatopsia and cannot see any color because they do not have any cone vision. So, Fetch probably does see color, but he probably can't tell the difference between a red and a green ball. I am still trying to figure out what he thinks about. My best guess is that he is wondering, "When are they going to feed me again?"

For further information about the eye and animal vision, please see:
A. Vet Info web page
B. Sinclair, S., "How Animals See," New York: Facts on File Publication, 1985.
C. Neitz, J., Geist, T. and Jacobs, G.H., Color vision in the dog, Visual Neuroscience, 3:119-125, 1989.


On October 9, 2000, the Nobel Assembly in Sweden announced that the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine would be awarded to three neuroscientists: Arvid Carlsson, Paul Greengard and Eric Kandel. These neuroscientists are being recognized for their discoveries of how signals are sent through the nervous system. You can read a summary of the announcement on the Neuroscience for Kids pages at:

The National Public Radio show called "Science Friday" interviewed Dr. Greengard and Dr. Kandel on October 13, 2000. This 30-minute interview is available on-line (RealAudio format) at:

Did you know that the winners of the Nobel Prize share an award of 9,000,000 Swedish crowns (approximately 900,000 American dollars)? During the radio interview, Dr. Greengard said that he will use his Nobel Prize money to set up an award for women scientists doing biomedical research.


The Brain Explained by Daniel Drubach, Upper Saddle River (NJ): Prentice Hall, 2000 (168 pages).

The back cover of "The Brain Explained" states that the book is "Not your typical neuroscience textbook!" I would have to agree. Neurologist Daniel Drubach has written a neuroscience textbook unlike any other I have read. Filled with clinical cases, analogies, and cartoon drawings, "The Brain Explained" is a textbook that does not read like a textbook. Drubach writes with humor and easy-to-understand language to provide readers with an overview of the structure and function of the nervous system.

The twelve chapters in the book include discussions of neurons and glia, neuroanatomy, brain plasticity, language, attention, consciousness, sleep, nutrition, drug abuse, aggression, body-brain interactions and neurological disorders. Drubach draws on his experiences as a neurologist to provide readers with examples to illustrate points. For example, to illustrate "disconnection syndromes" where connections between brain areas are damaged, Drubach tells the story of one of his patients who had damage to her corpus callosum (the fiber pathway connecting the right and left cerebral hemispheres). The patient was unable to make her right and left hands work together. Drubach describes a time when the patient petted her cat with her right hand, but tried to get rid of the cat with her left hand.

If you have found other neuroscience texts difficult to follow, "The Brain Explained" is for you. I have only a few critical comments. There are no photographs or color drawings in the book. Although the black and white drawings are good, you will have to go to other sources for detailed images. There are also a few errors in the text. For example, Drubach writes that black widow spider venom prevents the release of acetylcholine into the synapse. Actually, this toxin does just the opposite: it causes a massive release of acetylcholine. Drubach also seems to have forgotten several synapses (and the thalamus) in his diagram (Figure 2-30) of nerve pathways from the spinal cord to the cerebral cortex. He does correctly describe this pathway in the text, but the absence of the synapses in the figure may be confusing.

Although the book contains a few errors, I highly recommend "The Brain Explained" as a text or even as a book for anyone interested in the brain. Drubach's style and use of humor make learning neuroscience fun!


A. A reminder that the Scientific American Frontier TV show called "Changing Your Mind" will be broadcast on PBS at the end of November.

B. "Can Milk Make You Happy? Can Fish Make You Smart?" by Faith Hickman Brynie in Odyssey magazine (October 2000, pp. 24-27): influence of food on the brain. Included in the article is a short interview I did with author Ms. Brynie.

C. "The Science of Laughs" by Sharon Begley in Newsweek Magazine (October 9, 2000, pp. 75-76): the neuroscience of laughter.

D. "A Dangerous Mix" in Time Magazine (October 9, 2000): herbal supplements and surgery don't mix.

E. "Sleepless in America" is the cover story in US News and World Report (October 16, 2000).


Are you changing your e-mail address at the end of the year? If you are and would like to continue to receive the Neuroscience Newsletter, please let me know (e-mail: so I can update the newsletter mailing list.


A. Mountain Dew soda (12 ounces) contains 55 mg of caffeine. A cup of coffee has between 60-150 mg of caffeine.

B. The folds and ridges of the outer ear are called the pinna.

C. Each year approximately 7,000 sledders age 16 and younger are taken to the emergency room for head injuries. (Statistic from The Seattle Times, Associated Press, 12/19/99, in an article by I. Dreyfuss, "Bicycle helmets should be used for children on sleds, doctor says.")

D. Charles Scott Sherrington coined the term "synapse" in 1897.

E. The dura mater is the outermost covering of the brain. The term "dura mater" comes from Latin meaning "hard mother."


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.