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. Brain Awareness Week 2001
5. Web Polls on Neuroscience for Kids
6. Science Textbooks Get a Poor Grade
7. Book Review
8. Media Alert
9. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
10. How to Stop Your Subscription
A. January Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. March NeuroCalendar
C. Benham's Disk (A great visual illusion activity)
D. Go Ahead, Take the Plunge (Scuba and the Brain)
E. Current Research on Huntington's Disease
F. Abracadabra: Bone Marrow Cells Turn into Brain Cells
G. Monitoring the Future Survey of Teen Drug Use
In January, 30 new figures were added and 78 pages were modified.
The Neuroscience for Kids "Page of the Month" for February is "Talkaboutsleep.com" at:
Talkaboutsleep.com is the second sleep-related page selected as a "Page of
the Month" (the "Sleep Well" web site was selected in January, 1999).
From basic information on the mechanics of sleep to disorders of sleep to
recent updates on sleep research, Talkaboutsleep.com has it all. To learn
more about the nature of sleep, read "Understanding Sleep," a publication
from the National Institutes of Health that is reprinted on the web site.
There is also plenty of information on sleep disorders such as narcolepsy,
snoring, sleep apnea, insomnia, restless legs syndrome and periodic limb
movement disorder. A chat room is available for people to discuss their
sleep problems and to gain support from others who suffer from sleep
I am impressed with the hard work and thought that went into creating the
drawings for the contest. NFK congratulates all of the students who
participated in the contest for a job well done. Many thanks to Millbrook
Press, Pebble Books, Usborne Books, and Morphonix for their generous
donations of the contest prizes.
Also visit the Dana Alliance and the Society for Neuroscience web sites to learn more about BAW and to register your events: http://www.dana.org/brainweek and http://www.sfn.org/BAW
Find out what's going on here at the University of Washington during BAW:
I decided to conduct my own small study to see how textbooks discuss the nervous system. I read through the chapters on nervous system in several middle and high school science textbooks to check for errors. Every textbook I read had at least one mislabeled drawing or factual error. Although the books contained many colorful illustrations, they were sometimes labeled incorrectly. For example, text #1 mislabeled the cornea on an illustration of the eye. Text #2 had a line pointing to the spinal cord, but it was labeled as the brain stem. Text #3 had a drawing with a line pointing to the fourth ventricle, but it was labeled as the reticular activating system. Text #4 labeled the pineal gland in two different places in the same illustration: once in the correct location, once in an incorrect location.
Several "facts" I read were just plain wrong. For example, text #2 stated that nerve impulses can travel at speeds of 120 kilometers per second. This is off by 1,000 times! Impulses can travel at speeds of only 120 meters per second. Text #5 described the knee jerk reflex as involving three neurons and two synapses. Actually, the knee jerk reflex is a monosynaptic reflex requiring only two neurons and one synapse.
These are only a few examples of the errors I found in my brief search. This exercise was not meant to embarrass textbook publishers or give you a reason to throw away your books. Textbooks cover a wide range of material and most of this material is accurate. However, when you read your textbooks, you should do so carefully. Also, make sure you ask questions when you read something that doesn't seem quite right and refer to other sources to check the information.
Text #1 = Science Anytime, Orlando: Harcourt and Brace and Company, 1995
Text #2 = Science Interactions (Course 2), New York: Glencoe/McGraw Hill, 1995
Text #3 = Science Interactions (Course 1), New York: Glencoe/McGraw Hill, 1995
Text #4 = Biology. Concepts and Applications, Belmont: Wadsworth Publications, 1994
Text #5 = Perspectives on Health, Evanston: D.C. Heath, 1996
Charlotte Observer, January 14, 2001, article on Dr. Hubisz's textbook
The book title is descriptive of the book's contents: it focuses on how diet and the environment affect what we think and feel. It offers reasonable advice on choosing what to do for our brain based on work ranging from the neurosciences to traditional Chinese medicine. Dr. Giuffre synthesizes concepts from many fields including physics, biology, philosophy, art, and medicine to construct a set of recommendations that influences the "weather patterns" in our brains. He writes from personal experiences and scientific research to highlight how the brain reacts to the environment.
The text is divided into ten chapters, each listing a specific vitamin and
supplement. The big picture of the physical health of the brain is always
in focus. The book echoes the message that we are what we are because of
the way our brains are wired, and how the food we eat or don't eat affects
how the brain functions. The author dispels some popular myths such as the
brain being likened to a computer which can be switched on and off readily
and predictably. Instead, he compares the brain to the Earth's complex
weather patterns, ever changing as influenced by various unpredictable
phenomena. Many common issues about the brain and general health are
covered in layman's language. Some of these examples are memory and
stress, fear/anxiety, pain, and sleep. A comprehensive bibliography
follows the text, as well as a useful index.
B. The cover story of the January 15, 2001 issue of Time Magazine is
titled "Drugs of the Future". Several articles in the magazine concern
i) "The Future of Drugs," ii) "The Hunt for Cures," and iii) "Recreational Pharmaceuticals."
C. "Scanning the Brain for Traces of Prevarication" in US News and World Report, January 15, 2001: can brainwaves detect lying?
D. Interview with neuroscientist Dr. Carla Shatz in Discover magazine, February, 2001, page 19.
E. "Biological Alchemy" in Scientific American, February 2001: how skin and bone marrow cells can change into neurons.
F. "Who Wants to Be a Genius" in The Economist, January 11, 2001: are geniuses born or made? On-line at: http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=471563
G. "Grossology" a touring museum show about the human body is currently in
St. Louis (MO) and Portland (OR). Between 2001 and 2004, Grossology will
visit St. Paul (MN), Jersey City (NJ), Ft. Lauderdale (FL), Buffalo (NY),
Baltimore (MD), Virginia Beach (VA) and Seattle (WA).
B. The part of the brain called the "amygdala" gets its name from the Greek word for "almond" because of the similarities in shape.
C. The aroma of coffee contains over 800 different chemicals, but only 20-30 of them contribute to the characteristic quality. (Statistic from The Neurobiology of Taste and Smell, 2nd edition, edited by Finger, T.E., Silver, W.L. and Restrepo, D., 2000.)
D. Monarch butterflies migrate up to 3000 kilometers (1,864 miles). (Statistic from Science, March 17, 2000, p. 1883.)
E. The weight of the human brain triples during the first year of life,
going from 300 grams to 900 grams. (Statistic from Brodal, P., The Central
Nervous System. Structure and Function, New York: Oxford Univ. Press,
1998, p. 144.)
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.