Volume 5, Issue 5 (May, 2001)


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. Spring Has Sprung
4. Science Fair Help - "Create a Graph" Web Site
5. Neuroscience for Kids Poll Results
6. The Case of the Disappearing Links
7. Media Alert
8. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
9. How to Stop Your Subscription


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

A. April Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. Bruxism
C. June NeuroCalendar
D. Getting Tough with Ecstasy
E. Interactive Visual Illusions (requires Shockwave plug-in)
F. 1,4-Butanediol (BD): Danger!
G. Don't Jump to Conclusions
H. Too Hot! Does Overheating Contribute to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)?
I. Conjoined Twins Separated at Head

In April, 17 new figures were added and 89 pages were modified.


The Neuroscience for Kids "Page of the Month" for May is the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) at:

The NINDS is one branch of the National Institutes of Health located in Bethesda, Maryland. The NINDS web site should be one of your first stops for investigating neurological diseases and disorders. Click on the "Disorders" bar at the top of the opening page to visit a page listing over 100 neurological disorders. Each entry contains a brief description of a disorder, along with references and support group information. The opening page also has news items related to advances and discoveries in neuroscience.


Spring is here, so it's a great time to talk about plants. "Plants?" you ask, "What do plants have to do with the nervous system?" Plenty! Many plants contain chemicals that act on the nervous system. If eaten, these chemicals may cause seizures, sleepiness or hallucinations. On the other hand, some plants provide medicine (for example, atropine, digoxin, codeine, physostigmine, capsaicin, scopolamine and reserpine) used to treat neurological and mental disorders.

Perhaps the most common plant with a "neuroactive" ingredient is tobacco. The tobacco plant (Nicotiana tabacum) contains nicotine, a stimulant. Other examples of plants with neuroactive chemicals:

Common Name (Scientific Name)  -  Neuroactive Chemical
-----------------------------     --------------------
Jimson Weed (Datura stramonium) -   scopolamine
Mandrake (Mandragora officinarum) - scopolamine
Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) - coniine
Water hemlock (Cicuta maculata) -   cicutoxin
Opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) -  opiates
Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) - atropine

Many herbs contain chemicals that act on the nervous system, for example: St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum), Gingko biloba, Ephedra (ma huang), Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), Ginseng (Panax ginseng) and Valerian (Valeriana officianlis). Researchers are studying some of these herbs to see if they can be used to treat people with depression and memory problems.

Did you know? During the Italian Renaissance, women used the nightshade plant to enlarge the pupils of their eyes. During this time, people thought large pupils were attractive. The nightshade contains the chemical atropine, which dilates pupils.

Did you know? Socrates may have been poisoned to death by poison hemlock. This plant contains the neurotoxin called coniine.

References: Ford, M.D., Delany, K.A., Ling, L.J. and Erickson, T., Clinical Toxicology, Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders, 2001.

For more on herbs and health, see:


Is your science fair project almost finished? Do you need to show your results? How about a graph? Need some help making a graph? If you answered "Yes" to these questions, then the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) can help. The NCES has an on-line program that will make bar graphs, line graphs and pie charts from numbers that you enter. To visit the "Create a Graph" site, go to:

First, select the type of graph you want to make, then enter your data. You can label the X and Y axes of your graph and give it a title. You can also select the colors you want to use for the bars and background. When you finish, click on the "Printable Version" button to print your graph. The amount of data you can enter is limited, but for a quick and easy way to display your data, "Create a Graph" may be just what you are looking for.


Several months ago I added a number of neuroscience "web polls" to the Neuroscience for Kids web site. For example, one poll asked people which lobe of the brain was their favorite; another poll asked people to record their reaction times from an on-line experiment. Many of these polls have had more than 1,000 responses and I would like to share some of these results with you. First, I will list the question asked in the poll, and then the answer and the percentage of people who responded this way.

Poll Question - What is your favorite brain structure?
Response - Cerebral cortex (21%); Medulla (16%); Cerebellum (15%)

Poll Question - What is your favorite lobe of the brain?
Response - Frontal (45%), Occipital (19%), Temporal (18%), Parietal (16%)

Poll Question - About how many hours of sleep do you get each night?
Response - 7 hrs (24%); 8 hrs (22%); 6 hrs (19%); 9 hrs (11%); 3-5 hrs (11%); 10 hrs (5%)

Poll Question - How many cans and bottles of caffeinated soda or drinks do you consume each day?
Response - 1 (28%); 2 (17%); none (19%); 3 (10%); more than 10 (9%); 4 (6%); 5 (4%); 6-10 (4%)

Poll Question - Which sense is most important to you?
Response - Vision (70%); Touch (10%); Hearing (8%); Taste (7%); Smell (4%)

Do any of these responses surprise you? If you would like to find out what people think about other "brainy topics," send me ( a question and I may turn it into a new web poll.

6. The Case of the Disappearing Links

The Internet is in a constant state of change: new web sites appear and old ones disappear in the blink of an eye. Sometimes web sites remain, but their addresses change. This may cause problems for people who have web sites that link to these sites. For example, if a web site has a new address, the old address may not work and users may get frustrated because they can't get to the site. Sometimes the old address is picked up by a completely new web site. Therefore, if someone clicks on this old address, they will be taken to a different web site.

The Neuroscience for Kids site contains many links to other web pages. All of the links were checked before they were added to the site. However, because of the changing nature of the Internet, it is possible that linked sites have disappeared or changed. Because the Neuroscience for Kids site contains so many links, I could use your help. If you come across any broken or inappropriate links, please send me an e-mail ( with information about the link and I will fix it.


A. The cover story of the April 2, 2001 issue of Time magazine discusses phobias and their treatment.

B. The cover story of the April 9, 2001 issue of Newsweek magazine is titled "Playing with Pain Killers."

C. "Ecstasy Crackdown" in the April 9, 2001 issue of Time magazine discusses possible new laws against the drug ecstasy.

D. "Australia's Little Assassins" - PBS Television NATURE show scheduled for broadcasting in May will feature venomous animals from Australia.

E. Two articles in the May 2001 issue of Scientific American: "What's Wrong with this Picture?" by Scott Lilienfeld, James Wood and Howard Garb, about psychological tests like the inkblot being less informative than supposed, page 80 and "Mad Cow's Human Toll."

F. "Brain Games" (Alzheimer's gene therapy) in the April 23, 2001 issue of Time magazine.

G. The cover story of the April 30, 2001 issue of Time magazine discusses the issues about making kids smarter.


A. Every 33 minutes someone dies in an alcohol-related traffic accident. (National Safety Council,

B. Pteronophobia is the irrational fear of feathers; linonophobia is the irrational fear of string; nephophobia is the irrational fear of clouds.

C. In the season finale (May 14, 1998) of the TV show "Seinfeld," Jerry Seinfeld says, "Maybe if we lie down our brains will work."

D. A jellyfish has no brain.

E. The word "cochlea" (a structure in your ear) comes from the Latin word meaning "snail shell."


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.