Volume 5, Issue 8 (August, 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. Neuroscience for Kids Page of the Month
3. A Bite of Newt
4. Plan Now for the Society for Neuroscience Meeting
5. Book Review
6. National Hydrocephalus Foundation Survey
7. Media Alert
8. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
9. How to Stop Your Subscription


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

A. July Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. September NeuroCalendar
C. Check Box Response Time Game
D. Music Reduces Stress in Surgery Patients
E. Seal Navigation: Right Under Their Noses

In July, 30 new figures were added and 30 pages were modified.


The Neuroscience for Kids "Page of the Month" for August is the Pfizer Company's "Brain: The World Inside Your Head" at:

This web site is a companion to the new brain exhibit that opened last month at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The Pfizer company is funding the exhibit and has developed the web site to assist visitors. You will find three options when you enter the site: "Exhibit Tour," "Brain Games," and "Grown-ups." The Exhibit Tour is a virtual guide to the museum exhibits. When you click on one of six exhibits, you will be sent to a page describing the exhibit. "Brain Games" takes you to a quiz, a brain puzzle and a downloadable game (which was not ready when I visited the site). The "Grown-ups" link provides adults with suggestions on how to talk to kids about neurological disorders. The site is also adding a teacher's guide to help students when they visit the exhibit. Finally, if you are 18 years old or older, you can order free brochures and pamphlets about a variety of health problems.

The museum exhibits will be visiting the following cities:

The museum exhibits will be visiting the following cities:

Washington, DC; 7/14/2001 - 1/2/2002; Smithsonian Institution

Portland, OR; 1/26/2002- 4/21/2002; Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

Dallas, TX; 5/10/2002 - 9/15/2002; The Science Place

Cleveland, OH; 10/5/2002 - 1/5/2003; The Great Lakes Science Center

Queens, NY; 5/24/2003 - 9/7/2003; NY Hall of Science

Kansas City, MO; 5/22/2004 - 9/11/2004; ScienceCity

St. Paul, MN; 1/29/2005 - 5/8/2005; Science Museum of Minnesota

Boston, MA; 5/28/2005 - 9/10/2005; Museum of Science

If you can't make it to one of these places to see the real museum exhibit, the web site will show you what you are missing.


At least once a week I take a short walk from my lab to the University of Washington Health Sciences Library. Sometimes I go to the library to find a specific research paper or to pick up a book, but other times I go to browse the newly arrived journals. I never know what I might find in these new journals.

Last month as I was reading the table of contents from the journal "Toxicon," an article with the words "newt" and "tetrodotoxin" caught my eye. As you may know, newts are amphibians. What you may not know, is that some newts, according to the article, contain a neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin (TTX). TTX affects nerve cells by blocking sodium channels and thereby preventing the transmission of electrical signals. The immediate danger of this is that nerves to muscles that control breathing stop working. TTX is found in several animals, including the pufferfish. In Japan, some people eat the pufferfish, but it must be prepared by an expert or it can be fatal! Small doses of TTX may cause headaches, tingling in the face and hands, and stomach pain. Higher doses may reduce blood pressure and breathing or cause paralysis and death.

With a little library detective work, I discovered descriptions of three people who ate toxic newts. In two cases, men swallowed Oregon rough-skinned newts on dares. Soon after eating the newts, these men became weak, vomited and felt tingling in their lips or hands. One man died and the other recovered 24 hours later. The third case involved a two-year-old girl who bit off the tail of the family pet: an Oregon rough-skinned newt! The girl started to cry immediately after biting the newt's tail and the girl's mother was able to brush the tail out of the girl's mouth. Both the girl and the newt survived.

It is likely that TTX is used by newts and other animals as a form of protection. A bite of one of these animals is sure to persuade a predator to look elsewhere for food. I suspect the little girl never took a second bite of her family pet.


Yotsu-Yamashita, M. and Mebs, D., The levels of tetrodotoxin and its analogue 6-epitetrodotoxin in the red-spotted newt, Notophthalmus viridescens, Toxicon, 39:1261-1263, 2001

King, B.R., Hamilton, R.J. and Kassutto, Z., "Tail of newt": an unusual ingestion, Pediatr. Emerg. Care, 16:268-269, 2000

Bradley, S.G. and Klika L.J., A fatal poisoning from the Oregon rough-skinned newt (Taricha granulosa), JAMA, 246:247, 1981.


The annual Society for Neuroscience (SFN) meeting will take place in San Diego, CA, between November 10 and November 15. Although approximately 25,000 neuroscientists will be at the meeting, there will also be some lucky K-12 teachers and high school students in attendance. The SFN Committee on Neuroscience Literacy has scheduled workshops for K-12 teachers and a short neuroscience course for high school students. Teachers must register their students for the short course. Registration is FREE to K-12 teachers and high school students for these events. If you are a K-12 teacher outside of Southern California, you can also apply for financial support (up to $1,000) to help with travel expenses. Space and financial support is limited, so apply early. For a description of the program, registration materials and a financial support application, please see:

I hope to see you in San Diego at the meeting!


The Case of the Frozen Addicts by J. William Langston and Jon Palfreman, New York: Pantheon Books, 1995, 309 pages [ISBN: 0-679-42465-2].
Reading level: middle school to adult.

Part medical mystery, part political drama and part crime story, "The Case of the Frozen Addicts" chronicles 10 years in the life of neurologist J. William Langston as he unravels the cause of a disorder that has frozen a handful of heroin addicts. The story begins in 1982 when six heroin addicts inject themselves with a bad batch of synthetic heroin. A few days later, these people find themselves unable to move. Although their ability to think, see and feel are unaffected, they cannot move their muscles. These people are frozen, with symptoms similar to those of Parkinson's disease.

Sadly, "The Case of the Frozen Addicts" is a true story. Langston describes his journey to discover why these people are unable to move. Along the way he encounters a chemical that holds the potential to revolutionize the study of Parkinson's disease. The road he takes is not smooth: competition from other laboratories, professional jealousy and research problems all impede his progress. Nevertheless, Langston's discoveries start new research to investigate the causes and potential treatments for Parkinson's disease and send Langston down a new career path.

Authors Langston and Jon Palfreman make the 309 pages of "The Case of the Frozen Addicts" turn quickly. The book has just enough technical information to provide readers who do not have a neuroscience background with an understanding of the science. I highly recommend "The Case of the Frozen Addicts" to anyone looking for a well-written mystery with a neuroscientific twist.


The National Hydrocephalus Foundation has asked Neuroscience for Kids to let people know that they are conducting a new research survey on hydrocephalus and that they would like participants. The original survey was done 10 years ago and had a small sample size. Also, they were unable to reach many families because support groups and other organizations did not exist. If you would like to view the previous survey, it is posted on the National Hydrocephalus Foundation website at:

If you decide to participate, or have any questions, you may contact Debbi Fields (Executive Director, National Hydrocephalus Foundation) at hydrobrat@Earthlink.Net or 562-402-3523, 888-260-1789 (pager with an operator), or 562-716-2188. All information provided will be kept in strict confidence.


A. "The Stem Cell Wars" in the July 9, 2001 issue of Newsweek magazine (cover story) discusses the possibility of using stem cells to cure diseases and the controversy surrounding the use of these cells.

B. "Road Map for the Mind" in the August issue of Scientific American discusses how mathematical theorems are used to image the brain.

C. "Memory's Mind Games" in the July 16, 2001 issue of Newsweek magazine discusses how memory changes over time.

D. "Artificial Sight" in the August issue of Discover Magazine.

E. "Skeeter Beaters" in the August issue of Discover magazine discusses the chemicals that attract mosquitoes to humans.

F. "Rethinking the Brain: How the Songs of Canaries Upset a Fundamental Principle of Science" in the July 23, 2001 issue of The New Yorker magazine, pp. 42-53.

G. "Dolphinspeak" in the August 2001 issue of National Geographic World magazine (pp. 12-17) discusses dolphin commuication.

H. "Take Two and Call Me in the Morning" in the August 2001 issue of Smithsonian magazine (pp. 96-105) discusses the history of aspirin.

I. "Summer of the Shark" in the July 30, 2001 issue of Time magazine (cover story) discusses the behavior and senses of sharks.


A. At least 56,000 motor vehicle accidents each year in the United States are attributed to sleepiness behind the wheel. (Mahowald, M.W., Minnesota Medicine, 83:25-30, 2000.)

B. Birds are insensitive to the effects of hot peppers because they do not have receptors for the chemical (capsaicin) that makes hot peppers "hot."

C. Epilepsy was once called "morbus Herculeus" because it was thought that Hercules had epilepsy. Epilepsy was later called "morbus sacer" which means "sacred disease."

D. A textbook on phrenology, the "science" correlating bumps on the skull with personality traits, sold over 100,000 copies in 1827. (Bear, M.F., Connors, B.W. and Pradiso, M.A., Neuroscience: Exploring the Brain, 2nd edition, Baltimore: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2001.)

E. There are an estimated 300,000 sports-related brain concussions in the United States each year. (from


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.