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. Neuroscience for Kids Drawing Contest
4. Brain Awareness Week
5. Science Fair Project ("Brain Freeze") Published in Medical Journal
6. In Harm's Way
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 2003 NeuroCalendar
C. Christopher Reeve Surprises Doctors Again
D. Friday the 13th: Unlucky Only for Women?
E. Asperger's Syndrome
F. "Alternative" Cigarettes Not Safer Than Regular Cigarettes
G. Backpack Injuries and Pain: Behind the Headlines
In January, 15 new figures were added and 56 pages were modified.
The Neuroscience for Kids "Site of the Month" for February is "Medical Neuroscience" at:
Sure, the "Medical Neuroscience" web site was developed for medical students at Indiana University. But you know your way around the nervous system...you can use this website too!
"Medical Neuroscience" contains a series of images from the brain and
spinal cord. You can view these images with or without labels that
identify different structures. Each picture has a matching magnetic
resonance image (MRI). If you think you are ready for medical school, try
the "Clinical Case Studies." Each case describes a patient's symptoms and
results of a neurological examination. Your job is to diagnose the
condition. Don't worry if you can't make a diagnosis or if your diagnosis
is incorrect...you still have time to go to medical school.
Also visit the DANA Alliance website to register your BAW events, download BAW material and find BAW events near you:
Here at the University of Washington, 300 students will attend the BAW Open House. The Open House will feature the Pacific Science Center/Group Health Cooperative "Brain Power Team" and hands-on, interactive exhibits sponsored by researchers and staff from various university departments and organizations. I will also visit several local schools and present an interactive program titled "Explore Your Brain." If you would like to share what you did during BAW, send me (email: email@example.com) a summary of your activities and I will try to include it in a future issue of the Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter.
Even if you cannot organize a brain fair or a classroom visit by a neuroscientist, you can still participate in BAW with some lessons about the brain and nervous system. Neuroscience for Kids has some "brainy" ideas for a day, a week or a whole month:
Maya is a student at Dalewood Middle School in Hamilton, Ontario (Canada). She was interested in "ice cream headaches," sometimes called "brain freeze." She studied how the speed of eating ice cream caused people to get headaches. Maya divided 145 middle school students into two groups: one group was told to eat 100 ml of ice cream slowly such that about half of the ice cream remained after 30 seconds; the other group was told to eat 100 ml of ice cream quickly (in under 5 seconds). After eating their ice cream, the subjects answered a survey asking if they had a headache.
Maya found that 27% of the students who ate their ice cream quickly had headaches; only 13% of the students who ate slowly had headaches. The majority (59%) of the headaches lasted less than 10 seconds. Maya was careful to point out some possible problems with her study. For example, she noted that her results were based on self reports (the survey) from students. Also, she was concerned that the experiment was not conducted in a "blinded" manner. In other words, everyone knew which group (slow-eating or quick-eating) they were in. These factors may have influenced how the students answered the survey questions. Nevertheless, the results suggest that the best way to avoid brain freeze is to eat your ice cream slowly.
(Note: Maya's dad was the second author of the paper. He is an associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton.)
Reference: Kaczorowski, M. and Kaczorowski, J. Ice cream evoked headaches (ICE-H) study: randomised trial of accelerated versus cautious ice cream eating regimen. British Journal of Medicine, 325:1445-1446, 2002. Online at: http://bmj.com/cgi/content/full/325/7378/1445
Brief explanation of brain freeze: http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/q1999.html#q61
Read about Emily Rosa's science fair project:
Hurting oneself on purpose is not uncommon among adolescents, concludes a November 2002 study that was published in the British Medical Journal. The researchers surveyed more than 6,000 students (ages 15 and 16 years) from 41 schools in England. About 7% of the students reported that they had deliberately harmed themselves in the past year. This type of behavior was reported four times more often by girls than by boys.
Self harm was defined in the study as a non-fatal act with the intention of hurting oneself such as cutting oneself, jumping from a height; ingesting more than the prescribed amount of a medicine (overdose); ingesting an illicit drug in order to harm oneself; or ingesting a non-ingestible object or substance. The most common forms of self harm were cutting (64.6%) and poisoning (30.7%).
The researchers hope that more accurate information about this type of behavior will lead to increased recognition of students at risk, and in the design of appropriate prevention programs. The researchers say that this study supports the need for school-based mental health education, especially focusing on self esteem issues and depression.
Reference: Hawton K., Rodham, K., Evans, E., and Weatherall, R.
"Deliberate self harm in adolescents: self report survey in schools in
England," BMJ, 325: 1207-1211, 2002. Available online at:
Author Paul Bennett provides a basic introduction to the nervous system and senses in "My Brain and Senses." After a brief (4-page) discussion of the brain and spinal cord, the book explores the five senses. Unfortunately, there is only one use of the term "nerve cells" and it is made in relation to the eye. Bennett also makes a common mistake and states that "You see with your eyes." and "You hear with your ears." Yes, you use your eyes to see and your ears to hear, but it is your brain that is the organ of perception. A picture of the "tongue map" that supposedly shows where bitter, sour, salt and sweet are tasted is also used. This tongue map, which is reproduced in many other books, is not accurate for several reasons (see the link below).
"My Brain and Senses" has short chapters on reflexes, learning and memory, balance and sleep, as well as a short glossary and index. The many colorful photographs throughout the book should help maintain reader interest in the subject.
Other book reviews:
B. Watch "Phobia" on the National Geographic Channel on Tuesday evenings during February to learn about different fears. Have you heard of these phobias: nyctophobia, gephyrophobia, musophobia and trypanophobia? Find out what these fears are by watching "Phobia."
C. "The Wonder Pill" premiers on your local PBS station on February 18, 2003. This show is part of the Scientific American Frontiers series and is narrated by Alan Alda. "The Wonder Pill" will explore the power of the placebo. For more information on this show, see: http://www.pbs.org/saf/1307/indexsplash.htm
D. "Why? The Neuroscience of Suicide" by Carol Ezzell, Scientific American, February 2003, discusses depression and suicide.
E. "How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body" is the cover story of the January 20, 2003 issue of Time magazine. Articles in this issue discuss mental health, brain imaging, and brain fitness.
F. "Feeding the Aging Brain" in Newsweek magazine (January 20, 2003) discusses the link between diet and Alzheimer's disease.
G. "The Sound of Unsound Minds" by M. Szegedy-Maszak in US News and World Report (January 13, 2003) examines the link between mental illness and creativity.
H. "Reading Minds: If a person cannot move, talk, or even blink, is it possible to communicate with his brain?" The New Yorker, January 20, 2003, pages 52-63.
I. Listen to "Autism," the topic of the Science Friday radio show (January 24, 2003). The show is archived in RealAudio at: http://www.sciencefriday.com/pages/2003/Jan/hour2_012403.html
J. "One Tokes, The Other Doesn't" by D. Bjerklie in Time magazine
(February 3, 2003): is marijuana a "gateway drug?"
B. In 2001, 17,448 people died in alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes. That is 41% of the year's total traffic deaths (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation. Traffic safety facts 2001: alcohol. Washington (DC): NHTSA; 2002 Available at http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/pdf/nrd-30/NCSA/TSF2001/2001alcohol.pdf).
C. Parkinson's disease affects 1-3% of people over the age of 65 years and 10% of those over 80 years (Science, 295:809, 2002).
D. The vertebral column, the collection of bones (back bone) that houses the spinal cord, is approximately 70 cm long.
E. Thomas Edison, the famous inventor, thought that sleep was a waste of
time. He is reported to have said, "Sleep is an acquired habit. Cells
don't sleep. Fish swim in the water all night. Even a horse doesn't sleep.
A man doesn't need any sleep."
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.