Volume 9, Issue 5 (May, 2005)


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 Site
2. Neuroscience for Kids Site of the Month
3. Brain Awareness Week Reports
4. Find the Error
5. Museum Exhibit - Whatever Happened to Polio
6. Book Review
7. Media Alert
8. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
9. Find the Error (Answers)
10. Support Neuroscience for Kids
11. 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. Upswing in Golf-Related Head Injuries to Children
C. CDC Recommends Caution about Nerve Agent Disposal
D. Lead Found in Children's Fishing Poles and Karaoke Players

In April, 10 new figures were added and 73 pages were modified.


The Neuroscience for Kids "Site of the Month" for May is "Your Amazing Brain" at:

"At-Bristol" is a science museum in Bristol, England. With funding from the Wellcome Trust organization, At-Bristol has created the "Your Amazing Brain" web site to teach people about the nervous system. The web site is divided into six main sections: 1) Brain and body; 2) Super senses; 3) Inside your brain; 4) Love; 5) Your memory and 6) Test yourself. Each section has articles, games, surveys and tests for you to explore. Many of the surveys allow you to compare your answers to those of others who have visited the web site.


Several people wanted to share what they did during 2005 Brain Awareness Week:

Victoria R. at Mohawk Ave. School in New Jersey tells me that she and other students educated their classmates about the brain during 2005 Brain Awareness Week. Groups of students spent about six minutes at each of several booths:

* Neurons: people learned about neurons, made pipe cleaner neurons and sung songs about neurons.

* Real Brain: people learned about brain anatomy and saw a real brain.

* Stroop Effect: students learned about the creator of the Stroop Test, tried the Stroop Test and learned why the Stroop Test is so difficult to do.

* Taste Tester: people were given a drink that was one color and told it was a certain flavor. The flavor they were told wasn't the actual flavor and most people were fooled.

* Reflexes: people stood behind Plexi-Glass and had rubber balls thrown at them. The purpose was to show how reflexes work because the Plexi-Glass was clear and people winced whenever a ball was thrown at them.

* Eggbert: people learned about the coverings (the meninges) of the brain. First, an egg was put in a jar and shaken. Naturally, the egg cracked. Then, another egg was placed in a different jar with cooking oil. The oil protected the egg like the fluid that surrounds the brain.


High school students in the class of Dori Facemeyer in Malvern, Ohio, enjoyed learning about the brain during Brain Awareness Week. Ms. Facemeyer writes, "We had so much fun learning the parts of the brain and they truly enjoyed learning the differences between the anatomy of the adolescent brain and the adult brain. We wrapped up the week by making helmets for Mr. Egghead and there was a Nervous System Emmy Award for the winners. Our award consisted of a statue-like item that was donated by a local pharmaceutical company that specializes in medications for depression. We also spent the last day of the week teaching a 4th grade class about the was great!"


When I was in fifth grade, my class went to the school library every other week to find books to read. My teacher pulled me aside one day to comment about my book choices. She noticed that the only books I checked out of the library were about baseball. Fiction or nonfiction -- I didn't care as long as the book had something to do with baseball. By the middle of the year, I had read every baseball-related book in the library! My teacher suggested that I select a different topic. I picked fish. For the rest of the year, I read books about fish.

As many readers of this newsletter know, I am a scientist who studies the brain. I read every book about the brain I can find. There are some great brain books for young and old readers, for non-experts and for professional scientists. Unfortunately, errors sneak into some books. Some of these errors may be typographical errors, but others may be caused by poor review of the facts. Can you spot the errors in these statements I found in books? The answers are at the end of this newsletter.

A. Your body has receptors in your skin that take in information from your five senses - sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste.

B. Your brain is made up of 86 billion tiny nerve cells.

C. Nerve impulses can travel at speeds of 120 kilometers per second.

D. Each axon terminal gently touches a dendrite of another nerve cell.

E. The electroencephalogram is a machine that can read your brain waves.

F. Yawning is your body's way of getting more oxygen.

G. Receptors tell you when someone presses hard, or gently, on your feet.


On April 12, 2005, the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History (Washington, D.C.) opened a new exhibit called "Whatever Happened to Polio." This exhibit marks the 50th anniversary of the announcement that the polio vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk was safe and effective. The exhibit will run at the museum for one year. For more about the exhibit, see:


"Lou Gehrig. The Luckiest Man," written by David A. Adler, illustrated by Terry Widener, Orlando (FL): Harcourt Brace & Company, 1997.

Grade level: K - Grade 3.

Author David Adler tells the story of Lou Gehrig, perhaps the greatest baseball player of all time. During the 1920s and 1930s, Gehrig played for the New York Yankees in 2,130 consecutive games and was voted the American League's Most Valuable Player twice. However, in 1939, Gehrig's batting skill declined and he had trouble fielding the ball. A trip to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota revealed that Gehrig had a neurological disorder called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Over the next year or so, Gehrig became weak and bedridden. On June 2, 1941, Gehrig died.

Adler's book is an excellent way to teach young children about neurological illness. The book starts with Gehrig's childhood and then his baseball career. Gehrig's symptoms and the course of his disease are described accurately and add to the description of his life. The colorful acrylic images created by Terry Widener bring the story to life.

For more about ALS, see:


A. "The Tangle," (The New Yorker, April 11, 2005, pages 43-51) describes how an ethnobotanist is trying to solve the mystery of a neurological disease in Guam.

B. Discover magazine (May, 2005) has several neuroscience-related articles:

i. "What Do Animals Think" by Verlyn Klinkenborg discusses how Temple Grandin believes animals think like people with autism.

ii. "Vitamin Cure" by Susan Freinkel discusses how vitamins may treat mental illnesses.

iii. The "Think Tank" section of the magazine asks 25 neuroscientists what they think is the most critical development of the last 25 years and what the future holds for neuroscience.

C. "Pushing Back Polio" by Josh Fischman (US News and World Report, April 18, 2005) describes how the polio vaccine was developed 50 years ago.

D. The new Scientific American "Mind" magazine is on newsstands now. The magazine has stories about deja vu, the Rorschach inkblot test, Capgras syndrome, brain imaging, human navigation, neuroscience and the law, Leonardo da Vinci as a neuroscientist, the mind of the athlete, right brain/left brain and creativity.

E. "12 Toxic Tales" by Cathy Newman (National Geographic, May, 2005) describes the effects of several toxins, including some neurotoxins.

F. "Psychiatric Drugs: The New Pharmacopoeia" by Steven Schlozman (Time magazine, April 25, 2005) discusses the use of stimulant, antipsychotic and antidepressant drugs for children. This magazine also has the article "Teen Depression: When Should You Worry?" by Jeff Q. Bostic and Michael Craig Miller.


A. The preying mantis has been called an "auditory cyclops" because it has only one ear. The ear of this insect is located in the middle of its underside, between its legs. (Source: Yager, D.D. and Hoy, R.R., The cyclopean ear: a new sense for the praying mantis, Science, 231:727-729, 1986.)

B. Americans rate the jobs as scientist and doctor as having the highest prestige. (Source:

C. The stapedius muscle is the smallest muscle in the body. This muscle, 6.3 mm in length, helps move the stapes bone in the middle ear. (Source: Gelfand, S.A. Hearing: An Introduction to Psychological and Physiological Acoustics, 4th edition, New York: Marcel Dekker, 2004.)

D. A one-year subscription (institution rate) to the journal Brain Research costs $22,386. (Source:

E. Emil Kraepelin coined the term "Alzheimer's disease" in 1910. (Source: Maurer, K. and Maurer, U. [translated by N. Levi and A. Burns], Alzheimer: the life of a physician and the career of a disease, New York: Columbia University Press, 2003.)


How did you do? Were you able to explain the errors made in the books?

A. Your body has receptors in your skin that take in information from your five senses - sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste.

There are no receptors in the SKIN that take in information for sight, hearing, smell or taste.

B. Your brain is made up of 86 billion tiny nerve cells.

The brain has approximately 86 billion NERVE CELLS (neurons), but perhaps the same number of glial cells. The problem here is that the term "brain cells" is not adequate because glial cells are also brain cells. Additionally, some nerve cells are not tiny; some nerve cells can be more than three feet in length!

C. Nerve impulses can travel at speeds of 120 kilometers per second.

120 kilometers per second is equal to 268,432 miles per hour! This must have been a typographical error. The maximum speed of an action potential is about 120 METERS per second, not 120 KILOMETERS per second.

D. Each axon terminal gently touches a dendrite of another nerve cell.

Within a chemical synapse, two neurons do not actually "touch." Rather, there is a small space between neurons.

E. The electroencephalogram is a machine that can read your brain waves. the record of brain wave activity. Also, it takes a human to "read" the brain waves; the machine simply records the activity.

F. Yawning is your body's way of getting more oxygen.

Experiments performed by Dr. Robert Provine at the University of Maryland have shown that the number of times a person yawns is not affected by the amount of oxygen that people breathe. Therefore, yawning may have nothing to do with getting more oxygen to the body.

G. Receptors tell you when someone presses hard, or gently, on your feet.

Receptors in skin respond to hard or gentle pressure, but they don't tell anything about what caused the response. It is the brain that interprets the information sent by receptors.


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Eric H. Chudler, Ph.D.

"Neuroscience for Kids" is supported by a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) from the National Center of Research Resources.