Volume 12, Issue 1 (January, 2008)


Welcome to the Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter.

Here is what you will find in this issue:

1. What's New at Neuroscience for Kids
2. Neuroscience for Kids Site of the Month
3. Neuroscience for Kids Writing Contest - Now Open
4. 2008 Brain Awareness Week
5. Popular Medical Myths
6. Media Alert
7. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
8. Support Neuroscience for Kids
9. How to Stop Your Subscription



Neuroscience for Kids had several new additions in December including:

A. December Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. Elephants Use Sight and Smell to Know Friend From Foe
C. Anti-smoking drug may have dangerous side effects
D. January, February, March and April 2008 Neurocalendars
E. Helmets for Winter Sports

In December, 6 new figures were added and 46 pages were modified.


The Neuroscience for Kids "Site of the Month" for January is "N-Squad" at:

N-Squad is an interactive adventure set in the year 2260 in the city of Neuropolis. Your job: use your problem-solving skills to help scientists solve a mysterious death. As you play the game, you will learn about how alcohol affects the body.

I asked Dr. Leslie Miller, one of the developers of N-Squad, about the game; here is her answer:

"Plunge into the world of forensic science and solve an alcohol-related mystery! The N-Squad web adventures were created with support from the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA) by Rice University's Center for Technology in Teaching and Learning. The first episode of N-Squad takes the player to the scene of an accident to begin an investigation, while learning about the digestive system's role in processing alcohol.

Episode Two will be up in January and continues the mystery with interactive games such as ADH-Attack and the BAC-O-Meter."


The NEUROSCIENCE FOR KIDS WRITING CONTEST is open for ONE MORE MONTH to students in kindergarten through high school. The complete set of rules and the official entry form for the contest are available at:

All writing contest entries must be RECEIVED by February 1, 2008. Students from all countries are welcome to enter the contest.


Brain Awareness Week (BAW) is scheduled for March 10-16, 2008. I hope you have plans. You might want to have a neuroscientist visit your class or schedule a brain fair for your school.

Here at the University of Washington, 500 students will attend the 11th annual BAW Open House. The Open House will feature hands-on, interactive exhibits sponsored by students, faculty and staff from various university departments and organizations.

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; see:

In celebration of BAW, send a "brainy" postcard to a friend or family member; see:



The new year seems like a good time to clear up a few misunderstandings. That's just what Dr. Rachel Vreeman and Dr. Aaron Carroll have done with a few popular medical myths. Vreeman and Carroll investigated seven medical myths that even many doctors believe and published their results in the British Medical Journal. Here are their findings:

Myth: Drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
Fact: There are no data saying that you have to drink this much water to keep hydrated; much of the fluid you get is by drinking juice, milk, soft drinks and caffeinated drinks.

Myth: We use only 10% of our brains.
Fact: There are no inactive parts of our brains. See the Neuroscience for Kids Web site for a complete explanation of this myth;

Myth: Hair and fingernails continue to grow after death.
Fact: Hair and fingernail growth requires hormonal regulation that stops after someone dies. Dehydration of the skin may make it look like hair and fingernail grow, but they do not.

Myth: Reading in dim light ruins your eyesight.
Fact: Reading in dim light may cause eye strain and problems focusing, but no long-term damage.

Myth: Shaving causes hair to grow back faster or coarser.
Fact: Shaved hair does not have a tapered end and new hair is not lightened by the sun. Therefore, shaved hair may look darker than unshaven hair.

Myth: Mobile phones are dangerous in hospitals.
Fact: Mobile phones may interfere with medical equipment only when they are close to one another. Mobile phones have never killed anyone in a hospital.

Myth: Eating turkey makes people especially drowsy.
Fact: Turkey is supposedly high in tryptophan, a chemical linked to sleepiness. However, turkey is not especially high in tryptophan and eating other food reduces tryptophan's effects. Any large meal can cause someone to feel sleepy.

Reference: Vreeman, R.C. and Carroll, A.E., Medical myths, BMJ, 335:1288-1289, 2007.


A. "Head Games" by Sean Gregory (TIME magazine, December 10, 2007) discusses the increasing number of concussions suffered by girls. This issue of TIME also has "Absinthe Is Back" by Carolyn Sayre about the recent interest in the anise-flavored alcohol drink called absinthe.

B. "Diagnosis: Same as It Never Was" by Michael Craig Miller (NEWSWEEK magazine, December 10, 2007) discusses how the diagnosis of psychiatric illness has changed.

C. The "Sleeping & Dreaming" exhibit at the Wellcome Collection (London, England; until March 9, 2008) is a display of 300 objects created by artists, scientists, film-makers and historians around five themes: Dead Tired; Traces of Sleep; Dream Worlds; Elusive Sleep; World Without Sleep. If you cannot visit the exhibit, you can still view a few of the items on the online taster:

D. "A Good Night's Sleep" by Alice Park (TIME magazine, December 17, 2007) discusses how the amount of sleep affects health.

E. "Paging Dr. Fear" by Michael Behar (POPULAR SCIENCE magazine, January, 2008) describes the work of Dr. Joseph LeDoux who is investigating how fear is controlled by the brain.

F. "The Road Back" by Tim Layden (SPORTS ILLUSTRATED magazine, December 17, 2007) discusses how professional football player Kevin Everett has battled back from a spinal injury he suffered a few months ago.

G. Several neuroscientists were recognized by Scientific American with SciAm 50 Awards (SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN magazine, January 2008):

* Itay Baruchi and Eshel Ben-Jacob: memory research
* Richard D. Smith and Desmond J. Smith: degenerative disease research
* Stina M. Tucker, Esther Oh and Juan C. Troncoso: Alzheimer's disease research
* Beka Solomon: Alzheimer's disease research
* Giovanna R. Mallucci: Prion disease research
* Robert Rohwer: Prion disease research


A. The brain of a honey bee is about 1 cubic millimeter in size and contains 950,000 neurons (Source: Menzel, R. and Giurfa, M., Cognitive architecture of a mini-brain: the honeybee, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 5:62-71, 2001).

B. For a person to see light, at least seven rod receptors in the retina need to be activated. (Source: Goldstein, E.B., Sensation and Perception, 7th edition, Belmont (CA): Thomson Wadsworth, 2007.)

C. Using their extremely good sense to detect electricity, sharks can detect 10 billionths of a volt per centimeter of seawater. This is the same as detecting a 1.5 volt battery across 1,500 kilometers of seawater. (Source: Scientific American, December, 2007).

D. "Wisdom teeth" are the third molar teeth that usually develop in the teenage years. Having (or not having) these teeth has nothing to do with intelligence. Rather, they are called "wisdom teeth" because they develop later in life, presumably when people are wiser.

E. The cave-dwelling fish (Astyanax mexicanus) is born with degenerating eyes and is blind.


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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.