Volume 19, Issue 5 (May, 2015)

Welcome to the Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter.

In this issue:

1. What's New at Neuroscience for Kids
2. Neuroscience for Kids Site of the Month
3. BrainWorks: That's a Wrap
4. Book Review
5. Media Alert
6. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
7. Support Neuroscience for Kids
8. How to Stop Your Subscription



Neuroscience for Kids had several new additions in April including:

A. April Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived


The Neuroscience for Kids "Site of the Month" for May is "Nancy's Brain Talks" at:

The brains behind "Nancy's Brain Talks" is Dr. Nancy Kanwisher, a professor of cognitive neuroscience in the Department of Brain & Cognitive Sciences at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Kanwisher has posted many videos of her seminars and lectures on her web site. These talks are divided into four topics:

A) What Kinds of Minds and Brains Do We Have?

B) How Can You Study the Human Mind and Brain?

C) Face Perception

D) fMRI: Imaging of the Human Brain at Work

My two favorite videos are "The Neuroanatomy Lesson" and "Watch Nancy's Brain Get Zapped with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation." As you will see, Dr. Kanwisher is a gifted speaker and she is able to teach a complex subject like neuroscience in a fun way.


Several years ago I made a TV show about the brain called "BrainWorks." The show was a short introduction about the brain for middle school kids. UWTV produced the program and it was even nominated for a Northwest Emmy Award (but it didn't win). Last summer I was approached by UWTV about making more shows. Apparently BrainWorks was, and still is, one of their most popular programs. UWTV asked if I wanted to make more shows and I said, "Yes."

After several months of looking for a sponsor, UWTV found that Seattle Children's Hospital was interested in supporting the program. Both Seattle Children's Hospital and I are concerned about sports-related concussions in young athletes, so we decided that this topic would be the subject of the new show.

Last month I auditioned a few local middle school kids who wanted to be in the program and while the kids were on spring break, we recorded the program. The episode focuses on the symptoms, treatment and prevention of sports-related concussions. The kids and I visited Seattle Children's Hospital to talk with a neurosurgeon, had a mock concussion test with an athletic trainer, built helmets for "Mr. Egghead," spoke with the head coach of the University of Washington Women's Soccer Team and got fitted with bike helmets at Cascade Bicycle Club.

The program is now being edited and show should air in about a month. I will let you know when and where you can watch the show in a future Neuroscience Newsletter.


The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Human by V. S. Ramachandran, New York: W.W. Norton, 2012.

Book review by Sahana G., a freshman student at The Early College at Guilford (Greensboro, NC).

The Tell Tale Brain by V.S. Ramachandran attempts to reveal the workings of the mind through an explanation of malfunctions of the brain. Throughout the book, readers are presented with intriguing cases of these strange malfunctions. Some examples include:

- Patients who believe that people who are close to them are actually imposters (Capgras syndrome)

- A woman who laughs when she should be yelling in pain

- A man who cannot recognize or respond to people when he sees them, but can chat happily with them on the phone

Ramachandran uses these anecdotes to draw a picture of the brain's neural networks and explain how different types of damage correspond to mental deficits. He proves a key point that many of these delusions result from neural signals gone haywire. For example, for many patients that recognize people close to them as imposters, Ramachandran believes that there was damage to a neural route that takes visual information to the amygdala (a part of the brain involved with emotional significance). As a result, the sight of a loved one does not produce its regular response and the brain copes with this anomaly by imagining it as the presence of someone who looked like a loved one, but is not.

I was engaged with the book because it was filled with many visuals that helped to see Ramachandran's hypotheses about neural networks better. He strays off his main thesis when he discusses evolutionary explanations, and the book can be quite hard to follow during these intervals. Other than that, however, his inventiveness of new hypotheses are quite believable because they are substantiated with solid evidence. One example of this is Ramachandran's theory that mirror neurons, or networks of brain cells, played a uniquely important part in human evolution. These cells appear to become active when an organism not only performs certain actions, but sees those actions being performed. Ramachandran theorizes that these cells enable us to understand others, and learn by imitation and empathy.

I definitely recommend this book to high school students and up, as it is quite comprehensible and certainly enjoyable to anyone who does not have a background in neuroscience.


A. The May/June 2015 issue of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN MIND is on newsstands now with articles including "The Psychology of Pets," "Pets: Why Do We Have Them?," "What Your Pet Reveals about You," and "The Science of Friendship."

B. "Lifting the Curse of Alzheimer's" by Gary Stix (SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, May, 2015).

C. "Resetting the Addictive Brain" by Adam Piore (DISCOVER magazine, May, 2015).

D. "Fighting Through the Fog of Concussion" by Clark Elliot (DISCOVER magazine, May, 2015).

E. "Taste, Sickness, and Learning" by Terry L. Davidson and Anthony L. Riley (AMERICAN SCIENTIST, May-June, 2015).

F. "Mind Meld" by Jerry Adler, "Strokes of Genius" by Elizabeth Quill and "Upload Your Mind" by Jerry Adler (SMITHSONIAN magazine, May, 2015).

G. "Dolphin Intelligence" by Joshua Foer (NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, May, 2015).


A. May is National Stroke Awareness Month, Better Sleep Month, Huntington's Disease Awareness Month and Mental Health Month.

B. Sigmund Freud was born on May 6, 1856.

C. In 2009, Washington State was the first state in the nation to pass a youth sports-related concussion safety law (the Zackery Lystedt Law).

D. A nematocyst is a structure used by jellyfish, coral and sea anemones to capture prey.

E. The diameter of an ion channel is about 0.5 nanometer (Source: Breedlove et al., Biological Psychology, 2007).


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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.