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. The Neuroscience for Kids Page of the Month
3. Annual Society for Neuroscience Meeting
4. Media Alert
5. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
6. What's Coming Up In Future Issues
7. How to Stop Your Subscription
A. November Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. Divisions of the Nervous System Review Quiz
C. Interactive Quiz - Amphetamines, Cocaine and Marijuana
D. Neuroscience in the News
E. John Glenn - Neuroscience in Space
F. Changing Dogma: New Tricks for the Old Brain - Neurogenesis in the Adult Human
G. Drug Word Search Puzzle
http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/findit6.html H. Yawning: why we yawn and why they are contagious
I. Anxiety and Memory: Their Effects on Cognition and Musical Performance
In November, 31 new figures were added and 59 pages were modified.
The Neuroscience for Kids "Page of the Month" for December is "Probe the Brain," an interactive activity where you can stimulate a brain electrically from the comfort of your own computer. "Probe the Brain" is one feature of the web site called "A Science Odyssey" and is produced by WGBH Interactive Media. "Probe the Brain" is located at:
The activity starts with a view of a cartoon patient having brain surgery. By moving and clicking the mouse, you can control an electric probe to stimulate the motor cortex of the patient. Each click of the mouse button causes a pulse of electricity, a brief "zapping sound", the appearance of a word that identifies the body part stimulated and a twitching of that body part. You will get a short congratulatory message and a little surprise after you stimulate all 17 sites on the motor cortex.
The activity requires the Macromedia Shockwave plug-in which you can download from the page. The creators of "Probe the Brain" have also made the program available for you to download and use off-line. Instructions to get Shockwave and to download the software are available at:
The meeting is so large it is difficult to describe. There were over 23,400 people who attended the meeting and I suppose each of these people has his or her own interpretation of the meeting. I will describe my own personal experiences, but remember, my description of the meeting is only one person's view.
My trip started on Saturday, November 7, with a flight from Seattle to Los Angeles. The person I was sitting next to happened to be reading the program for the meeting so we struck up a conversation. My neighbor was a psychiatrist who does research on neurotransmitter (serotonin) receptors and works at a local Seattle hospital. I suggested we share a taxi from the airport to downtown Los Angeles to save money because our hotels were located only 3 blocks from each other.
Although the experience I had while checking-in at my hotel has nothing to do with neuroscience, I thought you might get a laugh at my expense. When I arrived at my hotel, I expected to meet a neurologist friend from Wisconsin who was going to share my room. Since he had not yet arrived, I decided to arrange the room. The hotel clerk sent me up to a room on the 4th floor. When I opened the door to this room, I found that there was only one bed. I called the front desk to alert them to this situation and they told me to come back down to the front desk for a new room assignment. When I got back to the registration desk, the clerk took my old room key and gave me a new key for a room on the 6th floor. When I went to this new room, I opened the door only to find someone watching TV...and it was not my roommate. The room was already occupied! I apologized to this person and went back to the front desk.
By now I was getting a little frustrated. I told the clerk that this was my third attempt to get a room and perhaps we could do it right this time. After a bit of checking on the computer, the clerk informed me that there were no more rooms with two beds available. I told the clerk I had a confirmed reservation for a room with 2 beds. After a short "heated" conversation with me, the clerk called the hotel manager who came over and granted me a room upgrade on the 10th floor. This time the room was fine. In fact, I was just next door to the Presidential Suite.
Enough of the travelogue...on to the meeting. I woke up at 6:30 am on Sunday to begin a very busy day. At 8 am, my "Teaching of Neuroscience" poster had to be at the LA Convention Center. From 8 am to 12 noon, I stood by my poster answering questions about the "Neuroscience for Kids" web pages and talking to people about the use of the Internet to teach neuroscience. It was great meeting many people with whom I have communicated with by e-mail but had never met in person.
At 1 pm, my "basic science" poster had to be up on a bulletin board. From 1 pm to 2:15 pm I answered questions about my research on the physiological changes that occur in neurons after a nerve injury. Several scientists I spoke with were also investigating the changes that occur in the nervous system after nerve damage. It was interesting to exchange ideas and discuss problems we have encountered in our experiments. I was expected to be at my poster until 4 pm., but due to a scheduling conflict, I had to start my workshop on Internet Neuroscience Resources at 3 pm at a convention hotel located about 7 long blocks away. I arranged for a friend to take my poster down at 4 pm and made my way to the workshop.
About 30 pre-college teachers attended my workshop titled "Internet Neuroscience Resources for the Classroom." This workshop was one of several events for pre-college teachers sponsored by the Society for Neuroscience Committee on Neuroscience Literacy. The teachers were a lively group of people who had plenty to say on the subject of using the Internet in their classrooms.
By 4 pm I had presented my 2 posters and the workshop. There was still another event that I wanted to attend...the Brain Awareness Week (BAW) planning session. BAW is an event that you will be hearing about from me again in the next few months. The Society for Neuroscience and the DANA Alliance for Brain Initiatives coordinate BAW. At the planning session, several speakers provided ideas for 1999 BAW (in March) and encouraged people to get involved. I learned some tips and ideas to use in my own BAW activities next March.
There was even one more session at the meeting that I had planned to attend at 8 pm, but I was so tired that I just had dinner and then called it a day.
On Monday (Nov. 9) morning I got another early start, arriving at the Convention Center at 8:30 am. With my presentations over, I had a chance to explore the meeting at my leisure. Before the meeting, I had looked over the program and made a schedule of posters and talks that I wanted to attend. As I mentioned earlier, there is a limited number of presentations that one person can visit and the ones I chose were those related to my research (pain mechanisms, new treatments to alleviate pain). Several presenters described data using brain imaging methods like functional MRI and PET scans to investigate how the brain processes pain. Using these methods, researchers have been able to "see" differences in the way the brains of men and women are activated by pain.
A large portion of the convention center was filled with exhibitors representing book companies, equipment manufacturers, government agencies and neurological disease advocacy groups. I picked up material related to research grants as well as basic information about autism, depression, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and sleep disorders.
By the time the last posters came down for the day at 4 pm, most people at the meeting (including me) were extremely tired. However, on Monday afternoon, there was a presentation titled "Taking Neuroscience into the Schools." During this special workshop, a novel approach to teaching science in Israel was presented by Dr. Itzchak Parnas, Professor and Chair of Neurobiology at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. At the Belmonte Laboratories in Jeruselam, Dr. Parnas directs an entire institute devoted to teaching science to pre-college teachers and their students. A second speaker, Dr. Jan Tuomi from the National Academy of Science, discussed different approaches to taking neuroscience into schools from going into individual classrooms to reforming science education at the district or state level.
Most of Tuesday was free for me to pick and choose the presentations I wanted to attend. There were more sessions on pain research as well as posters on movement disorders that I visited. I also met with representatives from several commerical exhibits that I had missed on Monday.
Also on Tuesday was a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience Committee on Neuroscience Literacy (CNL). I have been appointed to a three year term on this committee that is set up to promote the understanding of brain research among K-12 students and teachers. The CNL sponsors several events during the annual neuroscience meeting including several workshops for precollege teachers, high school students, and neuroscientists. I look forward to serving on this committee and assisting the Society for Neuroscience in promoting brain research throughout the year.
I had Wednesday morning to attend a few more presentations before I met my family in Los Angeles. This was our first vacation this year and my daughter (now 8 years old) wanted to go to Disneyland. We spent 3 days at Disneyland and while I was supposed to relax, it was difficult to stop thinking about my work. Everywhere I looked I thought about the brain and how it functions.
The people at Disneyland must have done a tremendous amount of research into how the brain interprets the outside world. The "Star Tours" ride at Disneyland is a good example of how Disney engineers have used knowledge about perception and sensation to fool people into believing that they are flying. "Star Tours" is a ride that simulates a trip in outer space. While riders actually do not go anywhere, it definitely feels like they are moving. In addition to images that trick the visual system into believing that movement is happening, the chairs that people are sitting on rotate in different ways to simulate motion. "Star Tours" is a wonderful experience - one that my 5-year-old son screamed through the entire time.
After "Star Tours" my son stayed away from the wild rides. He liked the "Tea Cups," a great way to circulate the fluid in the semicircular canals of your ears and to create dizziness and nausea that lasts for several minutes. The older rides at Disneyland ("It's a Small World"; "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride"; "Alice in Wonderland") take advantage of how the brain interprets visual and auditory signals. It makes me wonder if Walt Disney had any training in neuroscience.
Newsweek and Time Magazine also had brain research-related stories in November. Both magazines reviewed the recent research that showed new neuron growth in the brains of adult humans. These articles are on-line at:
B. 400 to 500 ml of cerebrospinal fluid is produced each day.
C. The smallest bone in the human body is the "stapes". This bone, found in the ear, is only 0.25 to 0.33 cm long (0.10 to 0.13 inches) and weighs only 1.9 to 4.3 milligrams.
D. Neurological illnesses affect over 50 million American each year (statistic from "Brain Facts", Society for Neuroscience, 1997).
E. Some of the oldest cells in the human body are neurons...they last a lifetime.
A. What's new to the pages. I will let you know what new features have
been added in December.
B. A new Neuroscience for Kids "Page of the Month."
C. Some of the pages I am currently working on are:
A Virtual Neuroscience Laboratory; Schizophrenia; Depression; Alzheimer's disease; Parkinson's disease; Nitric Oxide and the Nobel Prize
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.