Volume 2, Issue 9 (September, 1998)


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. Sounds Like School
4. Supplies and Materials for Your Class
5. Music Education Beyond the Mozart Effect
6. The Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
7. Media Watch
8. What's Coming Up in Future Issues
9. How to Stop Your Subscription


Neuroscience for Kids had several new additions in August. Here are some of them:

A. Brain Freeze Tag Lesson Plans
B. The Blood-Brain-Barrier
C. Statistics: By the Numbers
D. Writing a Research Report
E. August Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
F. New Brain Trip Game
G. Brain Bingo Game
H. Books and Articles page was completely revised
I. Music Education Beyond the Mozart Effect
J. Web Page Evaluation Form

In August, 68 new figures were added and 64 pages were modified.



The Neuroscience for Kids "Page of the Month" for September is the "National Institute on Drug Abuse" (NIDA) at:

The NIDA is to be congratulated for their dedicated work in creating educational materials concerning the effects of drug abuse on the body. They have published an on-line resource called "Mind Over Matter" designed for students in grades 5 through 9. These pages are perfect for students who want to learn more about the effects of marijuana, opiates, inhalants, hallucinogens, nicotine, stimulants and steroids. There is also a guide to help teachers use this material in the classroom. You can go directly to "Mind Over Matter" at:

The NIDA also has plenty of information for older students (and adults) in the NIDA Infofax. The Infofax contains fact sheets on drug abuse and addiction. Two "packets" of teaching materials with graphics for slides and overheads are also available.


Some students and teachers went back to school last month while others start again this month. Regardless of when you started, you may be hearing the familiar and pleasant sounds of school: bells playing...students talking...fingernails being scratched on the chalkboard. What? The sound of nails on the chalkboard isn't pleasant? Does it make the hair on your head stand up and send chills down your spine? Why is this?

Back in 1986, a few scientists were curious about why the sound of fingernails on the chalkboard was so annoying. They did some research and published a paper called "Psychoacoustics of a Chilling Sound" (in Perception and Psychophysics, vol. 39, pages 77-80, 1986). In their study, 24 adults were tested to see how they rated the pleasantness and unpleasantness of certain sounds. The researchers duplicated the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard by scraping a "True Value Pacemaker" three-pronged garden tool over a slate surface.

Here are the sounds that the subjects ranked in order from the most pleasant to the most annoying:

Spinning bicycle tire
Running water
Jingling keys
Pure tone
Pencil sharpener
Shaking metal parts
White noise
Compressed air
Blender motor
Dragged stool
Metal drawer being opened
Scraping wood
Scraping metal
Rubbing styrofoam together
Scraping slate with garden tool (the fingernail/chalkboard sound)

Rubbing styrofoam together was almost as annoying as scraping the slate. The researchers were surprised to find that when low frequencies of the unpleasant scraping sound were removed ("filtered out"), the unpleasantness of the sound was reduced. On the other hand, when the high frequencies of the unpleasant scraping sound were filtered out, no effect was observed. For some reason, the low frequency part of the scrape is what sends chills up your spine.

You may be thinking, "So what? Why should the sound of fingernails on the chalkboard be so annoying?". No one really knows the answer to this question. It is possible that there is some evolutionary significance to this type of sound. Apparently, the nail/chalkboard sound is very similar to the warning cry of some monkeys. The authors of the "Chilling Sound" paper suggested that it is possible, just possible, that the response to these annoying sounds is some "leftover" reflex from a common primate ancestor. This reflex may be built in to get our attention. It has even been suggested (in Medical Hypothesis, vol. 46, page 487, 1996) that our response to this harsh sound is a property of our inner ear leftover from a fish lateral line system. Maybe...maybe not. I do know a sound that is even more annoying than fingernails on a alarm clock!



Do you need some materials and supplies related to the nervous system for your home or school? If you do, let me make some suggestions. While I do NOT endorse any of the following companies, I do want to point out some interesting products that are available.

Models of the nervous system: American 3B Company, Einstein's Emporium, Biomedical Models Company, and GPI Anatomical Models.

Brain Jello Molds: Archie McPhee Company and The Brain Store.

Brain Specimens: Carolina Biological Supply Company, Blue Spruce Biological Supply, Inc., Connecticut Valley Biological, and Sargent-Welch.

Nervous System Charts: Anatomical Chart Company, Carolina Biological Supply Company, and Sargent-Welch.

The URLs for these and other companies can be found at:

Be careful...some of these materials are very expensive. Check out the "Free" page on the Neuroscience for Kids web site for some supplies that will not cost you anything. The Free Page is at:



Dr. Daisy T. Lu has written a fascinating article for the Neuroscience for Kids web pages on the effects of music on the brain and new ways to teach music. Dr. Lu is a music specialist at Cascade View Elementary School in the Tukwila School District, WA. She is also an adjunct faculty member at Seattle Pacific University, a harpist and a pianist. In 1986, she wrote her doctoral dissertation on the effects of teaching music skills on the development of reading skills among first graders. Dr. Lu's article can be found at:



The Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia is a new feature of the Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter. If you want to do well the next time the Jeopardy game show has a "Brain" category or if you just want to impress friends with your "neuro-knowledge", then this Treasure Trove is for you. Each month, the Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia will provide you with a few brainy facts, numbers, statistics or just plain interesting stuff about the nervous system. Here are the first five pieces of trivia from the treasure trove:

A. The cortex gets its name from the Latin word for "bark" (of a tree).
B. There are approximately 100 billion neurons in the human brain.
C. The average human brain weighs about 3 pounds (1.4 kilograms).
D. Unlike humans, the octopus does not have a blind spot.
E. The average length of the adult spinal cord is 45 cm for men and 43 cm for women.



A. Last month I told you about the PBS TV special series called "The Mind Traveler" with Dr. Oliver Sacks. I hope you were able to watch the first episode on Usher's syndrome. People with Usher's syndrome are born deaf and gradually become blind over the years. The next three episodes of the series will discuss color blindness, autism and William's syndrome. It was announced on "The Mind Traveler" web page that the shows would be broadcast on Tuesday nights. However, in Seattle the shows will be broadcast in September on Wednesday nights. So make sure you check your local PBS TV listings for the correct day and time so you don't miss an episode of this fascinating series. Check PBS TV listings at:

B. A Neuroscience for Kids newsletter reader informed me that the cover story of the September 1998 issue of the magazine called "National Geographic World" is all about the brain. This magazine is best for students in grades 4-6. They even mentioned the "Neuroscience for Kids" web pages as a place to get more information about the nervous system.

C. A new book just published called "The Busy Educator's Guide to the World Wide Web" by Marjan Glavac also mentioned the "Neuroscience for Kids" web pages. "The Busy Educator's Guide to the World Wide Web" is full of great suggestions and descriptions of web sites to help in the classroom. For more information on this book, see:



A. What's new to the pages. I will let you know what new features have been added in September.
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
AVI "movies"



To remove yourself from this mailing list and stop your subscription to the Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter, send e-mail to Dr. Eric H. Chudler at:


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.