Volume 4, Issue 4 (April 2000)


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. Brain Awareness Week
4. Kindergarten Children's Knowledge About Drugs
5. Butterfly Ears - Have you heard?
6. Book Review
7. Media Alert
8. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
9. How to Stop Your Subscription


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

A. March Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. April NeuroCalendar
C. Narcolepsy
D. The Narcolepsy Gene
E. Pokemon on the Brain
F. Past Neuroscience for Kids Book Reviews
G. Brain Concentration Game (Short term memory/neuroanatomy)
H. April Brain Fact-a-Day Calendar

In March, 60 new figures were added and 70 pages were modified.



The Neuroscience for Kids "Page of the Month" for April is "The Digital Anatomy Lab" from Queensland University of Technology in Australia at:

Dr. Tim Barker and Dr. Joseph Young have used material from the US National Library of Medicine Visible Human Project to create an interactive anatomy laboratory. Get an inside view of the human body by clicking on an outline of the body. This will send you to a page with a "cross-section" or slice through the body region that you clicked on. A special page on the site allows you to view the head and brain in three dimensions. Be aware that the site has large image files so it may take a long time to load a page on your computer if you have a slow connection. In spite of this minor problem, the Digital Anatomy Lab with its many images of the human brain is a great place to learn about the structure of the brain.


I hope that you were able to celebrate Brain Awareness Week (BAW) last month. There were many activities here in the Pacific Northwest to keep people busy. I started my BAW activities on March 3 with a visit to Ms. Kristi Gustafson-Lin's class at North City Elementary School in Shoreline, WA. This was the fourth consecutive year that I visited her class for BAW. As usual, the students were prepared with excellent questions such as:

How does a baby's brain get bigger?
Why don't people feel pain if they get hurt during a football game?
Are bats really blind?
What animal has the biggest brain?

The University of Washington BAW Open House was held on March 7. Over 300 students, parents and teachers arrived at the university for a presentation by the Pacific Science Center/Group Health Cooperative Brain Power Team. Following this presentation, students explored hands-on exhibits hosted by University of Washington researchers and clinicians and local neurological disorder support groups. Students got "up close and personal" with neuroscience by being connected to EEG machines and a brain blood flow monitor. There were also preserved human brain specimens that students could see and hold (with gloves, of course). The Open House was a great opportunity for students to explore the brain and to get questions about neuroscience answered by experts.

On March 11, I drove three hours to Portland, Oregon, to take part in more BAW activities. The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) teamed up with the Oregon Health Sciences University to bring BAW to the Portland community. On Sunday, March 12, David Heil (ex-host of the PBS TV show called "Newton's Apple") and I got together for four presentations on the brain and nervous system for OMSI visitors. Our last presentation was for local teachers who wanted more ideas for teaching neuroscience to their students. One sixth grade teacher who attended this presentation mentioned that her students have been using the "Neuroscience for Kids" web site with great success. You can imagine how happy I was to hear this!

March 16th was another busy BAW day for me. First, I was off to the Pacific Science Center for their "Brain Day Celebration." There were more than 1,000 museum visitors who enjoyed neuro-related exhibits and activities set up in a special demonstration area. Later that day I had an exhibit at Lake Forest Park Elementary School for their annual Science Night. At both events, I had visitors guess which brain specimens went with pictures of different animals. Everyone also had a chance to view visual illusions and find their own blind spots.

If you would like to share news of your Brain Awareness Week activities with readers of this newsletter, please send me (e-mail: a description of what you did and I will try to include it in the next newsletter. Hearing about other good ideas will help people as they plan their BAW activities for next year.


Do you remember what you learned in kindergarten? What did you know back then? Did you know how to read, write and count? Did you know about cigarettes, alcohol, LSD, and marijuana? What do children today know about drugs? Researchers at the University of Kentucky recently published their findings concerning what children in kindergarten know about drugs.

Researchers asked 126 children (average age, 5.8 years old) about their knowledge and attitudes about drugs. Children were shown pictures of a young bear named "Bunchy" with a parent bear. Some of the pictures showed the parent bear reading or eating; other pictures showed the parent bear using drugs.

Almost all (95%) children could identify cigarettes and 56% of them identified at least one alcoholic drink. Only 17% of the children recognized one drug among marijuana, cocaine, LSD or an injectable drug. Although most children had negative attitudes about drugs, 6 children thought that smoking was good. About 25% of the children thought that Bunchy would be happy to get a sip of beer. Surprisingly, researchers found no correlation between the children's knowledge about drugs and their parents' reported use of drugs.

This study is important for several reasons. First, not all of the children in the study were aware of the dangers associated with drug abuse. Perhaps this indicates that stronger efforts need to be made to educate young children about the effects of drugs and ways to prevent drug abuse. Second, children's knowledge about drugs did not appear to be influenced by their parents' drug use. Perhaps children were around other people who used drugs or had seen pictures of drug use on television or in movies and advertisements. Finally, this study shows that many young children do know about the existence of drugs, especially tobacco and alcohol. Therefore, these data suggest that it is never to early to discuss the dangers of drugs.

For information on how drugs affect the nervous system, please see:

Reference: Hahn, E.J., et al., Kindergarten children's knowledge and perceptions of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, Journal of School Health, 70:51-55, 2000. February 2000.


Animals have some amazing senses. Dogs, cats and mice can hear high frequency sounds that people cannot hear. Elephants can hear low frequency sounds that people cannot hear. These animals all use their ears to hear. Scientists have recently discovered that another animal can hear high frequency sounds...the butterfly. Even more amazingly, they have discovered that these butterflies have ears on their wings!

Scientists studied a particular butterfly that lives on an island in Panama. Using an electron microscope, scientists located a very thin eardrum on the wings of the butterfly. This eardrum was just one micron thick: that's one one-thousandth of a millimeter. Sensory organs that respond to movement of the eardrum were located just below the eardrum.

Unlike other butterflies, this Panamanian butterfly is nocturnal (active at night) and is eaten by bats. Researchers believe that this butterfly has ears that act as "bat detectors," hearing the sounds of echolocating bats searching for food.

Just when you thought you have heard it all, along comes another amazing discovery from the animal kingdom.

Reference: Yack, J.E. and Fullard, J.H., Ultrasonic hearing in nocturnal butterflies, Nature, 403:265-266, 2000.


"The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life," Joseph LeDoux, New York: Touchstone Books, 1998, pp. 384, ISBN: 0684836559. Recommended for high school and older students. (This book review was written by Mike Selby, a science writer.)

It was the Irish poet William Yeats who wrote that the sole function of the brain was to bow down to the desires and whims of the heart. Joseph LeDoux disagrees with him. Drawing on 20 years of research at the New York University Center for Neural Science, LeDoux offers his findings in his latest book, "The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life."

Beginning with a brief history of emotion research, LeDoux quickly introduces the structural and chemical components of the brain, specifically the ones responsible for human emotion. The main focus of the book is on the emotion of fear, which is natural since fear has been the thrust of LeDoux's research. Believing fear to be a byproduct of evolution, LeDoux challenges many long standing beliefs held by many cognitive scientists and psychologists. To his credit, LeDoux backs up his claims with powerful research data.

The real strength of this book is its eagerness to be understood. Aimed at both academic and general audiences, the book avoids complex explanations or dry statistics. Just as a reader's mind begins to spin at words such as androendritic, acetylcholinesterase, and subcortical, along comes an easy to understand sketch or photo to aid non-scientists. Anyone interested in exploring the why and how of emotions will find this book to be an engaging and rewarding read.


A. "Building a Brainier Mouse" by Joe Z. Tsien in the April 2000 issue of Scientific American - how genetic engineering may improve intelligence.

B. "Wired for Sadness" by Jim Robbins in the April 2000 issue of Discover - the connection between the left prefrontal cortex and depression.


A. The brain of a goldfish makes up 0.3% of its total body weight. An adult human brain is about 2% of total body weight. (Statistic from G.E. Nilsson, "The Cost of a Brain," Natural History, 12/99-1/00.)

B. Approximately 2 million people in the U.S. are impaired by the effects of cerebrovascular disease, including strokes. (Statistic from Kandel, Schwartz and Jessell, Principles of Neural Science, 2000.)

C. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 states that the mandatory penalty for possession of 1 gram of LSD is 5 years in prison.

D. The word "glia" comes from the Greek word meaning "glue."

E. There are over 1,000 disorders of the brain and nervous system. (Statistic from Brain Facts, Society for Neuroscience, 1997, p. 2)


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.