Volume 5, Issue 1 (January, 2001)


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. Neuroscience for Kids Drawing Contest - Last Month
4. Brain Awareness Week 2001
5. Lab Rules
6. Pale Whales
7. Take Inquiry-based Neuroscience Experiments into Your Classroom
8. Book Review
9. Media Alert
10. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
11. How to Stop Your Subscription


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

A. December Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. NeuroCalendars for January and February
C. A Funny Puzzle (Tickling and the Brain)
D. Backyard Neurotoxin On the Way Out
E. New Lesson Plans with Teacher Resources and Teacher/Student Guides
i. Hearing -
ii. Color vision -
iii. Motion, depth and form -
F. New Worksheets on the Senses
i. with the answers at:
ii. with the answers at:
G. Infant Skulls Only a Fraction as Strong as Adult Skulls
H. 2001 Brain Calendar
I. 2001 Brain Facts Daily Planner
J. Chocolate: Sweet News

In December, 20 new figures were added and 85 pages were modified.


The Neuroscience for Kids "Page of the Month" for January is "Think Tank" at:

How do animals think? How do animals use tools and communicate? These are some of the questions that the "Think Tank" at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. is trying to answer. View the orangutans with the Orangucam in the Think Tank "Smart Room" to see them participate in the Orangutan Language Project. You can even experience the orangutan language training using an interactive program on the site. A visit to the Think Tank is sure to get you thinking about thinking!


This is your LAST reminder: you have only one month to send in your entries for the Neuroscience for Kids Drawing Contest. Your drawing must be received by February 1, 2001 to be considered for prizes. The rules and entry form for the contest are available at:


Brain Awareness Week is only two months away (March 12-18, 2001). Have you made plans? Visit the Dana Alliance and the Society for Neuroscience web sites to learn more about BAW: and

Find out what's going on during BAW here at the University of Washington:


Every laboratory has rules to keep experiments running smoothly and to protect workers from injury. My lab has two important rules that may not have crossed your mind.

A. Food and drinks are not allowed in the lab. Keeping food and drinks out of the lab is necessary for several reasons. First, it is possible that food or a drink will spill and damage equipment. A spilled drink can also destroy data records that have taken hard work and a long time to collect. Second, laboratories contain many chemicals that are dangerous if people eat them. If you are working with the chemicals and happen to touch the food you put in your mouth, it is likely that you will swallow some of the chemical. Of course, it is always a good idea to wash your hands each time you leave the lab. Third, food can attract pests like cockroaches and ants. So, if you are thirsty or hungry, eat outside of the lab.

B. All data stay in the lab. This was a rule I learned when I was an undergraduate researcher in the laboratory of Dr. John Liebeskind at UCLA. Once data are collected, whether they are recorded on paper, in a notebook or on tape, they stay in the lab. Original data NEVER go home. It is too easy for data to get lost, misplaced or eaten by the dog. Once data are destroyed they may be difficult or expensive to replace. Data are too valuable to misplace or lose. Protect data...leave everything in the lab!


[By Ellen Kuwana, Neuroscience for Kids Staff Writer]

Last month, I visited the aquarium in Vancouver, British Columbia. I was particularly intrigued by the belugas--pale, friendly looking whales with heads that are surprisingly small for their large bodies. As if that wasn't strange enough, belugas have a hump on top of their heads. The hump, called a "melon," is located in front of the blowhole. The melon is made up of fat and it changes shape when the whales make sounds. Belugas make so many different noises that early sailors called them "canaries of the sea." These interesting features made me want to find out more about the beluga's brain and senses.

Belugas--scientific name Delphinapterus leucas (meaning without fins and white)--are mammals like us. Adults can grow up to 16 feet (3-5 meters) and weigh 3 tons (1599 kg). Born grey, they fade to white as they age. They have no dorsal fin (famous fin on the back of the shark from the movie "Jaws") which makes it easier to swim under ice sheets in the Arctic waters where they live. A thick layer (10-15 cm thick) of fat, called blubber, keeps them warm. Using echolocation to find food, they eat about 55 pounds (25 kg) of fish, crab, shrimp, snails and worms each day.

Unlike most whales, belugas can nod and turn their heads to look behind them because the seven cervical vertebrae (neck bones) are not fused. This gives the beluga flexibility in the neck. Belugas have an excellent sense of hearing (useful for locating food by echolocation) and a highly developed auditory cerebral cortex. They hear sounds from 1.2-120 kHz, with peak sensitivity at 10-75 kHz. Humans hear sounds ranging from 20 Hz-20 kHz. Vision is not so important to belugas, although they can see both in and out of water. Their eyes contain both rod and cone cells that enable them to see in both dim and bright light. It is unclear how much color they can perceive. They have a limited sense of smell and taste. In fact, the olfactory lobes and olfactory nerves are absent in belugas (and in all toothed whales), which suggests that they have no sense of smell at all.

Did You Know?
A. The most abundant whale in Canadian waters is the beluga.
B. 40% of the beluga's body weight is blubber.
C. The blue whale is the largest animal on Earth.

A. Oceanlink
B. Beluga Senses, Sea World


[By Marge Murray, Neuroscience for Kids Staff Writer]

Wondering what to do in science class next week? Try a neuroscience experiment!

Seven neuroscience lesson plans are now on-line at the Neuroscience For Kids website. All of these lessons investigate sensory systems and all are aimed primarily at middle school students, although teachers can adapt the material for elementary or high school classes. Each plan includes a Teacher Resource, a Teacher Guide, and a Student Guide -- the latter two are in PDF format for easy downloading and printing. Here is what you get in each unit:

Have a look at these units: next week you could be measuring olfactory fatigue, "looking into" depth perception, or pinpointing a sound source. All of the units can be accessed at:


EyeOpeners! by Monika and Hans D. Dossenbach, Woodbridge: Blackbirch Press, 1999, 32 pages (ISBN: 1-56711-216-1).

How many eyes does a wolf spider have? What animal can move each eye indepedently? These and other questions are answered in "EyeOpeners!," a book filled with many colorful photographs to illustrate the world of animal eyes and vision. The amazing eyes of insects, crabs, spiders, fish, snakes, birds, cats, and monkeys are all discussed in this book intended for elementary school-aged children.


A. "The Downfall of Robert Downey Jr." in Time Magazine (December 11, 2000): can drugs rewire the brain?

B. "Side Splitting" in Scientific American (January, 2001): the brain can be fooled by what you see.

C. "Vaccinating Against Paralysis" in US News and World Report (December 25, 2000): possible new therapy for paralysis.


A. The pupil of the eye can vary in diameter from 1.5 to 8.0 mm. Therefore, the amount of light entering the eye can change 30-fold. (Statistic from Guyton and Hall, Textbook of Medical Physiology, 10th edition, 2000.)

B. The word "cerebellum" comes from the Latin words meaning "little brain."

C. There are 10 billion neurons in the human cerebral cortex (statisitc from G.M. Shepherd, The Synaptic Organization of the Brain, 1998, p. 6).

D. The brain of the bottle-nosed dolphin weighs about 1,500 grams. (The human brain weighs about 1,400 grams.)

E. Worker honey bees have a ring of iron oxide ("magnetite") in their abdomens that may be used to detect magnetic fields. They may use this ability to detect changes in the earth's magnetic field and use it for navigation.


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.