Volume 5, Issue 12 (December, 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. Neuroscience for Kids Page of the Month
3. Writing Contest
4. Brain Awareness Week - March 11-17, 2002
5. Another Neurotoxic Creature
6. Media Alert
7. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
8. Address Change
9. How to Stop Your Subscription


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

A. November Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. January NeuroCalendar
C. 2002 Neuroscience Facts Daily Planner
D. Nicotine -- The Danger of Just One Cigarette
E. First Vaccine for West Nile Virus Announced
F. Common Pain Reliever May Reduce the Risk of Alzheimer's Disease

In November, 10 new figures were added and 82 pages were modified.


The Neuroscience for Kids "Page of the Month" for December is "Founders of Neurology" at:

You have probably heard of Alzheimer's Disease and Parkinson's Disease, but who is Alzheimer? Who was Parkinson? You may have heard of the brain regions called Broca's area and Wernicke's area, but who was Broca? Who is Wernicke? The "Founders of Neurology" web site will answer these and other questions about people who have made important contributions to the field of neurology.

The site, developed by the Department of Neurology at the University of Illinois, starts with an alphabetical list of 105 people. A picture of each person and a brief description of his or her (although only two women are represented) work are provided on separate pages. The short summaries do not provide many details, but they are good starting points to learn about the history of one field of neuroscience.


You still have TWO more months to enter the Neuroscience for Kids Writing Contest. To enter the contest, you must write a poem, limerick or haiku with at least THREE lines but not more than TEN lines. Your writing must have a neuroscience theme such as brain anatomy (a part of the brain), brain function (memory, language, emotions, movement, etc.), drug abuse or brain health (helmets, brain disorders, etc.). Students in different grades must write poems using different styles:

If you are a student in kindergarten to Grade 2: write any type of poem; it doesn't even have to rhyme.

If you are a student in Grade 3 to Grade 5: write a poem that rhymes.

If you are a student in Grade 6 to Grade 8: write a brainy limerick.

If you are a student in Grade 9 to Grade 12: write a brainy haiku (3 lines only).

A complete list of rules, sample poems and an entry form are available at:

Capstone Press has already donated some books as prizes. There will be many prizes for students in each grade category. Perhaps you can be a winner!

Good luck!


Brain Awareness Week (BAW) will take place in March. I hope you have plans to celebrate and explore the brain during this time. Two important sources of information for BAW are the DANA Alliance and the Society for Neuroscience. These organizations can provide you with materials and ideas to promote your BAW activities. Listings on their web sites can help you find BAW programs that will take place in your city. The Neuroscience for Kids web site can also provide you with some BAW materials.

Neuroscience for Kids BAW page

Society for Neuroscience BAW page

DANA Alliance BAW page

So, what can you do for BAW? If you are a student, tell your teacher about BAW. Let your teachers know about the BAW web sites and they may develop a program for BAW. Don't forget to offer to help your teacher. If you are a teacher, go to the BAW web sites to get ideas. You may find BAW activities at local universities. Some of these universities may have lab tours or open houses that you can visit with your students. Perhaps you can talk to other teachers and get the entire school involved. Let the DANA Alliance and Society for Neuroscience know about your plans, especially if you will be creating your own BAW event. If you are a parent, contact your schools to see what they are doing. Perhaps you can help out with your child's classroom or act as a chaperon during a BAW field trip. If your school does not have any plans for BAW, perhaps you can volunteer to develop something new.

SPECIAL NOTICE for teachers in the Seattle Area: Do you want to bring your students to the 2002 Brain Awareness Week Open House at the University of Washington on March 5, 2002? We are now accepting applications. Please complete and return the application form at:

If you cannot download the application form, contact Dr. Chudler by e-mail:


Regular readers of this newsletter are familiar with many animals whose venom affects the nervous system. Past newsletters have discussed black widow spiders, pufferfish, rattlesnakes, centipedes, newts and Gila monsters. Here is another animal to add to your neurotoxic creature list: the cone snail.

Most cone snails are found in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. They feed on worms, snails, octopuses and small fish. To capture prey, cone snails send out a hollow, harpoon-like tooth that injects a neurotoxin. The prey is paralyzed by the neurotoxin and then is eaten. Although humans are not on the cone snail menu, divers and shell collectors have been stung accidentally by these beautiful animals. Symptoms of a cone snail sting include pain, paralysis, breathing problems and visual disturbances. Some species of cone snails are deadly.

Cone snail neurotoxin is called conotoxin. There are several types of conotoxin, each having a different mechanism of action. One type of conotoxin blocks receptors for the neurotransmitter called acetylcholine; other types of conotoxin block potassium channels, sodium channels or calcium channels. These channel blockers all affect how neurons transmit messages.

Although the cone snail uses its venom for its own predatory purposes, scientists are using conotoxin to develop new medicines for pain, epilepsy, movement disorders, coma and stroke. Because conotoxin can relax muscles and cause numbness, anesthesiologists are interested in how this toxin can be used to treat pain.


A. "The Secret Life of the Brain" is a new, five-part PBS special that will premiere in Winter 2002. For details of this program, see:

B. "DragonflyTV" is a new science show for elementary and middle school students that will premiere in January 2002. For details of this program, see:

C. "Mind in the Mirror" in the November 12, 2001 issue of US News and World Report discusses the location of morality, awareness, and "self" in the brain.

D. There are two interesting articles in the November 2001 issue of National Geographic. The first, "Evolution of Whales" (pages 64-77), includes a discussion of echolocation. The second, "King Cobras" (pages 100-113), is a photo essay about the longest venomous snake with enough neurotoxin in a single bite to kill an elephant.

E. "The Biology of Perfect Pitch" in the December 2001 issue of Discover Magazine.


A. Approximately 450 million people suffer from neuropsychiatric (mental and behavioral) disorders (World Health Organization). B. The giant anteater has no teeth. (Naples, V.L., J. Zoology, 249:19-41, 1999.)

C. Myelin, the fatty, insulating material that wraps around some nerve fibers, makes the brain more efficient and allows messages to travel faster. Without myelin, the human brain would have to be 10 times bigger than it is now and we would have to eat 10 times as much to maintain our brain. (Neurons and Networks. An Introduction to Neuroscience, J.E. Dowling, Cambridge: Belnap Press, 1992.)

D. The Tokay gecko (Gekko gekko) uses it tongue to clean its eyes. (Schwab, I.R., Br. J. Ophth., 84:1215, 2000.)

E. Tuition and fees for a first-year medical student in the US are $28,224 at a private school and $10,941 for a public school (1999-2000 school year; resident costs only; non-residents costs are higher). (Statistic from AAMC Data Book: Statistical Information Related to Medical Schools and Teaching Hospitals, Edited by Le'Etta Robinson, Washington, D.C.: Assn. American Medical Colleges, 2000.)

Many people change their e-mail addresses at the end of the year. Some people change their addresses to reduce the amount of unwanted e-mail ("spam") and others change the company that provides their e-mail service. If you are going to change e-mail addresses and you still want to receive the Neuroscience for Kids newsletter each month, please let me know your new e-mail address so you won't miss an issue. My e-mail address is:

By the of November 30, 2001, there are 6,045 people who receive the Neuroscience for Kids newsletter each month!


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.