Volume 5, Issue 2 (February, 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
4. Brain Awareness Week 2001
5. Web Polls on Neuroscience for Kids
6. Science Textbooks Get a Poor Grade
7. Book Review
8. Media Alert
9. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
10. How to Stop Your Subscription


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

A. January Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. March NeuroCalendar
C. Benham's Disk (A great visual illusion activity)
D. Go Ahead, Take the Plunge (Scuba and the Brain)
E. Current Research on Huntington's Disease
F. Abracadabra: Bone Marrow Cells Turn into Brain Cells
G. Monitoring the Future Survey of Teen Drug Use

In January, 30 new figures were added and 78 pages were modified.


The Neuroscience for Kids "Page of the Month" for February is "" at: is the second sleep-related page selected as a "Page of the Month" (the "Sleep Well" web site was selected in January, 1999). From basic information on the mechanics of sleep to disorders of sleep to recent updates on sleep research, has it all. To learn more about the nature of sleep, read "Understanding Sleep," a publication from the National Institutes of Health that is reprinted on the web site. There is also plenty of information on sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, snoring, sleep apnea, insomnia, restless legs syndrome and periodic limb movement disorder. A chat room is available for people to discuss their sleep problems and to gain support from others who suffer from sleep disorders.


The first Neuroscience for Kids drawing contest is no longer accepting entries. More than 300 drawings were received and the judging phase of the contest has begun. Winners will be notified by mail and the winning drawings will be posted by the end of February on the contest page for everyone to enjoy and admire:

I am impressed with the hard work and thought that went into creating the drawings for the contest. NFK congratulates all of the students who participated in the contest for a job well done. Many thanks to Millbrook Press, Pebble Books, Usborne Books, and Morphonix for their generous donations of the contest prizes.


Brain Awareness Week is next month (March 12-18, 2001). I hope you are ready. Students: let your teachers know about BAW and see if you can spend some time on this important subject. Teachers: it's not too late to plan some activities about the brain for your class. For ideas, see:

Also visit the Dana Alliance and the Society for Neuroscience web sites to learn more about BAW and to register your events: and

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


What's your favorite lobe of the brain? How fast are your reactions? How much do you sleep each night? Who is your favorite neuroscientist? What is your favorite part of the brain? These are some of the questions you can answer on new "polls" scattered throughout the Neuroscience for Kids web site. After you answer a question, you can compare your response to that of other people.


Dr. John Hubisz of the Department of Physics at North Carolina State University made newspaper headlines last month when he announced the results of his study of middle school science textbooks. He found that most science textbooks contained many errors ranging from mislabeled maps and illustrations to factual errors. For example, Dr. Hubisz found one textbook that showed the equator passing through the southern part of the United States.

I decided to conduct my own small study to see how textbooks discuss the nervous system. I read through the chapters on nervous system in several middle and high school science textbooks to check for errors. Every textbook I read had at least one mislabeled drawing or factual error. Although the books contained many colorful illustrations, they were sometimes labeled incorrectly. For example, text #1 mislabeled the cornea on an illustration of the eye. Text #2 had a line pointing to the spinal cord, but it was labeled as the brain stem. Text #3 had a drawing with a line pointing to the fourth ventricle, but it was labeled as the reticular activating system. Text #4 labeled the pineal gland in two different places in the same illustration: once in the correct location, once in an incorrect location.

Several "facts" I read were just plain wrong. For example, text #2 stated that nerve impulses can travel at speeds of 120 kilometers per second. This is off by 1,000 times! Impulses can travel at speeds of only 120 meters per second. Text #5 described the knee jerk reflex as involving three neurons and two synapses. Actually, the knee jerk reflex is a monosynaptic reflex requiring only two neurons and one synapse.

These are only a few examples of the errors I found in my brief search. This exercise was not meant to embarrass textbook publishers or give you a reason to throw away your books. Textbooks cover a wide range of material and most of this material is accurate. However, when you read your textbooks, you should do so carefully. Also, make sure you ask questions when you read something that doesn't seem quite right and refer to other sources to check the information.

Text #1 = Science Anytime, Orlando: Harcourt and Brace and Company, 1995
Text #2 = Science Interactions (Course 2), New York: Glencoe/McGraw Hill, 1995
Text #3 = Science Interactions (Course 1), New York: Glencoe/McGraw Hill, 1995
Text #4 = Biology. Concepts and Applications, Belmont: Wadsworth Publications, 1994
Text #5 = Perspectives on Health, Evanston: D.C. Heath, 1996

Charlotte Observer, January 14, 2001, article on Dr. Hubisz's textbook study.


The Care and Feeding of Your Brain by Kenneth Giuffre, with Theresa Foy, Franklin Lakes (NJ): Geronimo Career Press, 1999, 255 pages [ISBN: 1564143805]. Reading level: high school students and general public [Book review by Dr. Daisy Lu, Neuroscience for Kids Consultant]

The book title is descriptive of the book's contents: it focuses on how diet and the environment affect what we think and feel. It offers reasonable advice on choosing what to do for our brain based on work ranging from the neurosciences to traditional Chinese medicine. Dr. Giuffre synthesizes concepts from many fields including physics, biology, philosophy, art, and medicine to construct a set of recommendations that influences the "weather patterns" in our brains. He writes from personal experiences and scientific research to highlight how the brain reacts to the environment.

The text is divided into ten chapters, each listing a specific vitamin and supplement. The big picture of the physical health of the brain is always in focus. The book echoes the message that we are what we are because of the way our brains are wired, and how the food we eat or don't eat affects how the brain functions. The author dispels some popular myths such as the brain being likened to a computer which can be switched on and off readily and predictably. Instead, he compares the brain to the Earth's complex weather patterns, ever changing as influenced by various unpredictable phenomena. Many common issues about the brain and general health are covered in layman's language. Some of these examples are memory and stress, fear/anxiety, pain, and sleep. A comprehensive bibliography follows the text, as well as a useful index.


A. "The Potent Perils Of a Miracle Drug" in Time Magazine, January 8, 2001.

B. The cover story of the January 15, 2001 issue of Time Magazine is titled "Drugs of the Future". Several articles in the magazine concern neuroscience including:
i) "The Future of Drugs," ii) "The Hunt for Cures," and iii) "Recreational Pharmaceuticals."

C. "Scanning the Brain for Traces of Prevarication" in US News and World Report, January 15, 2001: can brainwaves detect lying?

D. Interview with neuroscientist Dr. Carla Shatz in Discover magazine, February, 2001, page 19.

E. "Biological Alchemy" in Scientific American, February 2001: how skin and bone marrow cells can change into neurons.

F. "Who Wants to Be a Genius" in The Economist, January 11, 2001: are geniuses born or made? On-line at:

G. "Grossology" a touring museum show about the human body is currently in St. Louis (MO) and Portland (OR). Between 2001 and 2004, Grossology will visit St. Paul (MN), Jersey City (NJ), Ft. Lauderdale (FL), Buffalo (NY), Baltimore (MD), Virginia Beach (VA) and Seattle (WA).


A. The term "dendrite" was introduced by C. Golgi in about 1870. (From Afifi, A.K. and Bergman, R.A., Functional Neuroanatomy, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1998.)

B. The part of the brain called the "amygdala" gets its name from the Greek word for "almond" because of the similarities in shape.

C. The aroma of coffee contains over 800 different chemicals, but only 20-30 of them contribute to the characteristic quality. (Statistic from The Neurobiology of Taste and Smell, 2nd edition, edited by Finger, T.E., Silver, W.L. and Restrepo, D., 2000.)

D. Monarch butterflies migrate up to 3000 kilometers (1,864 miles). (Statistic from Science, March 17, 2000, p. 1883.)

E. The weight of the human brain triples during the first year of life, going from 300 grams to 900 grams. (Statistic from Brodal, P., The Central Nervous System. Structure and Function, New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1998, p. 144.)


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.