Volume 5, Issue 3 (March, 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. Fever!
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 February. Here are some of them:

A. February Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. April NeuroCalendar
C. Brain Fly Through (Requires FLASH plug-in)
D. Women in Neuroscience
E. Did the Vikings Wear Helmets?

In February, 23 new figures were added and 53 pages were modified.


The Neuroscience for Kids "Page of the Month" for March is "Serendip" at:

Serendip is divided into six main sections, Brain and Behavior, Complex Systems, Biology, Science and Culture, Science Education and Guest Exhibits, each filled with interactive activities and articles. Enter the "Playground" to work with games and demonstrations to explore brain function. A "must see" page at Serendip is the new Comparative Neuroanatomy exhibit that takes you on an exploration of brain size and intelligence:

Serendip has so much information and so many things to do that you will probably have to make several visits to fully appreciate this wonderful site.


The judging of the first Neuroscience for Kids Drawing Contest is completed and prizes have been mailed to all of the winners. Thank you for your excellent entries! Read about the contest at:


Brain Awareness Week (BAW) is this month (March 12-18) and this year it is an international event. People across the world are celebrating BAW by sharing their knowledge and learning about the brain and brain research.

Would you like to share your BAW experience with other people? Send me ( a brief description of your BAW activities and I may include it in the next issue of the Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter. Let others know what worked and what did not work for you. This will help people plan their next BAW event and may help them avoid the problems you faced.

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 at the University of Washington:


The flu made itself known to my family in February. Sam, my seven year old son, had a fever of 103.4 degrees F (39.7 degrees C) and Kelly, my ten year old daughter, had a fever of 103.7 degrees F (39.8 degrees C). They felt miserable and missed several days of school. I caught the "bug" too and had a fever of 102 degrees F (38.9 degrees C).

You probably have had a fever. Do you know what causes a fever? How is the brain involved in fevers? Do fevers have a purpose?

The temperature of your body is a balance between the heat you produce and the heat you lose. Heat is produced by the metabolic activities of cells and by the contraction of muscles. Most heat is lost from blood vessels through the skin. Normal body temperature (measured in the mouth) is 98.6 degrees F (37 degrees C). However, your temperature varies within 1 degree F (0.5-0.7 degrees C) throughout the day.

Viruses and bacteria invading your body may cause you to get sick. These foreign invaders can produce pyrogens, substances that cause a fever. (The word "pyrogen" comes from Greek words meaning "fire producing.") Pyrogens can activate other substances in your body that affect an area of the brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus acts as a thermostat for your body temperature. In other words, it compares your body temperature to a "set point" which is normally 98.6 degrees F (37 degrees C). If there is a difference between your body temperature and the set point, the hypothalamus can start processes that help retain or lose heat. The hypothalamus has connections to the autonomic nervous system and can alter heat balance by affecting blood vessels in the skin and causing sweating.

When pyrogens stimulate your hypothalamus, your "thermostat" is reset at a higher temperature and your body temperature rises. Your body tries to get up to this new temperature by shivering (using muscle contractions and thus producing heat) and vasoconstriction (narrowing of skin blood vessels; this results in less blood to the skin and less heat loss through the skin). You may also get a blanket or put on a sweater to get warm. Body temperature will stay at this new level until the problem causing the fever is removed. Once the problem is solved, the thermostat will be reset to the normal level and the body will try to cool itself by sweating and vasodilation (widening of skin blood vessels).

Fevers may help fight your infection because at higher temperatures 1) some bacteria and viruses do not grow very well, 2) more antibodies to fight infection are produced and 3) white blood cells may work a little better at fighting infection.

Did you know? According to the Guinness Book of World Records (New York: Bantam books, 2000, p. 263), the highest body temperature in a person who has lived to tell about it was found in Willie Jones. On July 10, 1980, Mr. Jones was admitted to the hospital with heatstroke. His temperature was 115.7 degrees F (46.5 degrees C). After 24 days in the hospital, he was discharged.


Mapping the Mind by Rita Carter, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998, pp. 224. [ISBN: 0520219376] Reading Level: Appropriate for high school students to adult and highly motivated middle school students. (This book review was written by Trez Buckland, Director of the Making Connections and Addiction and the Brain Programs at the University of Washington.)

Rita Carter has worked as a medical and science writer for the last ten years and has twice received the Medical Journalists Association Award. Carter is now pursuing a number of art-science projects intended to increase public knowledge of the brain. Her book, "Mapping the Mind," is an elegantly illustrated story of brain exploration. She invites readers to join her journey to look at the social implications of the discoveries of neuroscience. Along the way, questions arise regarding the meaning of the mind as well as the creation of memory, the development of language, the complexities of sensations, the genesis of emotions and the occurrence of behavioral eccentricities. These questions are addressed using 1) clearly labeled and explained graphics that are almost three dimensional in character, 2) thoughtfully laid out text, 3) fascinating sidebars and 4) excerpts from the authors of recent research efforts. The book is both thought-provoking and entertaining. Carter readily admits that, "...these are the early days of mind exploration and the vision of the human brain we have now is probably no more complete or accurate than a sixteenth century map of the world." However, in spite of that limitation, there is so much covered in such a delightful manner that it would be a shame not to join her in the trip.


A. The cover story of the March 2001 issue of Odyssey Magazine is "Brain Matters." This issue is filled with articles about how the brain works: memory; neurogenesis; violence and the brain; attention deficit disorder; music and the brain; stroke. I contributed two articles to this issue: "A Computer in Your Head?" and "Brainy Experiments." A table of contents and teacher guide for this issue is available on-line at:

B. The cover story of the February 14, 2001 issue of Newsweek Magazine discusses drug addiction. One article details how the brain is involved in dependence.

C. "Ritalin: Mom's Little Helper" in the February 12, 2001 issue of Time Magazine discusses the use of Ritalin in adult women.

D. "Fibromyalgia" in the February 19, 2001 issue of Time Magazine discusses new theories surrounding this mysterious disease.

E. "Making Sense of Taste" in the March 2001 issue of Scientific American presents an excellent overview of gustation.

F. "Winning Brain Waves" in the March 2001 issue of Discover magazine discusses how custom-made video games may help kids with attention-deficit-disorder.

G. "Getting Stupid" in the March 2001 issue of Discover magazine discusses how alcohol may affect teenager school performance.

H. "The Art of Getting a Grant" in the Winter 2001 (Vol. XV, no.1) issue of Children and Families magazine is an article I wrote about my daughter's first grant application.


A. There are 1 quadrillion synapses in the human brain. That's 1,000,000,000,000,000 synapses! This is equal to about a half-billion synapses per cubic millimeter. (Statistic from Changeux, J-P. and Ricoeur, P., "What Makes Us Think?", Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000, p. 78.)

B. The total length of wiring between neurons is 100,000 kilometers. (Statistic from Coveney, P. and Highfield, R., "Frontiers of Complexity. The Search for Order in a Chaotic World," New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1995, p. 283.)

C. In 1504, Leonardo da Vinci produced wax casts of the ventricles of the human brain.

D. Each year about 10,000 babies born in the United States develop cerebral palsy. (Statistic from

E. The human olfactory system is anatomically complete before birth (From "The Neurobiology of Taste and Smell, 2nd edition," edited by Finger, T.E., Silver, W.L. and Restrepo, D., 2000.)


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.