Volume 5, Issue 9 (September, 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. K-12 Science Teacher Workshops at the SFN Meeting
4. Jet Lag Beats Teams
5. Black Widow Spiders Invade Kazakhstan
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 August. Here are some of them:

A. August Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. October NeuroCalendar
C. Brainy Screen Savers
D. Puzzling Increase in Head Injuries
E. Dinosaur Nostrils on the Move
F. To Shave or Not to Shave...That is the Question!

In August, 9 new figures were added and 54 pages were modified.



The Neuroscience for Kids "Page of the Month" for September is the Multimedia Neuroscience Education Project (MNEP) at:

The MNEP was designed by the Neuroscience Program at Williams College (Williamstown, MA) with funds from the National Science Foundation. The web site takes you on a tour of the four steps of synaptic transmission: 1) synthesis and storage of neurotransmitters; 2) neurotransmitter release; 3) neurotransmitter binding to postsynaptic receptors and 4) neurotransmitter inactivation.

Each step is described briefly and illustrated with several animations. You must have the "RealPlayer" plug-in (free download) for your browser to run the animations. When I used the web site, most of the animations did not come up immediately. Rather, I had to click on a text link to run them. Those of you with a slow Internet connection will have to be patient because the large image files take a long time to load. Each animation is approximately 30 seconds in length and includes very nice graphics. These animations are a great way to learn how signals are sent through the nervous system.


It may not be too late for K-12 teachers to register for the Society for Neuroscience (SFN) annual meeting in San Diego. The meeting starts on November 10 and there are several events (all FREE!) for K-12 teachers. The SFN Committee on Neuroscience Literacy will sponsor workshops for K-12 teachers interested in bringing neuroscience into the classroom and learning more about brain research. Workshops and activities for teachers on November 10 and November 11 will include: 1) "Bringing together K-12 teachers and neuroscientists," 2) Hands-on neuroscience activities, 3) Tours of the main meeting and labs at the Salk Institute with neuroscientist guides, 4) Web workshop: Internet Neuroscience Resources (I will be presenting this one) and 5) Teacher-neuroscientist social. High school teachers can bring up to 10 students to a short neuroscience course on Monday, November 12. If you live outside of Southern California, you can also apply for financial support (up to $1,000) to help with travel expenses. The deadline for registration is September 21 and space is limited, so apply soon. A description of the program, registration materials and a financial support application are available at:


Only a few more weeks remain in the baseball season. Which teams will make it to the playoffs? Which team will win the World Series? A team's travel schedule may help you make some predictions!

When people fly across multiple time zones, they often feel tired and worn out for several days after their flight. This is called "jet lag" and is caused by changes in body rhythms such as those involved with body temperature and sleep.

To examine how jet lag affects the performance of professional athletes, researchers in the Department of Neurology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School examined the win-loss records of 19 East Coast and West Coast baseball teams in the 1991-1993 seasons. Overall, teams won 54% of their games on their home fields. However, home teams won 62.9% of their games if their opponents traveled west to east the day before they played. If a team traveled east to west the day before a game, the home team won only 56.2% of the time. These data show that home teams gain an advantage if their opponents must travel east the day before a game. This travel may disrupt the biological clocks of visiting players and impair players' performances on the field.

So, check the travel schedule of your favorite team. Which way do they have to travel? Do they have time to recover before they play? You may be able to predict how your team will perform.


Recht, L.D., Lew, R.A. and Schwartz, W.J., Baseball teams beaten by jet lag, Science, 377:583, l995.


Last month several news agencies reported that a plague of black widow spiders invaded the city of Pavlodar in the country of Kazakhstan (central Asia). Black widow spiders pack a powerful, potentially lethal neurotoxin called alpha-latrotoxin. Alpha-latrotoxin causes a massive release of the neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. The bite of a black widow spider may cause intense pain, muscle cramping and respiratory problems.

So, if you will be visiting Kazakhstan soon, shake out your shoes before you put them on.

Black Widow Spider Links:


Hmm?: The Most Interesting Book You'll Ever Read About Memory by Diane Swanson (Illustrated by Rose Cowles), Toronto: Kids Can Press, 2001, pp. 40. [ISBN: 1-55074-595-6]
Reading level: Grades 3-6

How does memory work? Do memories change over time? Why do we forget? How can we improve memory? These are a few of the questions answered by Diane Swanson in her new book called "Hmm?" Swanson fills the 40 pages of "Hmm?" with trivia, experiments and colorful pictures to help young students understand memory. Although the book is intended for children, it discusses many research findings that have been published in scientific journals and thus can be enjoyed by adults who might be reading to children, as well. Swanson has a nice way of translating these data into language that kids can understand. "Hmm?" also contains many memory demonstrations, experiments and projects that readers can do at home or at school.


A. "An E-Nose for Trouble" in the September 2001 issue of Discover magazine discusses electronic noses designed to detect land mines.

B. "Canine Candy Stripers" in the August 6, 2001 issue of Time magazine discusses how hospitals are using dogs to help people recover after surgery.

C. "Parkinson's Sufferers--Hang in There" in the August 12, 2001 issue of Parade Magazine (the popular Sunday newspaper insert).

D. "Young Cells in Old Brains" in the September issue of Scientific American is a profile of neuroscientist Elizabeth Gould.

E. "The Science of Summer" in the August 27, 2001 issue of Newsweek magazine discusses the sense of taste and the physiological effects of roller coasters.


This month's brain trivia all come from the book "Spineless Wonders: Strange Tales from the Invertebrate World" by Richard Conniff (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1996; ISBN:0-8050-5531-2)

A. Compared to humans, houseflies are 10 million times more sensitive to the taste of sugar.

B. Leeches have about 10,000 neurons. (Humans have approximately 100 billion neurons in their brains.)

C. The octopus and squid belong to the class of animals known as the "Cephalopoda" meaning "head-footed."

D. Tarantulas and other spiders sense vibration with hairs on their legs.

E. Slime eels have no eyes, but they do have light-sensitive sensors in their tails.


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.