Volume 6, Issue 2 (February, 2002)


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. What's in a Name
6. The Library: A Neuroscientist's Best Friend
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 and April NeuroCalendar
C. Gulf War Vets Twice as Likely to Suffer from ALS
E. New Survey: Teen Use Of Drugs
E. Stink Bombs

In January, 22 new figures were added and 94 pages were modified.


The Neuroscience for Kids "Page of the Month" for February is "Star Sleeper" at:

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and "Garfield the Cat" teamed up last year to launch a five-year campaign to educate young children about the importance of adequate sleep. As part of this national program, they have created the Star Sleeper web site. Visitors to the web site can download a 51-page activity pad and play on-line games to learn about sleep. Most of the material on the site is for children between 7 and 11 years old, but there are links to information for older people.


That's it! Finished! Done! The Neuroscience for Kids Writing Contest is over and we will not accept more entries. Judges are now reading the poems and winners will be notified within two weeks. Congratulations to ALL students who entered the contest!


Brain Awareness Week (BAW) is next month! Here at the University of Washington, 310 students will attend the BAW Open House. The Open House will feature the Pacific Science Center/Group Health Cooperative "Brain Power Team" assembly and hands-on, interactive exhibits sponsored by researchers and staff from various university departments and organizations. I will also visit several local schools and present an interactive program titled "Explore Your Brain." If you would like to share what you did during BAW, send me a summary and I will try to include it in a future issue of the Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter.


It's a good idea to throw out medicines that are older than their expiration dates. Last month I cleaned out the medicine cabinet at home and found medicines such as Aspirin, Tylenol, Robitussin and Pepto-Bismol. The names of these medicines got me thinking about how companies name their drugs. Did you know that drug companies spend a tremendous amount of time and money to find names for their products? Companies try to find names for their drugs that are 1) easy to say, 2) easy to remember, 3) short and 4) related to the drug's use.

Drugs actually have three names:

1. Chemical name: the chemical compound of the drug; usually a long, complex, difficult-to-pronounce series of words. Although the chemical name may be meaningful to a chemist, it is not much use to most people.

2. Generic name: usually a shortened version of the chemical name; often it is difficult to say and remember.

3. Trade name: the brand name you see advertised; usually short, catchy, easy to spell, and easy to remember.

The psychology that goes into naming drugs is kept secret by companies. Although it is sometimes obvious why a drug has a particular name, other times it seems as if a drug name was picked by a monkey drawing random syllables out of a hat. Nevertheless, a company must choose a drug name carefully, because this is what consumers will see in advertisements. The best name is one that consumers will remember when they go to the drug store.

Sometimes a drug gets its brand name by shortening the generic or chemical name. The generic name for Aspirin is acetylsalicylic acid. Aspirin is a trade name introduced in 1899 by the German company Farbenfabriken Bayer. Aspirin gets it name from the "a" in "acetyl," the "spir" from the plant "Spriacea" that contains salicylic acid and the "in" from the common ending for drugs. The name "Tylenol" is a bit of a mystery. Tylenol is a pain reliever/fever reducer that contains acetaminophen. The chemical name of acetaminophen is N-acetyl-p-aminophenol. Therefore, it is possible that Tylenol gets its name from the "tyl" in "acetyl" and the "enol" in "aminophenol." Another example of this naming strategy is for the antipsychotic drug Haldol. Haldol is a shortened version of the generic name haloperidol.

Some drugs are named after the companies that make them. For example, Robitussin is named after the Robins Healthcare company. Other drugs take their names from the location in the body where they work. Heart drugs often use "cor" in their names because in Latin, "cor" means "heart." Other cardiovascular drugs use "vas," Latin for "vessel."

Drugs that affect the nervous system often reflect their use. Pain medications such as "Aleve" and "Vanquish" suggest the lifting or elimination of discomfort. You can probably spot the "neuro" word root in the following drug names: Cogentin (for Parkinson's Disease), Cognex (for Alzheimer's Disease), Convulex (anticonvulsant), Neurontin (seizure control).

And what about that Pepto-Bismol I found? Pepto-Bismol was called Bismosal until 1919. It is likely that the "Pepto" comes from the Greek word "pepsis" meaning "digestion." The "Bism" may come from the generic name of the active ingredient in this medicine, bismuth subsalicylate. The "ol" may have been added because this medicine is taken by mouth (oral)...or maybe it was that monkey picking syllables from a hat.


I love libraries. On weekdays if I'm not in my office or lab, you can find me in one of the University of Washington libraries. Although there are several libraries on campus, the ones I visit most often are the Health Sciences Library and the Natural Sciences Library. These libraries are filled with new and old books and journals to help me with my research.

Scientists communicate with each other by publishing their research in journals. Papers published in journals contain a brief introduction to describe the background of the research, a methods section to describe how an experiment was done, a results section that contains the data and a discussion section with an interpretation of the data. By reading research reports, scientists can discover what others have done and develop new hypotheses to test.

The Internet has made it easier to read journals. Many journals are now published on the web and people can read research reports from the comfort of their homes or offices. I still like to go to the library and walk through the aisles with shelves of books.

My family and I visit our local public library several times each month. While I look through the magazines and books, my kids (a second grader and a fifth grader) pick out books in the children's section. Sometimes I visit the children's section, even if my kids are not with me. I don't care if I am the only adult in the children's section. I just ignore the strange looks from other adults in the library. I have found several good books about the brain for young readers in the children's section of our small public library.

Do you need help finding a neuroscience book? Ask your local librarian or view a list of past Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter book reviews at:


The Scientific American Book of the Brain. The Best Writing on Consciousness, Disorders of the Mind, and Much More, compiled by the editors of Scientific American, New York: Lyons Press, 340 pages. [Book review by Dr. Daisy Lu, Neuroscience for Kids consultant]

Thirty-two of the world's most respected neuroscientists explore the profound mystery of the human brain in 26 remarkable essays in one outstanding volume. The nature of thought and feeling will inspire all readers and fascinate those who thirst for a deeper understanding of the brain.

The table of contents is organized into six broad topics: 1) Mapping the Brain, 2) Reasoning and Intelligence, 3) Memory and Learning, 4) Behavior, 5) Disease of the Brain and Disorder of the Mind, and 6) Consciousness. With illustrations throughout, the book discusses each topic with three to five articles that provide different perspectives. An introduction by Dr. Antonio Damasio offers intriguing insights about the human brain and mind.

One can open this book and select any article randomly without feeling lost. Each chapter is written in language that can be understood by anyone without a technical background. Neurology and psychology, blended in a combination of theoretical and technological advances, show the reader what lies beneath emotion, memory and language. There are also articles on new treatments for Parkinson's disease and new drugs to manage depression and other neurological disorders. The book concludes with three chapters about consciousness that should stimulate readers to think about what it means to be human. An extensive index helps readers locate specific information quickly. "The Scientific American Book of the Brain" is truly a "gem" of a book for everyone.


A. "His Stroke of Luck" in the January 6, 2002 issue of Parade Magazine (the Sunday newspaper insert): actor Kirk Douglas describes his "brain attack."

B. "Television Addiction" in the February 2002 issue of Scientific American: addictive TV viewing is compared to other addictive behaviors.

C. The February 2002 issue of Scientific American also has an article titled "Count to 10" describing new theories on how anesthesia works.

D. The Learning Channel, Discovery Pictures and the BBC have created a large screen film called "The Human Body." The film is currently being shown in museums around the world. I have not yet seen the film, but from the information on their web site, it appears to be a winner. Check their web site for a list of museums that are showing the film. E. The Time Magazine (January 21, 2002) cover feature is titled "The Science of Staying Healthy" and has several brain-related stories.

F. "The Inner Savant" in the February 2002 issue of Discover Magazine discusses the skill of autistic savants.


An "absolute threshold" is the stimulus intensity a person can detect 50% of the time. This month's brain trivia are examples of absolute thresholds for the five senses. (All statistics from Feldman, R.S., Understanding Psychology, 4th edition, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996, p. 98.)

A. Vision: a candle flame, 30 miles away, on a dark, clear night.

B. Hearing: A ticking watch 20 feet away in a quiet place.

C. Taste: A teaspoon of sugar in 2 gallons of water.

D. Smell: a drop of perfume in a three-room apartment.

E. Touch: The wing of a bee falling from 1 centimeter onto your cheek.


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.