Volume 6, Issue 3 (March, 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. Neuroscience for Kids Writing Contest - RESULTS!
4. Brain Awareness Week - March 11-17, 2002
5. Airplane Ear Pain
6. Media Alert
7. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
8. How to Stop Your Subscription


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

A. Februrary Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. Directional and Number (Counting) Stroop Effect Tests
C. Use Your Brain to Reduce the Risk of Alzheimer's Disease
D. Neuroscience for Kids Writing Contest Results Page

In February, 5 new figures were added and 54 pages were modified.


The Neuroscience for Kids "Page of the Month" for March is that of "William H. Calvin" at:

Dr. Calvin is a neurobiologist and professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle. He has also written 11 books about the brain. Dr. Calvin's web site contains the full text of many of his books, articles and talks. If you can't find his books at the library or bookstore, you can read them on-line. Although Dr. Calvin writes for the general public, his books are intended for readers who are familiar with neuroscience and have a strong interest in learning about the brain. My favorite book written by Dr. Calvin is "The Throwing Madonna." In this book of 17 short essays, Dr. Calvin describes his theory on the origin of right-handedness in humans. You can go directly to "The Throwing Madonna" at:


The results of the Neuroscience for Kids Writing contest are in! We received 726 poems from students in kindergarten though grade 12. Most of the poems were from students in grades 4 through 8.

To judge the contest, I read all 726 poems and selected 20 poems from each grade category (Kindergarten-Grade 2; Grade 3-Grade 5; Grade 6-Grade 8; Grade 9-12). Twelve judges (6 neuroscientists, 3 teachers, 1 fifth grade student, 1 local PTA Board member, 1 University of Washington staff member) read these selected finalists and chose up to 10 of their favorites. The judges' scores were then tallied and the poems that received the most votes were declared winners. Several publishing companies (Capstone Press, Millbrook Press, Copper Beech Books and Twenty-First Century Books) made generous prize donations, so it was possible to have several winners in each grade category. These prizes were mailed to all of the winners last month.

Here are a few of the winning poems:

Kindergarten through Grade 2 (poem; any style)


From Steven J., a second grader in Phoenix, AZ:
  The brain is strong,
  The brain is smart,
  The brain is the most important part.

From Christopher T., a second grader in Minden, LA:
  My brain is a mystery
  but it helps me with my history.
  My brain helps me to learn
  and it tells me when to turn.
  With my brain I can learn technology
  or I can learn biology.
  It helps me see the light
  and I know when it's night.

Grade 3 to Grade 5 (poem; must rhyme)

From Troy T., a third grader in N. Charleston, SC:
  Cerebellum controls the way you stand,
  It also controls a ball in your hand.
  Neurons are very fast.
  Messages to your brain they blast.
  Skulls are hard,
  Unless they're jarred.
  The cranium is very hard,
  It will save you in your yard.
  The cerebrum helps remember the past
  So happy times will always last.

From Nereyda H., a fourth grader in College Place, WA:
  You help me think
  You help me speak
  You do my homework
  Every week.

Grade 6 to Grade 8 (must be a limerick)

From Mariah H., an eighth grader in Chuckey, TN:
  I have a 3lb mass up top
  Where all my input goes, nonstop
  I use it all day
  I'm trying to say
  My brain is the best friend I've got!

From John M., a sixth grader in Loudonville, NY:
  The organ that's known as the brain,
  Is the center for pleasure and pain.
  It controls the five senses,
  And muscles to hop fences.
  It's called el cerebro in Spain.

Grade 9 to Grade 12 (must be haiku)

Hunter S., a tenth grader in Bruceton, TN:
  Just my tragedy,
  I've an empty cavity
  Betwixt my two ears.

Jessie G., a tenth grader in St. Peters, MO:
  Synapses sparking
  Neurons connecting my thoughts
  Understanding dawns.

Kaylee E., a ninth grader in Hattiesburg, MS:
  We think that we know.
  But, understanding the brain?
  It's more than we think.



It's finally here: Brain Awareness Week!

I hope you have plans for Brain Awareness Week. How will you celebrate? Will you be taking a field trip? Will you have a neuroscientist speak in your class? Will you present an experiment at a science fair or open house? What "brainy" activities will you be doing with your class? If you would like to share your Brain Awareness Week experience with newsletter readers, tell me what you did and I will try to publish your story in next month's issue. My e-mail address is:


Last month my family and I flew to California for a short trip. As the plane started its descent, my eight-year-old son said that his ear hurt. My wife and I told him to try to yawn and we gave him a piece of gum to ease the pain. Once we were on the ground, my son's ear pain went away. Have your ears ever hurt when you have been on a plane? What causes this pain?

The middle ear has a small space filled with air. The eustachian tube connects the middle ear with the nasopharynx. Usually, this tube is able to balance the air pressure between the middle ear and outer ear. However, airplanes travel at altitudes where the air pressure is lower than that at ground level. Although the cabin of an airplane is pressurized, differences in air pressure may remain. As an airplane climbs, the air in the middle ear expands and the eardrum is pushed outwards. As an airplane descends, the gas in the middle ear contracts and the eardrum is pushed inwards. If the eustachian tubes are blocked, there is no way to balance the air pressure in the middle ear. Therefore, tissues in the middle ear, such as the eardrum, may stretch and cause pain. To relieve ear pain during a flight, it sometimes helps to swallow or yawn. This may open up the eustachian tubes and balance the pressure.

Did you know? Inflammation of the middle ear caused by failure of the eustachian tube to regulate air pressure is called "aerotitis media" or aviation otitis.

For more on the ears, see:


A. "The Silent Vision Thief," an article about glaucoma by Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld, in Parade Magazine (Sunday newspaper insert), February 10, 2002.

B. "Scars that Won't Heal: The Neurobiology of Child Abuse" by Martin Teicher, Scietific American March 2002, pages 68-75.

C. "How Should Reading be Taught?" by Keith Rayner et al., Scientific American March 2002, pages 85-89.

D. "Divining Comedy" by Steve Mirsky. A one-page article on research into humor. Scientific American March 2002, page 103.

E. "This Bud's Not for You" by John Cloud, TIME Magazine, February 18, 2002, page 61. An article about the differences between marijuana and the hemp plant.

F. "The Chemistry of Love" by Sanjay Gupta, MD, TIME Magazine, February 18, 2002, page 78. An article about pheromones.

G. "What Did She Want With Xanax?" by Sanjay Gupta, MD, TIME Magazine, February 11, 2002. Governor Jeb Bush's daughter arrested for fraud for obtaining a prescription drug.

H. "On Their Own Two Feet" by Sanjay Gupta, MD, TIME Magazine, February 25, 2002. Surgery for cerebral palsy.


A. Each day in the United States, 33 babies are born with permanent hearing loss. (Statistic from Northern, J.L. and Downs, M.P., Hearing in Children, 5th edition, Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2002.)

B. Rats will die after two to three weeks of total sleep deprivation. (Rechtschaffen and Bergmann, B.M., Sleep deprivation in the rat: an update of the 1989 paper, Sleep, 25:18-24, 2002.)

C. The National Institutes of Health budget for 2002 is $22.8 billion. The National Science Foundation budget for 2002 is $3.5 billion. (Statistics from

D. Average (median) amount of sleep each day by university students: in 1969 - 7.75 hours in 1979 - 7.13 hours in 1989 - 6.75 hours in 2001 - 6.65 hours (Statistics from Hicks, R.A., Fernandez, C. and Pellegrini, R.J. The changing sleep habits of university students: an update. Percep. Motor Skills, 93:648, 2001.)

E. On May 13, 1935, World War I hero Colonel T.E. Lawrence (better known as "Lawrence of Arabia") suffered a fractured skull when he lost control of his motocycle. He fell into a coma and died five days later. (Reference: Maartens, N.F., Wills, A.D. and Adams, C.B.T., Lawrence of Arabia, Sir Hugh Cairns, and the origin of motocycle helmets. Neurosurgery, 50:176-180, 2002.)


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.