Volume 6, Issue 5 (May, 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. End of School Year Gifts
4. 2002 "Sleep in America" Poll
5. Graduate School Rankings
6. Society for Neuroscience K-12 Workshop Proposals
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 April. Here are some of them:

A. April Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. June NeuroCalendar
C. Easier Treatment of "Lazy Eye"
D. Record Number of Deaths on Ski Slopes
E. Actor Dudley Moore Dies of PSP
F. Epilepsy and Driving
G. Sign Language and the Brain
H. Pediatricians Want To Restrict the Use of Skateboards and Scooters
I. Who Wants to be a "Mill-Neuron-Aire" Game (Requires free Shockwave plug-in for your browser)
J. Pufferfish Found to Contain Saxitoxin

In April, 17 new figures were added and 51 pages were modified.


The Neuroscience for Kids "Page of the Month" for April is the "Brain Explorer" at:

"Brain Explorer" was developed by the Lundbeck Institute in Skodsborg, Denmark, with help from several neuroscientists. The web site provides an interactive overview of the structure of the brain and a discussion of neurological and mental disorders.

Start your visit to the Brain Explorer with "The Brain" where each part of the brain is described, along with links to a glossary. Continue your journey by reading about neurological disorders such as epilepsy, stroke, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia. The site features an excellent animation describing neurotransmission. To view the animation, you must have the free Flash 5 plug-in for your browser. The site also contains an image gallery listing all the illustrations used on the pages. However, many of the terms listed in the gallery were not linked to the appropriate images. Finally, Brain Explorer recommends several books to readers who want more information about neurological disorders.


Are you looking for a gift to give to a special teacher or student? Can't decide what to get? Why not give something "brainy?" Brainy gifts are great to say "Congratulations!" to someone who is graduating or to say "Goodbye" at the end of the school year. Here are some suggestions:

A. Books about the brain - for suggestions, see the Neuroscience for Kids Book Review page at:

B. Novelty Items - brain Jell-O molds, brain models, and even brain backpacks are available from several companies. See:

C. Crafts - spend little or no money on a gift and create your own "brainy gift." The Neuroscience for Kids web site has many craft projects that you can turn into gifts. For example, the "Beady Neuron" makes an ideal gift for the person who has everything (except, of course, a beady neuron). You can print out bookmarks or cards and even send electronic graduation or thank you cards.



On April 2, 2002, the National Sleep Foundation released the results of the "Sleep in America" poll. The poll asked 1,010 people in the US (older than 18 years) about their sleep habits. According to this poll, on average, people sleep 6.9 hours on weeknights and 7.5 hours on weekends. Other information reported by people in the poll:

A. 39% reported that they get less than 7 hours of sleep on weeknights.
B. 58% reported that they had at least one of four symptoms of insomnia a few nights each week.
C. 74% reported that they had at least one symptom of a sleep disorder a few nights a week.
D. 37% reported that they were so sleepy during the day that it interfered with their daily activities.
E. 51% reported that they drove a vehicle while they were drowsy and 17% reported that they had dozed off while driving!

For complete results of the 2002 "Sleep in America" poll, see:


US News and World Report recently ranked the top graduate school programs in the United States. The top five programs for neuroscience were:

The top programs in experimental psychology (ranked in 2001) were:

The top programs in cognitive psychology (ranked in 2001) were:



The annual Society for Neuroscience (SFN) meeting will be held in Orlando, Florida, in early November. At the meeting, the SFN Committee on Neuroscience Literacy will sponsor several workshops for neuroscientists and K-12 teachers. One of these workshops teaches hands-on neuroscience activities for the classroom. If you are interested in leading one of these workshops, the Committee on Neuroscience Literacy wants to hear from you. Workshop presenters will get free registration to the meeting!


Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science by John Fleischman, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2002, 86 pages, ISBN:0-618-05252-6.
[For ages 10 and up.]

He is one of the most famous people in neuroscience. He is not a brain researcher or a physician. Rather, he is a patient. He is Phineas Gage. In 1848, Mr. Gage was a foreman working on the railroad. On September 13, 1848, a iron rod (weight = 13.5 pounds, length = 3 feet, 7 inches) was shot accidentally up through Mr. Gage's cheek, through his brain and out of his skull. Miraculously, Mr. Gage lived to tell his story.

John Fleischman, a writer for the American Society for Cell Biology, retells the story of Phineas Gage in a new book called "Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science." Fleischman's book starts by describing the accident that took place in Cavendish, Vermont. He traces the steps that led up to the accident and follows poor Mr. Gage as he is treated by the town's doctors. We learn that Mr. Gage recovers physically from his injury, but mentally, he is a changed man. After the accident, he has a new personality: gruff, unreliable, nasty, unsociable.

Fleischman discusses how the case of Phineas Gage influenced how people thought about the brain. Was the brain like a bowl of Jell-O with each part capable of all functions or were functions localized to particular brain structures? The evidence provided by Phineas Gage's accident seemed to favor the localization theory because specific functions, such as rational thought, were affected by damage to the frontal lobe.

The book follows Mr. Gage until his death on May 21, 1860, in San Francisco, California. However, the story is not over. Mr. Fleischman describes how researchers have used modern imaging devices to learn more about Mr. Gage and to provide more information about frontal lobe function.

"Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science" is filled with excellent drawings and photographs. These images permit readers to better understand what happened to Phineas Gage 150 years ago. I highly recommend this remarkable book to ANYONE who has an interest in neuroscience.

I asked John Fleischman for some behind-the-scenes information about his book. He sent me some comments from a press release:

"Everyone at Harvard--and in brain science--knows the story. At the time, my office was about a hundred yards away from the skull. When my editor at Houghton Mifflin, Amy Flynn, accepted the book, the people in public affairs were amazed that a children's publisher would take on such a subject. I was too. But I knew that kids of a certain age were fascinated by this kind of thing. I call them kids with 'healthy morbid interests.' I'm still in awe of the enthusiasm that Phineas seems to attract from all sorts of people, from kids to neuroscientists."

For more about Phineas Gage, please see the "Phineas Gage Information Page" at:


A. The May 2002 issue of Discover magazine had two articles about the brain: "Fire in the Brain" about epilepsy and "The Laughter Circuit" (pages 24-35) about the brain and humor; "Peeling Plaque"

B. The May 2002 issue of Scientific American contains an update on a possible vaccine for Alzheimer's disease.

C. Several neuroscience related articles have appeared in recent issues of Time magazine including "The Curious Case of Kava" (April 8, 2002, page 58) describing how the FDA is warning about kava, a supplement used to combat insomnia and other ailments. Also in this issue is "When Aspirin Doesn't Work" (page 83), a brief article on aspirin resistance. The April 15, 2002 issue discusses the controversy surrounding nicotine-laced lollipops. The cover story of the May 6, 2002 issue is titled "The Secrets of Autism."

D. "A Knife in the Back" in The New Yorker, April 8, 2002, pages 66-73: back surgery.


Summer starts next month. Will you be visiting the beach? This month's trivia are about the sensory abilities of sharks. (Reference: Creatures of the Deep by Erich Hoyt, Buffalo (NY): Firefly Books, 2001.)

A. Sharks have a fantastic sense of smell. Fish extracts with concentrations of only 1 part per 10 billion parts of water can alter a shark's behavior.

B. Sharks can detect electrical fields generated by animals. To detect these fields, sharks use special organs called ampullae of Lorenzini that are located below their eyes.

C. Sharks can detect water movement through a series of pit organs (the lateral line system) located under their skin.

D. Sharks can detect pressure that depresses their skin only eight ten-thousandths of an inch (10 microns).

E. A shark's hearing is similar to that of a whale or dolphin.


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.