Volume 6, Issue 6 (June, 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 CD
4. Big-Eyed Birds Start Singing First
5. Teachers In Space
6. Brains Rule!: Call for Future Exposition Sites
7. Book Review
8. Movie Review
9. Media Alert
10. E-mail
11. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
12. How to Stop Your Subscription


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

A. May Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. July NeuroCalendar
C. Genetic Control of Brain Symmetry
D. International Report Outlines Hazards Faced by Children
E. Neuropeptides: Something to Sniff About
F. Visual Cortex Activity in the Blind
G. Neuroscience on Stamps
H. To Chip or Not to Chip
I. Astrocytes and Neurogenesis
J. Caffeine for Headaches?

In May, 71 new figures were added and 89 pages were modified.


The Neuroscience for Kids "Page of the Month" for June is the Virtual Hospital's "The Human Brain: Dissections of the Real Brain" at:

The Virtual Hospital is a digital library of medical information developed at the University of Iowa. The nervous system is represented in the library by "The Human Brain: Dissections of the Real Brain."

Click on the "Enter" button to start your visit. The nervous system is divided into five chapters: 1) the spinal cord, 2) the meninges and blood vessels, 3) the cerebellum, 4) the brainstem and 5) the cerebral hemispheres. Each chapter has many photographs of the brain taken at different angles and planes of section. Each photograph is accompanied by a brief description and a labeled line drawing to indicate specific structures and features. "The Human Brain: Dissections of the Real Brain" can be used to review your neuroanatomy knowledge or just to marvel at the complexity and beauty of the brain.


A new, updated version of the Neuroscience for Kids CD-ROM is available for your middle school science classroom! The CD is part of a University of Washington research study designed to assess the effectiveness of instruction using CD-ROM technology. The CD contains material from the Neuroscience for Kids web site with basic information about the nervous system, interactive games and activities, and worksheets to teach about how the brain works. The CD will be mailed to you free of charge along with a pre- and post-test to measure your students' attitudes about science and their knowledge of the nervous system. Participation in the research project is voluntary and all names will be kept confidential. If you are interested in receiving the CD and participating in the study, please contact Dr. Chudler via e-mail ( or regular mail (Dr. Eric H. Chudler; Department of Anesthesiology; BOX 356540; University of Washington; Seattle, WA 98195-6540).


It is a calm morning in the English woodland. Before dawn, common redstart birds start singing. As the sun rises, the European robins, common blackbirds, song thrushes and pied flycatchers join the chorus. Finally, the chaffinches begin to sing.

Birds sing to protect their territory and to attract mates. The earlier in the morning that a bird can start singing, the better its chances are for success. However, singing is not without danger. In addition to attracting mates, singing birds may attract predators looking for a meal.

Why do some birds start singing earlier in the morning than others? A group of British researchers ventured into the countryside to find out. They measured the eye sizes of 57 types of birds. The scientists then correlated these eye sizes with the time of day that the birds started to sing. They found that birds with big eyes start singing earlier than birds with small eyes. Larger eyes allow more light into the eye and permit vision in low lighting conditions. Scientists believe that birds with bigger eyes can start their day earlier because they can see approaching dangers. Birds with small eyes may not be able to see in the very early morning and may end up on the breakfast menu of a predator.

Thomas, R.J., Szekely, T., Cuthill, I.C., Harper, D.G. and Newson, S.E., Frayling, T.D. and Wallis, P.D. Eye size in birds and the timing of song at dawn. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 269:831-837, 2002.


[By Ellen Kuwana, Neuroscience for Kids Staff Writer]

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced recently that a schoolteacher will be included in a space mission by the year 2004. The training of teacher-astronauts was cancelled in 1986 after teacher Christa McAuliffe was killed when the space shuttle Challenger exploded. NASA hopes that including schoolteachers in their programs will inspire students in the US to explore careers in science. Sean O'Keefe, the new NASA director, is steering the administration back to basics, including emphasizing science education.

NASA's work in space may seem far removed from what is happening here on Earth. The experiments done in space, however, can tell us a lot about life on Earth. For example, research in space suggests that the brain has an internal model of gravity that allows us to anticipate the effects of gravity. Understanding more about how the brain works could improve safety aboard space shuttles. It is important for astronauts to be able to move precisely when and how they want. Back on Earth, this work may help scientists understand what happens when brain damage affects movement and timing.

"NASA Says 2004 Mission Will Include Schoolteacher," by Warren Leary, New York Times, April 13, 2002

NASA Neurolab Brochure lists neuroscience-related experiments, see:

To subscribe to a NASA newsletter (for students and teachers), see:


"Brains Rule! Neuroscience Expositions" is a Science Education Drug Abuse Partnership Award funded through the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R25 DA13522-02). This five year, $1.2 million grant at Creighton University (Omaha, NE) seeks to improve neuroscience literacy among children (and thus prevent drug abuse) through an innovative, informal neuroscience education outreach program. The grant pays for the first year that a "Brains Rule! Neuroscience Exposition" is held in a community. The following year, the local community network is expected to fund the Exposition. "Brains Rule!" is an interactive "reverse" science fair where "neuroscience professionals" present fun, hands-on activities about the nervous system and specific health care professions to elementary students (typically 4th-6th grade). Typically, children visit exhibit booths in groups of 4-5 and stay approximately 10-15 minutes. Children then vote on the activities they thought were the most fun and informative - and the presenting professionals win prizes! "Brains Rule! Neuroscience Expositions" is currently seeking locations for 2003 and 2004. If you are interested in helping to organize a "Brains Rule! Neuroscience Exposition" in your local community, and would like more information about the project, please contact the Project Coordinator, David Reisinger, at 402-280-5240 (e-mail: or visit their website at:


Nibbling on Einstein's Brain: The Good, the Bad and the Bogus in Science by Diane Swanson (Illustrated by Warren Clark), Toronto: Annick Press, 2001, 112 pages. ISBN: 1550376861
[For ages 10 and up]

It was impossible for me to pass up a book titled "Nibbling on Einstein's Brain." Although "Nibbling on Einstein's Brain" does not focus specifically on neuroscience, it is an excellent introduction to understanding the difference between good science and bad science.

Swanson divides her book into five chapters: 1) Beware of Bad Science, 2) Science Watch, 3) Media Watch, 4) Mind Watch and 5) Winning Strategies. The first chapter introduces readers to the proper way to evaluate scientific articles. Science Watch contains a list of 21 "Baloney Busters" with tips on how to evaluate research with a critical eye. Media Watch lists 11 "Media Alerts" that show how news reports often sensationalize and misrepresent science. Mind Watch lists 18 "Mind Traps" that show how our minds interpret science news we hear and read. The last chapter, Winning Strategies, provides readers with three ways to promote good scientific thinking: question new scientific findings, learn about science and let people know what you think about science.

Do you wonder how Swanson came up with the name of her book? She explains that experiments done in the 1950s and 1960s investigated "edible memories." Some scientists thought that if one animal ate another animal's brain that memories could be passed to the diner. In fact, one laboratory reported that they could transfer memories this way using flatworms, rats and goldfish. However, this line of research stopped when many other researchers were unable to produce similar results.


A Beautiful Mind (rated PG-13), an Oscar-winning movie starring Russell Crowe, directed by Ron Howard, screenplay by Akiva Goldsman. [Movie review by Lynne Bleeker, middle school science teacher and NFK consultant.]

IMPORTANT NOTE: This movie review reveals some secrets of the movie. So, if you haven't seen "A Beautiful Mind" and want to be surprised, DO NOT READ this review.

I can hardly wait for the video release of "A Beautiful Mind." It should be in the collection of anyone interested in math or mental illness. The movie details the adult life of John Forbes Nash, a brilliant and antisocial Nobel prize-winning mathematician. It also explores his experience with schizophrenia. The movie is done so cleverly that it is half over before the viewer realizes that much of what has happened has occurred only in the mind of the main character. The movie is particularly sensitive in its handling of the impact that mental illness has on Nash and his real and imaginary friends and associates. Although "A Beautiful Mind" is disturbing, it has a wonderful warm and happy ending. High school and college students learning about neuroscience should find this movie to be a stimulating introduction to the study of mental illness.


Will you be away from school or work and unable to read your e-mail? Do you still want to receive the Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter? If you will not be able to receive e-mail over the summer, make sure that you contact me (e-mail: to let me know where to send the newsletter. If my e-mail to you "bounces back" to me because it could not be delivered, your e-mail address will be removed from the mailing list. If this happens to you, just send me an e-mail to resubscribe. Have a good summer!


A. "The Botox Boon" by David Noonan and Jerry Adler (Newsweek magazine, May 13, 2002, pages 50-58): the US FDA has approved a form of the botulinum toxin to treat wrinkles. Botox temporarily paralyzes muscles by interfering with acetylcholine, the chemical that transmits nerve signals to muscles.

B. "Send in the Roborats" by Michael D. Lemonick (Time magazine, May 13, 2002) and "Enter the Cyborgs" by Nell Boyce (US News and World Report, May 13, 2002) both discuss how rats can be controlled by radio signals sent to their brains.

C. "Sight Unseen" by Michael Abrams (Discover magazine, June 2002): a man's vision is restored but problems remain.

D. "The Complexity of Coffee" by Ernesto Illy (Scientific American, June 2002) discusses the many chemicals that contribute to the flavor and smell of coffee. Also in this magazine is "Islands of Genius" by Darold A. Treffert and Gregory L. Wallace that discusses some of the talents displayed by people with autism.

E. "Cycle of Shame" by Jeff Glasser (US News and World Report, May 20, 2002) reports on the high rate of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) in South Africa. Nearly 1 in 15 children suffers from FAS in some parts of South Africa!

F. "The Hidden Mind" is a special issue of Scientific American. This magazine contains articles by some of the world's top neuroscientists. One article, "Sex differences in the brain" by Dr. Doreen Kimura, is online at: The magazine is now available on newsstands ($5.95) or online ($5.00) at:

G. "New Drug Tackles Alzheimer's Clumps" by Helen Phillips in New Scientist (May 15, 2002, page 16). Online at:

H. "Aspirin: The Oldest New Wonder Drug," by Jerry Adler and Anne Underwood, Newsweek magazine, May 27, 2002, pages 60-62.


This month's trivia all come from "The World of Caffeine. The Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug by B.A. Weinberg and B.K. Bealer, New York: Routledge, 2001.

A. Worldwide, 120,000 tons of caffeine are consumed each year.

B. In the US, more than 80% of adults consume caffeine on a daily basis.

C. The average daily consumption of caffeine among adults is 200 mg/day.

D. The highest coffee consuming countries are Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Belgium.

E. Women metabolize caffeine about 25% faster than men.


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.