Volume 6, Issue 9 (September, 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. SEPA Programs
4. Chew on This!
5. Neuroscience: It's Everywhere
6. Media Alert
7. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
8. 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. Voice of the Lakers Silenced by Brain Injury
C. Alligators Detect Water Movement with Special Sensory Receptors
D. Second Language Learning
E. Conjoined Twins Separated
F. Listen to Your Mom: "Don't Run with Scissors!"
G. Changing Cortical Size and Shape
H. West Nile Virus Hits Southern United States
I. November NeuroCalendar
J. Neuroscience for Kids Electronic Postcard Site remodeled

In August, 33 new figures were added and 64 pages were modified.


The Neuroscience for Kids "Page of the Month" for September is The Franklin Institute's online exhibit called "The Human Brain" at:

The Franklin Institute (Philadelphia, PA) is a great science museum. In addition to their exhibits in Philadelphia, the Franklin Institute has created several online exhibits, including one about the human brain.

The online brain exhibit is divided into five main sections: Nourish, Rest, Protect, Exercise, and Discuss. A Table of Contents lists all of the articles contained in each section:

* Nourish: effects of diet, sugar, and fats on the brain
* Rest: sleep, stress and relaxation
* Protect: brain injury and the effect of heavy metals on the brain
* Exercise: physical and mental challenges and the brain
* Discuss: short summaries of scientific papers.

Unfortunately, the web site does not have any pictures to illustrate the text. Nevertheless, it is obvious that plenty of research went into developing the site and the articles are easy to read. So head over to the online brain exhibit for a worthwhile virtual trip around the brain.


Have you noticed the "Supported by a Science Education Partnership Award, NCRR, NIH" line at the end of the Neuroscience for Kids Newsletters? The Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) program is part of the National Center of Research Resources (NCRR), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Educators and scientists work together on SEPA projects to develop and distribute innovative science education material to students, teachers and the general public.

Neuroscience for Kids is just one of many SEPA projects. Another SEPA project that focuses on the nervous system is the "Brain Research in Education" program, a distance learning course for teachers interested in learning about the brain. Other SEPA projects concentrate on aging, genetics, nutrition, molecular biology, chemistry, bone biology and other science topics. All of these projects reach out into the community to generate interest in science.

To learn more about the SEPA program, visit the NCRR web site -- you may find a SEPA project in your own "backyard."


[This article by Josh Kunken, Graduate Student, Department of Biological Sciences, College of Optometry, State University of New York]

Researchers have discovered that chewing gum, like the type you find at your local supermarket, can improve the memory of the person chewing it.

So, what's the magic ingredient in chewing gum that improves memory? It appears that it is not what's in the gum itself, but the act of chewing and the resistance of the gum that makes the difference in memory tests. Scientists gave several memory and attention tests to 75 healthy volunteers in three experimental groups: 1) "gum chewers" who munched on a piece of sugar free extra spearmint gum; 2) "sham chewers" who copied the movements of chewing gum, but did not actually have a piece of gum in their mouths and 3) "quiet controls" who did no chewing.

Gum chewers remembered an average of 8.6 words immediately after listening to a 15-word list; sham chewers recalled only 5.2 words and quiet controls remembered 6.9 words. Gum chewers also had better long term memories than sham chewers and the quiet controls.

Exactly how chewing gum improves memory is not known. Because chewing gum raises the heart rate, it may be that increases in oxygen flow to the brain result in better memory function. Chewing may also trigger the release of insulin that could increase the brain's uptake of blood sugar.

Chewing gum may not only be fun for making huge bubbles; it may also help you remember that last bit of information for your next exam.

Reference and further information: Wilkinson, L., Scholey, A., Wesnes, K., Chewing gum selectively improves aspects of memory in healthy volunteers, Appetite, 38:235-236, 2002.

Memory Games


It's hard to avoid neuroscience. Newspapers, magazines and TV shows often feature stories about the brain. For example, this year, TIME magazine has had cover stories about autism (May 6), anxiety (June 10), hormones (July 22) and bipolar depression (August 19). NEWSWEEK magazine has also featured many stories about the nervous system. For example, NEWSWEEK has featured cover stories on schizophrenia (March 11) and sleep (July 15).

Almost every day that you pick up the newspaper you will find articles about the nervous system. I did a survey to see how many "brain stories" I could find in my local newspaper, the SEATTLE TIMES. Here are my results for the first ten days of August:

Date Story Headline
-------- --------------
August 10 Heston says he has signs of dementia
August 10 West Nile virus spreads, killing 2 more in Louisiana
August 9 Stem-cell implants could create blood vessels, save limbs
August 9 Separated twin girls open eyes, get moving
August 9 Canadian dies from condition linked to 'mad cow' disease
August 8 Scientists discover strong appetite curb
August 8 Twins won't open eyes for a few days
August 8 Separate stem-cell labs not required
August 8 Botox injections may boost skills of stroke victims
August 7 Doctors optimistic about twins after separation operation
August 7 Depression can be fatal if symptoms go unnoticed
August 6 Separated twins in intensive care
August 6 Man visiting Washington may have West Nile virus
August 5 Hearn, voice of Lakers, still in critical condition
August 4 Hearn probably has called his last game
August 3 West Nile virus kills 4, spreads in Louisiana
August 3 Son's fight inspires Kelly
August 2 Study: Gene connected to anti-social behavior
August 1 Study: Marijuana eases traumatic memories
August 1 Health officials look into deaths of 3 men who ate wild game

The MEDIA ALERT section of this newsletter (see below) highlights brainy news stories that you can find on the Internet or in popular magazines. You should be able to find many articles in your local newspaper. You may be surprised by what you find.


A. The fourth edition of "Brain Facts. A Primer on the Brain and Nervous System" was published this year by the Society for Neuroscience. "Brain Facts" contains short chapters on a variety of neuroscience topics. This fantastic 52 page book is a great introduction to the brain for students and teachers. An added bonus: "Brain Facts" is free to read on-line at

B. "The Serious Search for an Anti-Aging Pill" by M.A. Lane, D.K. Ingram, and G.S. Roth in Scientific American, August 2002.

C. "Remembering When" by A.R. Damasio and "Times of Our Lives" by K. Wright are articles about how the brain keeps track of time (Scientific American, September 2002).

D. West Nile Virus
i. "West Nile: On The Move" by A. Park in Time Magazine, August 12, 2002.

ii. "Mosquito Season Turns Deadly" by A. Underwood in the August 19, 2002 issue of Newsweek Magazine.

iii. "Biting Back at West Nile Virus" by C. Lok in US News and World Report, August 19, 2002.

E. "Wrenching genes" by N. Shute in US News and World Report, August 5, 2002: discussion of Rett Syndrome.

F. The cover story of the August 19, 2002 issue of Time magazine discusses bipolar depression in children.

G. "Is Soccer Bad for Children's Heads?" is a summary of the Institute of Medicine Workshop on the Neuropsychological Consequences of Head Impact in Youth Soccer. The workshop was held on October 12, 2001 and the 26 page summary was published this year. This summary is now available to read on the Internet at:

H. "Don't Ignore Heart-Attack Blues" by S. Gupta in the August 26, 2002 issue of Time Magazine: Heart attacks and depression.


A. Cats can hear sounds in a 10.5 octave range. Humans have a hearing range of about 9.3 octaves. (Source: Bradshaw, J., Behavioral biology, in The Waltham Book of Dog and Cat Behaviour, edited by C. Thorne, Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1992.)

B. In 2001, eight young U.S. football players (7 in high school, 1 in a Pop Warner program [ages 7-16 years old]) died as a direct result of injuries suffered on the field. Of these eight players, six died of brain injuries, 1 died of a fractured neck and one died of a ruptured spleen. (Source: National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research)

C. An estimated 46.5 million people 18 years or older were current smokers in the United States in 2000. (Source:

D. The country with the most neurologists per person is Lithuania where there are approximately 6,240 people for every neurologist. (Source: Bergen, D.C., Training and distribution of neurologists worldwide. J. Neurological Sciences, 198:3-7, 2002.)

E. Americans spend $11 billion each year for glasses and contact lenses. (Source: Walker, T.C. and Miller, R.K. 2001 Health Care Business Market Research Handbook, Fifth edition, Norcross (GA): Richard K. Miller & Associates, Inc., 2001.)


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.