Volume 7, Issue 1 (January, 2003)


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 Drawing Contest
4. Brain Awareness Week
5. Why are School Buses Yellow?
6. Brain Explorers
7. Media Alert
8. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
9. How to Stop Your Subscription


HAPPY NEW YEAR from Neuroscience for Kids!



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

A. December Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. February 2003 NeuroCalendar
C. Changing Eyes!
D. Ionized Bracelets: Do They Work On Pain?
E. Redheads and Pain Perception
F. Brains, Brains Everywhere
G. Brain Explorers
H. Alcohol-Related Crash Deaths Reduced in Young Drivers
I. Using Wind to Repel Mosquitoes
J. The Power of Nicotine

In December, 32 new figures were added and 127 pages were modified.


The Neuroscience for Kids "Site of the Month" for January is "MEDLINEplus" at:

MEDLINEplus is a service of the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. This web site is a great place to start your research on any health science topic. MEDLINEplus has links to Internet resources about many diseases and conditions and hundreds of prescription and over-the-counter medications. Visit the Interactive Health Tutorials for Flash animations that describe different diseases, tests and treatments.

Need a medical encyclopedia? MEDLINEplus has one with more than 4,000 articles.

Need a medical dictionary? MEDLINEplus links to five dictionaries.

Need recent health news? MEDLINEplus links to articles from several health news agencies.

Need a doctor? MEDLINEplus links to many specialists and professional organizations.

MEDLINEplus is your one-stop web site for everything about health!


There is only one month left for you to enter the NEUROSCIENCE FOR KIDS DRAWING CONTEST. The contest is open to students in kindergarten through high school. The official rules and an entry form for the contest are available at:


Brain Awareness Week (BAW) will be here on March 10-16, 2003. Are you ready? Anytime in March is a good time to celebrate BAW. Your activities can be simple (have a neuroscientist visit your classroom) or complex (coordinate a brain fair for your school). For ideas and more information about BAW, please visit the Dana Alliance and Society for Neuroscience web sites at: and


Do you want to bring your students to the 2003 Brain Awareness Week Open House at the University of Washington on March 27, 2003? We are now accepting applications. Please complete and return the application form at:

To read about last year's BAW Open House, please see:

If you cannot download the application form, contact Dr. Chudler by e-mail:


Have you ever wondered why school buses are yellow? Why not green or red or blue? Who decided buses should be yellow? Are yellow vehicles safer than vehicles of other colors?

Prior to 1939, students traveled to school in vehicles of all shapes, sizes and colors. Because there were no standards for constructing school buses, bus manufacturers complained that they could not make buses quickly on assembly lines. That's when Frank W. Cyr stepped in. In April 1939, Cyr organized a conference of transportation officials, engineers, bus manufacturers and paint companies to set up national standards for constructing school buses. (I do not think that any neuroscientists attended this meeting.) The conference was organized to decide on bus standards such as bus length, aisle width, ceiling height and color. It was decided that buses should be yellow with black letters because the people at the meeting thought this color combination was easiest to see in the light of the early morning and late afternoon.

Although school buses have changed since 1939, they are still yellow. School bus yellow even has a special name ("National School Bus Chrome Yellow") and its formula is registered with the National Bureau of Standards (Federal Standard No. 595a, Color 13432). There is no federal law that requires school buses to be yellow, but all states have adopted the standard.

What is so special about yellow? Cells in the retina of our eyes respond to light with wavelengths between about 380 and 760 nanometers. This is visible light. Our brains perceive light of different wavelengths as different colors. Wavelengths between 510 and 570 nanometers are perceived as green and yellow. In fact, our eyes are most sensitive to these green/yellow wavelengths. So scientific evidence supports the 1939 conference decision to paint buses yellow: yellow is the color we see best.

There is also new evidence that yellow cars are less likely to be hit by other vehicles. Researchers at the University of Granada (Spain) examined the records of Spanish traffic accidents between 1993 and 1999 (57,472 total accidents). They found that yellow and white cars were approximately 4% less likely to be hit by other cars; black cars were most likely to be hit. Light colored cars gave further protection in poor weather conditions such as fog and rain.

Although the protective effects of yellow cars are small, every little bit of added safety helps, especially when the passengers are kids on their way to school. So, the next time you are on a school bus, you can thank Frank Cyr for your yellow bus and for giving you some added protection.


Lardelli-Claret, P., Luna-del-Castillo, J,D., Jimenez-Moleon, J.J., Femia-Marzo, P., Moreno-Abril, O., Bueno-Cavanillas, A., Does vehicle color influence the risk of being passively involved in a collision? Epidemiology, 13:721-724, 2002.

U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Highway Safety Program Guideline #17, online at:

Neuroscience for Kids (the retina):

School Bus Facts
A. School buses are nearly 2,000 times safer than the family car.

B. Approximately 440,000 public school buses travel 4.3 billion miles to and from school and school-related activities every year.

C. The fatality rate of school bus occupants is 0.2 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles. The rate for passenger cars is 1.5 and 1.3 for light trucks and vans.

(Source: National School Transportation Association)


"Brain Explorers" is a collection of hands-on activities for students in grades 3-5. This material was developed using a Science Education Partnership Award at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) by Dr. Gary Duncan. Dr. Duncan wanted more people to know about Brain Explorers so he asked Neuroscience for Kids for assistance. We were happy to help!

You can now find Brain Explorers on the Neuroscience for Kids web site at:


A. The cover story of the December 9, 2002 issue of Time magazine is about arthritis.

B. "Fish Oil and Toenails" by S. Gupta in the December 9, 2002 issue of Time magazine (page 99). Eating fish may be good for our hearts, but how much mercury is in fish and how dangerous is it?

C. There are three neuroscience-related articles in the January 2003 issue of Discover magazine:
i. "The Voice of Tomorrow...The Mathematics of Artificial Speech" (pages 17-18).
ii. "Headaches to Worry About" (pages 21-22).
iii. "Early Humans Had Tiny Brains" (page 47).

D. "The Ghost Hunters. Scientists and novelists share insights into the enduring mystery of human consciousness" n the December 16, 2002 issue of US News and World Report.

E. "Sound and Fury. Whale deaths blamed on sonar have triggered a heated debate about man-made noise in the sea" by Betsy Carpenter in the December 23, 2002 issue of US News and World Report.


A. Bipolar disorder, a serious brain disease that causes extreme shifts in mood, energy, and functioning, affects approximately 5.7 million American adults or about 2.6 percent of the population age 18 and older 2.3 million adults in the U.S. or about 1.2% of the population. (

B. The complete inability to taste is called ageusia and the reduced ability to taste is called hypogeusia.

C. According to a 2001 survey by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, accountants get the most headaches. About 49% of the accountants in the survey reported getting weekday headaches. The accountants were followed by librarians (43%), bus and truck drivers (42%) and construction workers (38%).

D. The word "dendrite" (the part of a neuron that brings information toward the cell body) comes from the Greek word meaning "tree."

E. The word "neurology" was coined by Thomas Willis in 1681.


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.