Volume 7, Issue 3 (March, 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. Finding Brains
6. My Visit to the Eye Doctor
7. The Eye on Tour
8. UW Middle School Academy
9. Book Review
10. Media Alert
11. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
12. How to Stop Your Subscription


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

A. February Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. April 2003 NeuroCalendar
C. A Stroke of Luck: Vampire Bat Spit May Yield New Stroke Treatment
D. Genetics Study Reveals Possible Link Between Autism and ADHD
E. Common Eye Diseases and Disorders
F. Nosing Around the Shark's Nose
G. 2003 Neuroscience for Kids Drawing Contest Winner Page
H. Bicycle Messengers: Daredevils on Wheels
I. Spiders Use Flower Ultraviolet Patterns to Attract Prey

In February, 22 new figures were added and 98 pages were modified.


The Neuroscience for Kids "Site of the Month" for March is "Who Named It" at:

You have probably heard of Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. Who was Alzheimer? Who was Parkinson? If you don't know, the "Who Named It" web site will help you discover the person behind the disease.

The "Who Named It" web site lists 6,252 medical eponyms (words based on someone's name). The site describes many medical conditions and includes a biography of the person that the condition is named after. You can search for a particular disease or condition alphabetically or click on "List Category" to find conditions related to a particular subject such as brain, heart, nervous system or muscle. You can also search for biographies with a list of names arranged in alphabetical order.

Now when someone asks you, "Who named that disease?" you can turn to "Who Named It" for the answer.


The results of the 2003 Neuroscience for Kids Drawing Contest are in! A total of 586 students entered the contest. Entries came from 22 different states (Texas, Ohio, Utah, Massachusetts, Florida, Washington, Georgia, Nevada, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Michigan, California, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Tennessee, Mississippi and Connecticut) and four countries (USA, Canada, India and Columbia).

To judge the contest, I selected at least 20 finalists from each grade category (Kindergarten-Grade 2; Grades 3-5; Grades 6-8; Grades 9-12). Judges (10 neuroscientists, 1 sixth-grade student) viewed these selected drawings and chose up to 10 of their favorites. The judges' scores were then tallied and the drawings that received the most votes were declared winners. Several publishing companies (Capstone Press, Millbrook Press, The Dana Press) and the Scienceworks Museum made generous prize donations, so it was possible to have several winners in each grade category. These prizes were mailed last month to all of the winners.

A few of the winning drawings are posted at:

Congratulations to everyone who entered the contest!


Brain Awareness Week (BAW) is this month! How will you celebrate?

Here at the University of Washington, 300 students will attend the BAW Open House. The Open House will feature the Pacific Science Center/Group Health Cooperative "Brain Power Team" and hands-on, interactive exhibits sponsored by researchers and staff from various university departments and organizations. I will also visit several local schools and present an interactive program titled "Explore Your Brain." If you would like to share what you did during BAW, send me (email: a summary and I will try to include it in a future issue of the Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter. For more on BAW, see:


Several teachers have asked me where they can find real brain specimens to use when their class studies the nervous system. I do not know of any places where teachers can obtain human brains for their classes. There are legal, ethical, and safety issues that make it difficult to use human tissue in the classroom.

Sheep brains are used as an alternative to human brains in many college neuroanatomy courses. I know several elementary school classes that also dissect sheep brains. Whole sheep brains can be purchased from the Carolina Biological Supply and Blue Spruce Biological Supply for less than $5.00 each. Whole rat brains are sold by several companies, but these brains are too small to see much detail. A great online sheep brain dissection guide developed by Dr. Tim Cannon and his colleagues in the Department of Psychology at the University of Scranton will help with your study of the sheep brain:


Last month I made a visit to the eye doctor. I had not had an eye exam for three years and it was time for a check up. I made a list of questions for the doctor the night before my exam. Has my vision changed since my last exam? How do my retinas look? Will I need new glasses? I also wanted to know if I had any signs of glaucoma or cataracts.

My visit started in the optometrist's waiting room. I had to fill out a form with my name, address, health history and insurance information. I was then led into an examination room where my color vision and visual acuity were tested. To test my color vision, the doctor had me read a colored two-digit number hidden within colored spots. I passed this test with...flying colors. For the next test, I rested my chin in a machine and tried to read small lines of letters. The results: I have 20/200 vision. This means that I must be at 20 feet to read what someone with normal vision can read at 200 feet. In other words, I am nearsighted or "myopic." I can see clearly when things are close up, but things in the distance look blurry.

My eyeball pressure was then tested using a tonometer. High eyeball pressure is a sign of glaucoma. Normal eyeball pressure is between 10 and 22 mm Hg. My eyes tested at 13 and 15 mm Hg so I had nothing to worry about. The doctor also tested my vision using a Phoroptor. This device has wheels with many different lenses. As I looked through the lenses, I had to decide which lenses gave me the best vision. By switching the lenses back and forth, the eye doctor can determine the best lenses for my glasses.

Finally, the doctor wanted to look inside my eyes. He applied some eye drops to each of my eyes. These eye drops worked to dilate (make bigger) the pupils of my eyes. The doctor then used a slit lamp to see my lenses and retinas. Good news: I have clear lenses (no signs of cataracts) and healthy retinas (no signs of glaucoma or age-related macular degeneration).

It was nice to get a clean bill of eye health. The entire exam was actually fun because I was able to talk with the doctor about what he was doing. My visit was also painless, until it was time to buy a new pair of glasses. Eye glasses are very, very expensive! Ouch!

Did you know?

* The American Optometric Association recommends regular eye exams every two years for children between the ages of 6 and 18 years, every two to three years for adults between the ages of 18 and 40 years, every two years for adults between 41 to 60 years and every year for people older than 60.

* An ophthalmologist earns a medical degree (M.D.) and is a graduate of a medical school. An optometrist earns a doctor of optometry degree (O.D.) after completing four years of specialized training after a college degree. An optician is licensed to fit and adjust eyeglasses (and in some states, contact lenses).

For information on common eye disorders and diseases (glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration), see:


Catch a glimpse of the traveling exhibit "The Eye Site" at your local shopping center. "The Eye Site," developed by the National Eye Institute, has information about the eye and low vision. The exhibits are making stops at shopping centers around the US. In the next few months, the exhibit will be in Lincoln (NE), Bellevue (NE), Hastings (NE), Dodge City (KS), Hyattsville (MD), Springfield (VA), Bethesda (MD), and the District of Columbia.


The University of Washington (Seattle, WA) Extension and Education Outreach Program are offering several summer programs for middle school students. One five-day short course is titled "Brain Power - It's All in Your Head." In this course, students will study comparative neuroanatomy, dissect sheep brains and take a field trip to the Pacific Science Center. For more information about the Middle School Short Courses, see:


"The Brain" by Suzanne LeVert, Tarrytown (NY): Benchmark Books, 2002, ISBN: 0-7614-1308-1, 48 pages. For students in first to fourth grade.

Writing a book for young students about the anatomy of the nervous system is a difficult job. What parts of the brain should be included in the book? How much detail should be included? Author LeVert, in her book "The Brain," divides the nervous system into its two main parts: the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and peripheral nervous system (nerves extending to and from the brain and spinal cord). LeVert goes on to divide the brain into the cerebrum, cerebellum, brain stem and limbic system. The book does a good job of explaining the major structures and functions of each of these areas. The many large, colorful drawings and photographs in the book help illustrate these ideas. One important theme throughout the book is that different parts of the brain function together.

In addition to sections about basic brain anatomy, the book discusses the structure and function of nerve cells (neurons). There are also brief sections about head injury, headaches, epilepsy and strokes. However, there is no discussion of the senses, glial cells or reflexes. Nevertheless, "The Brain" is a good book that introduces young students to the complex world of the nervous system.


A. Did you watch "Phobia" on the National Geographic Channel last month? If so, you would have learned that astraphobia is the fear of lightning, coulrophobia is the fear of clowns, claustrophobia is the fear of tight spaces, and amaxaphobia is the fear of riding in a vehicle. Additional shows air on Saturdays in March. (Learn more about trypanophobia: fear of needles; musophobia: fear of mice and rats; gephyrophobia: fear of bridges; nyctophobia: fear of nighttime; ophidiophobia: fear of snakes.)

B. "Can the Brain Conquer Fear?" is the cover story of Discover magazine (March 2003). The article discusses how neuroscientists are researching ways to keep emotions from interfering with the mind.

C. "Bugs in the Brain" by R. Sapolsky (Scientific American, March 2003) discusses how microorganisms can manipulate neurons.

D. "The Secret of Life" is the cover story of Time magazine (February 17, 2003). The story discusses how the discovery of the structure of DNA has changed how we live.

E. "Anxiety and Your Brain. How Living with Fear Affect the Mind and Body" is the cover story of Newsweek magazine (February 24, 2003).


A. In 2001, the use of GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) resulted in 3,340 emergency-room visits in the U.S., according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (Source: Newsweek, February 3, 2003, page 52.)

B. The average intelligence quotient (IQ) score is 100. About 68% of the population has IQ scores between 85 and 115; about 95% of the population has IQ scores between 70 and 130; about 99.7% of the population has IQ scores between 55 and 145.

C. The word "retina" comes from the Latin word meaning "net."

D. Normal eye pressure ranges from 10-22 mm Hg.

E. "Cataract" comes from the Latin word "cataracta" meaning "waterfall" because looking through a waterfall is similar to the vision that results from cataracts.


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.