Volume 7, Issue 4 (April, 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. Brain Awareness Week 2003
4. Cycling Death Sparks Helmet Debate
5. Spring Break Plans?
6. Book Review
7. Media Alert
8. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
9. How to Stop Your Subscription


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

A. March Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. May 2003 NeuroCalendar
C. Botox: Helpful for Migraine Pain?
D. Brain Origami
E. Ecstasy (MDMA) and the Heart
F. Christopher Reeve Breathes on Own
G. Weeding Out the Genetics of Marijuana Use

In March, 18 new figures were added and 57 pages were modified.


The Neuroscience for Kids "Site of the Month" for is the International Brain Research Organization web site "Neuroscience History on the Web" at:

Neuroscientists work in many different countries. The International Brain Research Organization (IBRO) and its web site are set up to help these scientists all around the world. One special feature of the IBRO web site is "Neuroscience History on the Web." This site features the biographies of seven neuroscientists (Santiago Ramon y Cajal, Luis Simarro, Korbinian Brodmann, Magnus Gustaf Blix, Camillo Golgi, Ernesto Lugaro and Claude Bernard). Each biography details the life of the neuroscientist and his contribution to the field. There are also six essays that discuss the history of neuroscientific concepts (e.g., dendrites, Golgi apparatus, Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, the thalamus). For those readers who want to explore the history of neuroscience in more detail, the IBRO site has links to neuroscience history articles that have been published in the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience. "Neuroscience History on the Web" is still being developed and new biographies and essays will be added soon.


I started Brain Awareness Week (BAW) with a trip to Portland, Oregon. In Portland, neuroscientists from the Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) teamed with staff from the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) to put on a Brain Fair. On March 7, OHSU and OMSI sponsored Ira Flatow, host of the radio show "Science Friday," who broadcasted his program live from the science museum. The first hour of Science Friday discussed "Healthy Aging" and ways to keep the brain young. You can listen to the show using RealAudio at:

On March 8, hundreds of visitors to OMSI toured exhibits set up by OHSU researchers and local patient support groups. The exhibits were all hands-on and I could tell that the visitors were enjoying themselves as they learned about the brain. Visitors received a "passport" as they entered the exhibit area. Each page of the passport had a question related to one of the exhibits. When visitors answered all of the questions, they could turn in their passports for a prize.

Later in the month, back in Seattle, I visited with students at two schools to talk about the nervous system. My presentations started by asking the students what they knew about the brain. We developed an impressive list of things that the brain can do. We then talked about parts of the brain and built a giant model of a neuron. There was plenty of time for the students to work with reflex tests, visual illusions, and sensory games. Most students wanted to see a real human brain and I didn't disappoint them. I brought brain specimens from six different animals (human, cat, monkey, rat, sheep, cow) for the students to compare and contrast. At the end of each visit, students were free to ask any question about neuroscience. "Do we use only 10% of the brain?" was one question that was asked at both schools. (See my answer to this question at:

On March 13, I set up an exhibit at my local elementary school's Science Night. Visitors to my booth had a chance to see a real human brain and work with hands-on activities. I also tested a new activity called "brain origami," a paper folding game. You can try brain origami at:

and make the origami with your own brain facts with this form:

At the end of the month, Brain Awareness Week came to the University of Washington. I invited 300 students from several schools in the Seattle area to take part in an Open House. The students first attended the "Brain Power" assembly presented by the Pacific Science Center/Group Health Cooperative. After the assembly, the students worked with hands-on exhibits set up by researchers, clinicians and staff of laboratories and patient support groups. Some of the exhibits:

* a transcranial Doppler machine measured students' brain blood flow
* an EEG machine recorded students' brain activity
* free bicycle helmets were provided and fitted
* a real human brain and spinal cord could be held
* reaction time measurements were made using a ruler drop test
* a Braille machine printed students' names

I hope you were able to participate in this year's BAW. The next BAW will be held March 15-21, 2004.


On March 11, professional bicycle racer Andrei Kivilev was injured during a competition in France. He died the following day. Kivilev was not wearing a helmet during the race. According to news reports, Kivilev touched wheels with another rider and was thrown from his bike. He landed on the ground with his face and forehead taking most of the impact. Kivilev went into a coma and although doctors tried to save him by relieving the excess pressure on his brain, he did not survive. Kivilev's team doctor believes that a helmet would have saved the 29-year-old cyclist.

Although the International Cycling Union (UCI) attempted to require helmets for all racers in 1991, the rule was not passed by the cyclists. Instead, helmets are recommended during all races and required only during certain conditions.


(Article by Ellen Y. Kuwana, Neuroscience for Kids Staff Writer)

Looking for something to do for Spring Break or weekend plans as the weather gets nicer? Welcome spring with a trip to your local science museum!

This past weekend, I took my daughter to the Pacific Science Center (PSC) in Seattle. I was amazed by the variety of activities and displays -- even children as young as two or three years old can find entertaining exhibits. Like the PSC, many science museums feature hands-on activities where kids can watch levers in action, make things move, and observe phenomena dealing with weather, energy and the human body. The PSC also has many animal exhibits (butterflies and dinosaurs models) to spark your imagination and curiosity. For younger kids, areas with water play are always a hit. At the PSC, children can work with streams of water to make toys move, play with objects to make bubbles, and just have fun getting wet.

Another great exhibit at the PSC is the "Illusion Ramp," a street scene that you can walk through. As you stroll through the display, however, you start to feel a bit "off," or dizzy. This is because, as the sign explains, "it is built to give your eyes and sense of balance different cues." Your brain has trouble processing information that does not agree, and as a result you feel dizzy. So explore your area science museum this spring and summer and see firsthand all that it has to offer.


"In Search Of The Lost Cord - Solving the Mystery Of Spinal Cord Regeneration" by Luba Vikhanski, Washington, D.C.: Joseph Henry Press, 2001 [ISBN 0-309-07437-1]
(This book review was written by Ira Surolia, a resident at St. Martha's Hospital, Bangalore, India)

Luba Vikhanski, a science journalist working at the Weizmann Institute of Science (Rehovot, Israel), chronicles the past, present and future of spinal cord regeneration in her new book. The spinal cord, which together with the brain makes up the central nervous system, does not regenerate itself after injury. Therefore, when the spinal cord is injured, a person may lose the function of part of his body. The quest to find successful methods to repair and regenerate the spinal cord has become the "Holy Grail" of neurobiology. In recent years, such efforts have been brought to the public's attention by "Superman" Christopher Reeve, who suffered a spinal cord injury in a horse riding accident.

"In Search Of The Lost Cord" is divided into three parts: 1) the history of spinal cord injury research, 2) current spinal cord research and 3) an appendix, explaining the biology of the spinal cord. I would suggest that you read the appendix first to understand the basics of spinal cord injury. My next stop would be the beginning of the book to learn the history of spinal cord injury, including what was known to the ancient Egyptians and legendary neuroscientists Ramon y Cajal and Camillo Golgi. In the second section, Vikhanski includes material about some of the most promising approaches to spinal cord repair and discusses the biology behind each approach, the labs involved and the extent to which these have been successful. The author does an excellent job explaining this research in layman terms without being too simplistic. Additional illustrations of the concepts would greatly improve the book.

This book is suitable for readers in high school and beyond who are interested in learning more about spinal cord injuries and the relationships between the central nervous system and other body systems.


A. "The Lowdown on Ginkgo Biloba" by Paul Gold, Larry Cahill and Gary Wenk (Scientific American, April 2003).

B. "Why Are His Eyes Crossed" by Mark Cohen (Discover magazine, April 2003) details a doctor's experience when a patient presents with visual disturbances as a symptom of a brain infection.

C. "Emotions and the Brain," by Steven Johnson (Discover magazine, April 2003).

D. "Take Botox and Call Me in the A.M." by Mary Carmichael (Newsweek, March 17, 2003).

E. "A Killer Raves On," Discover, March 2003, pages 22-23. An article about rabies: how it effects the nervous system, how the rabies vaccine was developed, the status of rabies worldwide.

F. "Calls of the Wild" will air on your local PBS television station in April. This program will focus on animal communication. For more information and local listings, please see:


A. The number of neurons in the neocortex of females is 19.3 billion; in males, the number of neurons in the neocortex is 22.8 billion.

B. The average number of neocortical neurons lost is 1 each second or approximately 85,000 each day or approximately 31 million each year.

C. The average number of neocortical glial cells in young adults is 39 billion; in older adults, there are 36 billion glial cells.

D. The length of myelinated nerve fibers in the brain is 150,000-180,000 km.

E. The number of synapses in the cortex is 0.15 quadrillion.

a) Pakkenberg, B., Pelvig, D., Marner, L., Bundgaard, M.J., Gundersen, H.J.G., Nyengaard, J.R. and Regeur, L. Aging and the human neocortex. Exp. Gerontology, 38:95-99, 2003.

b) Pakkenberg, B. and Gundersen, H.J.G. Neocortical neuron number in humans: effect of sex and age. J. Comp. Neurology, 384:312-320, 1997.


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.