Volume 7, Issue 5 (May, 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. Candles with Lead-Cored Wicks Banned
4. Hiccups
5. Distance Learning Course for K-12 Teachers
6. Media Alert
7. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
8. How to Stop Your Subscription


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

A. April Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. June NeuroCalendar
C. July NeuroCalendar
D. Sound Match Game
E. UW Brain Awareness Week Open House
F. Falls and Traumatic Brain Injury: The Elderly at Risk
G. Neurotoxic Red Tide Kills Manatees
H. Manatee Senses
In April, 12 new figures were added and 110 pages were modified.


The Neuroscience for Kids "Site of the Month" for May is the "Classics in the History of Psychology" at:
Where can you find the original writings of famous neuroscientists, psychologists and philosophers such as Paul Broca, William James, Plato, Aristotle, Karl Lashley, Ivan Pavlov, and Donald Hebb? The answer is online at the Classics in the History of Psychology (CHP) web site.

The CHP web site contains the full text of articles from many well-known scientists. Entire books, such as The Principles of Psychology (published in 1890) by William James, are available. The original description of the "Stroop Effect" (colored word test) by J. Ridley Stroop (1935) is also online. You can browse the material by topic or by author and a search feature allows you scan the entire site for particular words or phrases. A search of the word "brain" turned up 228 hits and the phrase "nervous system" turned up 220 hits.


On April 7, 2003, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a ban on the manufacture, import and sale of lead-cored wicks and candles with lead-cored wicks. Lead is used to make the wicks burn slower and keep them straighter. The CPSC believes that these products put children at risk for lead poisoning. Lead is a metal that is dangerous because it can damage the brain and peripheral nervous system.

When candles with lead-cored wicks are burned, they may send large amounts of lead into the air. In fact, researchers in Michigan estimate that burning four of these candles for two hours can raise lead concentrations in the air to dangerous levels that pose a threat to human health. The lead-filled air may be inhaled and place people at risk. Children are especially at risk because they often put their hands in their mouths. Therefore, children may accidentally eat lead that floats down onto the ground, table tops and food.

The ban on these products will start in October 2003. After this date, the US Customs Service will have the authority to stop shipments of these candles and impose penalties for violations of the ban.

US Product Safety Commission, Press Release

More about lead poisoning.

Reference: Nriagu, J.O. and Kim, M.J. Emissions of lead and zinc from candles with metal-core wicks. The Science of the Total Environment, 250:37-41, 2000.


I had the hiccups twice last month. Although my hiccups lasted only a few minutes, they did bother me. My short bout with hiccups, however, was nothing like that of Charles Osborne. According to the Guinness World Records 2000, Mr. Osborne holds the record for continuous hiccupping. Mr. Osborne started hiccupping in 1922 and did not stop until 1990!

Hiccups are caused by an abnormal contraction of your diaphragm, the muscle at the base of your chest that helps you breathe. The diaphragm is controlled by the phrenic nerve. When you breathe in, the diaphragm is pulled down; when you breathe out, the diaphragm is pushed back up. The sound of a hiccup is caused when the diaphragm contracts at the beginning of a breath and the glottis closes suddenly. The glottis is the opening of the larynx (voice box).

Although very rare, hiccups can last a long time. Some people have had hiccups that lasted for days, weeks or as in the case of poor Mr. Osborne, years! One 16-year-old girl developed a case of hiccups that did not go away even when she was asleep. Long bouts of hiccups may be caused by damage or injury to the nerves that control the diaphragm or to areas of the brain involved with breathing. Sometimes drugs or surgery on the phrenic nerve are used to treat these long-lasting hiccups.

Most hiccups, of course, do not require such drastic measures. Most hiccups last only a few minutes and go away by themselves. There are plenty of home remedies for hiccups: some work, for some people, some of the time. Here are a few popular home remedies for hiccups:

a) Sip ice water
b) Drink water out of the far lip of a glass
c) Breathe into a paper bag
d) Gasp after getting scared
e) Pull your knees to your chest
f) Hold your breath
g) Stand on your head
h) Gargle with water

Did you know? The medical term for a "hiccup" is "singultus."


If you are a teacher who wants to learn more about the brain, then you may be interested in "Brain Research in Education" (BRE), an Internet-based program from the University of Washington Extension. BRE is a series of three courses: 1) Brain Basics; 2) Brain Research Processes and 3) Brain Research in Educational Curricula. Teachers earn University of Washington credits and a certificate of achievement when they complete the courses.


A. "Search for a Safe Cigarette" will be rebroadcast on your local PBS station on Tuesday, June 3, 2003. This program will describe the tobacco industry's attempts to develop a "safer" cigarette. The web site features pages on the anatomy of a cigarette, the history of "safer" cigarettes and the effects of nicotine. For more information on this program, see:

B. "Emotions and the Brain: Love" by Steven Johnson and "The Biology of... Addiction" By Michael Abrams are both in the May 2003 issue of Discover magazine.

C. "Hearing Colors, Tasting Shapes" by Vilayanur S. Ramachandran and Edward M. Hubbard in the May 2003 issue of Scientific American.

D. "No" in a Needle by Nell Boyce (US News and World Report, April 28, 2003) describes the use of vaccines to treat drug addiction.

E. "Mystery Bumps" by David Berreby in the May 2003 issue of Smithsonian magazine (pages 22-24) describes the function of dark bumps on the alligator jaw. Online at:


A. Composer Ludwig van Beethoven may have been poisoned by lead. Researchers at Argonne Research Laboratory found that a lock of Beethoven's hair had lead levels 100 times greater than normal. Scientists speculate that lead may have caused some of the problems (irritability, depression) that Beethoven experienced during his life.

B. Smells and tastes are experienced in approximately 1% of all dreams. (Reference: Zadra, A.L., Nielsen, T.A., Donderi, D.C. Prevalence of auditory, olfactory, and gustatory experiences in home dreams, Perceptual and Motor Skills, 87:819-826, 1998.)

C. In a 7-year study, people who ate at least one serving of seafood once a week had a 30% lower risk of developing dementia than those who ate less seafood. (Reference: Discover magazine, March 2003, page 10.)

D. Throughout most of the 1990s, the number of doctoral degrees that U.S. universities awarded in science and engineering climbed steadily, to 27,300 in 1998; but by 2001, the number had dropped to 25,500, the lowest number since 1993. (Reference: Science News, March 8, 2003.)

E. Universities receiving the most grant money from the National Institutes of Health:
i. Johns Hopkins University ($457.4 million)
ii. University of Pennsylvania ($376.0 million)
iii. University of Washington ($356.2 million)
iv. University of California, San Francisco ($350.4 million)
v. Washington University ($303.6 million)
(Reference: The Scientist, February 10, 2003, page 14.)


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.