Volume 7, Issue 6 (June, 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. Injury Prevention in the Movies
4. Survey Says
5. Book Review
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. May Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. August NeuroCalendar
C. September NeuroCalendar
D. Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs)
E. Lead and the Brain
F. Brain Alphabet
G. Neuroscience for Kids Treasure Hunt #5

In May, 42 new figures were added and 162 pages were modified.


The Neuroscience for Kids "Site of the Month" for June is "Reith Lectures 2003: The Emerging Mind" at:

A Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter reader let me know about this month's web site from the British Broadcasting Company (BBC). BBC Radio 4 aired five lectures about the brain this past April. These lectures were presented by author and researcher Dr. Vilayanur S. Ramachandran, who is the Director of the Centre for Brain and Cognition at the University of California in San Diego. You can hear Dr. Ramachandran's talks (Phantoms in the Brain; Synapses and the Self; The Artful Brain; Purple Numbers and Sharp Cheese; Neuroscience - the New Philosophy) through the Reith Lecture web site.

The web site also has several video clips from the lectures, a glossary of neuroscience terms, blindspot experiments and an "interactive brain" to help you follow the lectures.


I look forward to seeing some of the blockbuster movies that are now playing in theaters. I think movies are good entertainment and the theater is a cool place to escape from the heat of summer. Movies also have the ability to shape behavior. Many people look up to movie stars and try to imitate what they do. Some movies spark new fashion trends and introduce new sayings (such as "I'll be back.") into popular culture. It would be great if actors in movies modeled safe behavior -- perhaps more people would follow their lead. Unfortunately, actors in movies usually do not behave with good sense when it comes to personal safety.

In a paper published in 2000, researchers reported on the safety practices of actors in 50 of the highest money making G- and PG-rated movies released between 1995 and 1997. The movies selected for the study must have been unanimated and set in the present day. Scenes involving riding in motor vehicles, crossing streets, biking, boating, skating, snowmobiling, skateboarding, motorcycling, and horseback riding were studied.

Few actors in the movies used good safety practices:

Only 27% wore their seat belts properly.
Only 16% crossed the street in a crosswalk.
Only 14% wore a helmet while riding a snowmobile.
Only 6% wore a helmet while riding a bike.
No one wore a helmet while riding a skateboard.

Helmets were used by actors more often while they skated (67%) and rode a motorcycle (60%). Movies rarely showed the consequences of poor safety practices. If movies showed more actors wearing helmets, would more people wear helmets? This question is difficult to answer. Many people are influenced by what they see in the movies. Perhaps if more movie stars wore helmets and seatbelts, more people would use their helmets and seatbelts -- and accidental brain injuries would be reduced.

Reference: Pelletier, A.R., Quinlan, K.P., Sacks, J.J., Van Gilder, T.J., Gilchrist, J., and Ahluwalia, H.K. Injury prevention practices as depicted in G-rated and PG-rated movies. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 154:283-286, 2000.


The Neuroscience for Kids web site has many surveys sprinkled throughout its pages. These surveys are not part of a scientific study. Instead, the surveys let people find out what other Neuroscience for Kids visitors think. Here are the results for some of the more popular surveys:

What is your favorite brain structure? (12,431 votes)
Cerebral Cortex - 22%
Cerebellum - 14%
Hippocampus - 14%
Medulla - 14%
Hypothalamus - 10%
Other structures - 26%

What sense is most important to you? (14,476 votes)
Vision - 66%
Touch - 12%
Hearing - 8%
Taste - 7%
Smell - 4%

When riding in or driving a car, how often do you wear a seat belt? (3,743 votes)
Always - 71%
Sometimes - 19%
Never - 9%

Do you dream in color? (3915 votes)
Always - 61%
Sometimes - 32%
Never - 6%

About how many hours of sleep do you get each night? (10328 votes)
3-5 hours - 11%
6 hours - 19%
7 hours - 23%
8 hours - 21%
9 hours - 12%
10 hours - 5%
11 hours - 1%
12 hours - 1%
More than 12 hours - 2%

When riding a bike, how often do you wear a helmet? (1834 votes)
Always - 31%
Sometimes - 21%
Never - 47%


"Why I Sneeze, Shiver, Hiccup, and Yawn" by Melvin Berger, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2000, 33 pages. [ISBN: 0-06-028144-8] and "What Makes You Cough, Sneeze, Burp, Hiccup, Blink, Yawn, Sweat and Shiver" by Jean Stangl, New York: Franklin Watts, 2000, 48 pages. [0-531-20382-4]
For students in grades 1-4.

Both of these books could have been titled "Your Reflexes" because they introduce readers to the causes of common reflexes. Authors Berger and Stangl point out that reflexes are automatic, involuntary behaviors. Some reflexes, such as the quick withdrawal action when a person touches a hot stove, protect us from injury. The purposes of other reflexes, such as hiccups and yawning, are not known.

The authors do a good job explaining reflexes, although their explanation of yawning is probably incorrect. Berger writes, "Yawning is your body's way of getting more oxygen" and Stangl says, "A yawn begins when the lungs have too little oxygen in them." Experiments performed by Dr. Robert Provine at the University of Maryland have shown that the number of times a person yawns is not affected by the amount of oxygen that people breathe. Therefore, yawning may have nothing to with getting more oxygen to the body.

Despite this error, both books provide a good introduction to reflexes. Berger's book includes color illustrations and a short list of experiments to do. Stangl uses drawings and photographs in her book and also includes a glossary, index, and list of recommended books and web sites.


A. "Can You See With Your Tongue?" in the June 2003 issue of Discover magazine, pages 52-56. B. "Treating Pain" is the cover story in the May 19, 2003 issue of Newsweek magazine. Also in this issue is the article "Seeing Is Believing: Hope for the Blind."

C. "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:

D. "What Makes You Special" is the cover story in the June 2, 2003 issue of Time magazine. This story discusses how genetics and learning influence human behavior.

E. "Worried Sick," part of the Scientific American Frontiers series, will premier on your local PBS station on June 3, 2003. This program will explore why humans experience stress and how stress impacts health. For more information on this program, see:


A. The brain of a grasshopper has approximately 16,000 neurons. (Source: Greenfield, S., The Human Mind Explained: An Owner's Guide to the Mysteries of the Mind, New York: Henry Holt, 1996, page 55.)

B. An eagle can see a rabbit from three miles away. (Source: Greenfield, S., The Human Mind explained: An Owner's Guide to the Mysteries of the Mind, New York: Henry Holt, 1996, page 90.)

C. The vagus nerve, important for controlling the functions of many internal organs, gets its name from the Latin word meaning "wandering."

D. Rubbing baby teeth with the brain of a rabbit is an old folk remedy to prevent tooth decay. As far as I know, this method does NOT work. (Source: Bauer, W.W. Potions, remedies and Old Wives' Tales. Garden City (NY): Doubleday & Co., Inc, 1969.)

E. Roman emperor Elagabalus (3rd Century) was served 600 ostrich brains at a single meal. (Source: Wells, D. 100 Birds and How they Got Their Names. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2002.)


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.