Volume 7, Issue 7 (July, 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 Site of the Month
3. The Origin of the Word "Brain"
4. Time for a Tetanus Booster
5. Harry Potter and the Brain
6. New Teaching Slides from the National Institute on Drug Abuse
7. Media Alert
8. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
9. Summer E-mail Changes
10. How to Stop Your Subscription


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

A. June Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. From Nose to Brain?
C. Pit Viper Venom Affects the Brain
D. The Face Does Not Lie
E. Video Games May Improve Visual Skills
F. Insect Repellents and Killer Bees
G. Revised Sleep and Dream Journal Sheets
H. Caffeine and Childrens' Headaches
I. The World Health Organization (WHO) Fights Tobacco
J. Scientists Find Bitter Taste Gene

In June, 35 new figures were added and 50 pages were modified.


The Neuroscience for Kids "Site of the Month" for July is Optics for Kids at:

Students, teachers and parents can learn about the science of light at Optics for Kids. Designed by the Optical Society of America (OSA), Optics for Kids is divided into six main sections:

A. What is Optics: an overview of the field of optics.

B. Teachers' and Parents' Corner: lesson plans and activities about light and vision for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

C. Educational Articles: archives of articles from the OSA publication "Optics and Photonics News" are available in PDF format. These articles are filled with experiments and demonstrations to learn about light and vision.

D. Optics Careers: biographies of men and women who work in the field of optics.

E. Education Directory: listing of universities that offer degrees in optical science.

F. Resources: links to other optical science web sites.

"See the light" about light with Optics for Kids!


The names of many brain structures have their origins in Greek and Latin words. For example, the word "dendrite" comes from the Greek word meaning "tree." What about the word "brain?" According to The Oxford English Dictionary (OED), "brain" has its origins in the Old English language (sometimes called Anglo-Saxon). Old English was a language spoken by Germanic settlers in the southern part of the island of Britain before the year 1066.

The OED states that the Old English word for brain was braegen, braegn or bragen. One of the first written uses of the word braegn occurred in the year 1000. In the 1500s, many authors used the word brayn or brayne to describe the three pounds of tissue in their heads. The word "brain" was commonly used by writers in the 1800s.

For the roots of other neuroscience words, see:


Scientists who use animals or animal tissues in their experiments need to be protected from hazards in the laboratory. For example, a bite from a rat can transmit disease and make a person sick. Most laboratories will be part of an occupational health program that monitors the scientists' health.

The occupational health program that monitors my laboratory recently told me that it is time to get my tetanus booster shot. Tetanus is caused by bacteria (Clostridium tetani) found in the soil and in the intestinal tracts of some animals. Most cases of tetanus infection occur when people step on objects, such as rusty nails, that are contaminated by the bacteria. Animal bites can also transmit the bacteria.

Tetanus toxin works in the spinal cord by blocking the activity of inhibitory interneurons. These interneurons are connected to other neurons that make muscles contract. The results of this blockage are the classic signs of tetanus infection: stiff and rigid muscles, especially around the jaws. For this reason, tetanus is often called "lockjaw." If left untreated, a tetanus infection can affect a person's breathing, resulting in death.

I'll be heading to the nurse's office to get my booster shot soon!

Reference: Rossettoa, O., Sevesoa, M., Caccina, P., Schiavob, G. and Montecuccoa, C., Tetanus and botulinum neurotoxins: turning bad guys into good by research, Toxicon, 39: 27-41, 2001.


Everyone's talking about it: "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," the fifth Harry Potter book by J.K. Rowling (New York: Scholastic, 2003). I won't give away any of the story, but pay attention to chapter 35 when Harry and his friends encounter some brains!


The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has added two new sets of teaching slides to its web site. These slides are great for students and teachers who will be making presentations about the nervous system. The new slide sets are titled "The Neurobiology of Ecstasy (MDMA)" (19 slides) and "Bringing the Power of Science to Bear on Drug Abuse and Addiction" (14 slides). The slides can be downloaded and used as overheads or in PowerPoint presentations. Text provided with each slide can help outline your presentation. The new slide sets join three other sets available on the NIDA web site: "The Brain & the Actions of Cocaine, Opiates, and Marijuana," "The Neurobiology of Drug Addiction," and "Understanding Drug Abuse and Addiction: What Science Says."

The slides include images of neurons, the brain, the synapse, drugs of abuse and neural pathways involved with addiction. Many slides can be used for a general presentation about the brain and nervous system.

The slide sets are free and can be downloaded at:


A. "Bite Me" by Michelle Andrews in the June 16, 2003, issue of US News and World Report discusses new ways to avoid mosquito bites.

B. "Pumphead" by Bruce Stutz in the July 2003 issue of Scientific American discusses how coronary-bypass operations may have long lasting effects on concentration.

C. "Pills, Teens and Suicide" by David Bjerklie in the June 23, 2003, issue of Time magazine discusses the use of antidepressants in young people.

D. "West Nile: On the Move" in the June 23, 2003, issue (page 55) of Newsweek magazine.

E. "Rethinking the 'Lesser Brain'" by James M. Bower and Lawrence M. Parsons in the August 2003 issue of Scientific American discusses new ideas about the role of the cerebellum in memory and attention.

F. "Turn Down the Lights" by Eric Scigliano in the July 2003 issue of Discover magazine discusses how artificial light affects biological rhythms.

G. "Bzzzz ... Slap!" by Jeffrey Kluger in the July 7, 2003 issue of Time magazine describes how mosquitoes use their senses to find a meal.

H. "Pumping the Neurons" by Bernadine Healy in the June 30, 2003 issue of US News and World report discusses ways to ward off Alzheimer's disease.


A. Some people, such as professional perfumers, can distinguish between 100,000 different smells.(Source: Bear, M.F., Connors, B.W. and Pradiso, M.A., Neuroscience: Exploring the Brain, 2nd edition, Baltimore: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2001, p. 267.)

B. The word "brain" appears 66 times in the plays of William Shakespeare. (Source: The Scientist, April 21, 2003.)

C. "Rabies" comes from the Latin word "rabere," meaning "to rave" as well as a Sanskrit word for doing violence. (Source: Discover, March 2003.)

D. 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. (Source: Discover, March 2003, page 10.) E. The Society for Neuroscience had 31,206 members in 2002. (Source:


Will you be away from school or work and unable to read your e-mail? Do you still want to receive the Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter? If you will not be able to receive e-mail over the summer, make sure that you contact me (e-mail: to let me know where to send the newsletter. If my e-mail to you bounces back to me because it could not be delivered, your e-mail address will be removed from the mailing list. If this happens to you, just send me an e-mail to resubscribe. Have a good summer!


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.