Volume 7, Issue 9 (September, 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. Newsletter Poll Results
4. Spiderman and the Nervous System
5. Teacher Workshops at the Society for Neuroscience Meeting
6. Calling All Neuroscientists! The CNL Needs Your Help
7. Media Alert
8. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
9. How to Stop Your Subscription


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

A. August Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. 2004 Daily Planner Calendar
C. Antibodies Predict Development of Multiple Sclerosis
D. College Athletes are Unaware of Head Injury Symptoms
E. Should Bodychecking Be Banned from Youth Ice Hockey?
F. Chemists Attack Chemical Weapons (Nerve Agents)
G. Hornet Venom Signals Attack
H. Wasps Use a "Brainy" Attack to Gather Prey
I. West Nile Virus, Update 2003

In August, 29 new figures were added and 107 pages were modified.


The Neuroscience for Kids "Site of the Month" for September is "Sleep for Science" at:

"Sleep for Science" is a web site from E.P. Bradley Hospital in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown Medical School (Providence, RI). The site details the activities of the Sleep Research Lab, directed by adolescent sleep expert Mary A. Carskadon, Ph.D.

Start your exploration of the web site by taking the online tour of the sleep lab. Check the web site listings of projects currently underway; the lab is always looking for research subjects. The lab is currently looking for people in three groups (9-10 years-old, 15-16 years-old, 21-22 years-old) to participate in experiments. Summaries of the lab's research papers and a sleep diary questionnaire used in their research can be found at the "Research and Publication" link. If you are interested in research about school start times, click on the "Related Resources" button.


The results of last month's Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter survey are in. A total of 74 readers answered the survey about what they liked most and least about the newsletter. Here are the results:

"What part(s) of the Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter do you like the
MOST?  (You can choose more than one.)"

Answer                          Percentages
------                          -----------
What's new on the web site       58.4%

Facts and trivia                 71.4%

Site of the month information    73.0%

Book reviews                     31.2%

Media alerts                     37.7%

These data tell me that most people who answered the survey like facts and trivia about the brain and that they like to know about neuroscience web sites. On the other hand, many people were not interested in the media alerts. Some readers mentioned that the media alerts would be more valuable if they had Internet links to original articles in the magazines. The newsletter used to include these links, but many magazines made the articles available for a short time only. After one or two weeks, these links went dead or people had to pay to read the articles. Instead, the newsletter now has only the authors, article titles and source of the article. You will have to go to the library or a bookstore to find the magazines.

Several readers provided some excellent suggestions to improve the newsletter. For example, some readers suggested that the newsletter could use some illustrations and that the font should be changed. The newsletter is currently sent as a text message within the body of an e-mail message. Some people use e-mail programs that prevent them from seeing images. The newsletter could include pictures and be sent as a WORD document or a PDF file attachment. However, many people do not like opening attachments because they are afraid of getting a computer virus. Also, to read WORD documents and PDF files, people must download the message and open a new software program (e.g., MS WORD or Adobe Acrobat). Some people may not have these programs.

Here are some additional comments about what newsletter readers would like to see:

A. "Information about science-related contests, like science fairs or essay contests."

B. "I'd like more information that was geared to lower-grade students and information that is written for older students with lower-grade reading levels."

C. "I would like more sites added that would help me get lesson plans."


My nine-year-old son is interested in comic books. One of his favorite characters is Spider-Man. The first Spider-Man comic was written by Stan Lee and published in March 1963. I do not know if Stan Lee or other Spider-Man writers had a background in biology, but it is obvious that they had an interest in neuroscience.

Spider-Man has faced many villains who had weapons that attacked the
nervous system:

Villain:  Weapon
--------  ------
Mysterio:  Sprayed drugs (hallucinogens) that caused hallucinations
Green Goblin:  Rode on a glider that sprayed hallucinogens
Prowler:  Fired hallucinogens through wrist blasters
Jackal:  Coated claws with hallucinogens and poisons
Will O' the Wisp:  Hypnotized opponents with a glowing symbol
Dagger:  Used light to overload an opponent's nervous system
Tri-Sentinel:  Used knock-out gas

Although Spider-Man has a special "Spider-sense" to detect danger, he has
faced opponents with their own enhanced sensory abilities:

Villain:  Ability
--------  -------
Mysterio:  Sonar to see in the dark
Man-Wolf:  Highly developed sense of smell
Puma:  Highly developed sense of smell

Neurosurgery has been a theme in some storylines:

Villain:  Surgery
--------  -------
Dr. Octopus:  Mechanical arms were bonded to his spinal cord
Scorpion:  A tail was connected to his spinal cord
Hammerhead:  His shattered skull was replaced with a steel alloy
Silvermane:  His brain was transplanted into a robotic body
Solo:  Computer chips were implanted into his brain

Some villains have been affected by diseases or drugs that targeted the
nervous system:

Villain:  Drug/Disorder
--------  -------------
Green Goblin:  Worked with chemicals to improve intelligence
Madam Web:  Suffered from a nervous disorder that caused paralysis
Cloak and Dagger:  Created by an experimental heroin-substitute drug

Although the stories of Spider-Man are science fiction, they do touch on some real-life neuroscience topics. For example, research is currently underway to develop treatments for Parkinson's disease and other neurological diseases by transplanting cells into damaged brains. Other studies seek to find ways to connect nerve cells to computers to help people who are paralyzed. There are also reports that the military has experimented with weapons that disperse hallucinogenic chemicals in order to subdue enemies.

Of course, Spider-Man is not the only science fiction story with neuroscience themes. Don't get me started with "Star Trek!"


DeFalco, T., Spider-Man. The Ultimate Guide, London: DK Publishing, 2001.


The annual Society for Neuroscience (SfN) meeting will take place in New Orleans, LA, between November 8 and November 12. Although approximately 25,000 neuroscientists will be at the meeting, there will also be some lucky K-12 teachers and high school students in attendance. The SfN Committee on Neuroscience Literacy has scheduled workshops for K-12 teachers and a short neuroscience course for high school students. Teachers must register their students in advance for the short course. Registration is FREE to K-12 teachers and high school students for these events. If you are a K-12 teacher outside the New Orleans area, you can also apply for financial support (up to $1,000 for five teachers) to help with travel expenses. Space and financial support is limited, so apply early. A description of the program, registration materials and a financial support application are available on the SfN web site. Here is how to register:

A. Go to the SfN web site:

B. Click on "Registration" to register for the annual meeting.

C. Enter your information as a "Nonmember" if you are not a member of the SfN. (If you haven't set up an account, you must first create an account on the SfN web site. There is a link to do this at the bottom of the registration page.)

D. After you register, go to the Committee on Neuroscience Literacy web site to read about the workshops:

E. Register for the workshops by following the directions in a workshop description or go directly to:

F. You will have to enter the information you set up earlier when you registered as a nonmember.

G. At the bottom of the workshop registration form, you will find a link to a form for financial support to travel to the meeting. Click on this form to download the travel stipend application or go directly to:

H. If you are applying for the travel stipend, fill out the application and return it to the address listed on the form.

I hope to see you in New Orleans!


Are you a neuroscientist interested in working with K-12 teachers or high school students? Will you be attending the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) meeting in New Orleans? If you answered "Yes" to these questions, then the SfN Committee on Neuroscience Literacy (CNL) needs your help.

The Short Course for High School Students (described above) needs guides to escort students through the poster session and exhibit area of the meeting. If you would like to be a guide or need more information about the Short Course, contact either Dr. Reha S. Erzurumlu ( or Dr. James P. Herman (

The Workshop to Bring Together K-12 Teachers and Neuroscientists needs partners to work with K-12 teachers who will attend the annual meeting. If you would like to be a partner during this workshop or need more information about this workshop, contact either Dr. James B. Hutchins ( or Dr. Andrea M. Zardetto-Smith (


A. "Better Brains" is the title of the September 2003 issue of Scientific American. This magazine contains eight brain-related articles: "Brain, Repair Yourself" by Fred Gage; "The Quest for a Smart Pill" by Steven Hall; "Stimulating the Brain" by Mark George; "Mind Readers" by Phil Ross; "The Mutable Brain" by Marguerite Holloway; "Taming Stress" by Robert Sapolsky; "Diagnosing Disorders" By Steven Hyman; "Is Better Best?" by Arthur Caplan.

B. "How to Bite Back" by Lisa Mclaughlin in Time magazine (August 11, 2003) discusses new products to combat mosquitoes and "Skeeter Alert" (Time magazine, August 25, 2003) by Michael D. Lemonick tracks the march of West Nile Virus.

C. "The Biotech Baroness of the Brain" by David Ewing Duncan in Discover magazine (September, 2003) is an interview with neuroscientist Susan Greenfield, Fullerian Professor of Physiology and Comparative Anatomy at Oxford University.

D. "Fooled by the Full Moon" by Bob Berman discusses the myth behind how the full moon influences behavior. The topic of the full moon and behavior is reviewed on the Neuroscience for Kids web site at:

E. "Parkinson's Disease And Pain Relievers" in Time magazine (September 1, 2003) discusses how some pain medications may offer some protection from Parkinson's Disease.

F. "Boys, Girls and Autism" is the cover story in Newsweek magazine (September 8, 2003).


A. Competitive eating champion Takeru Kobayashi set a world record by eating 57 pan-seared cow brains (17.7 pounds) in 15 minutes. (Source: Parade Magazine, July 13, 2003, page 11.)

B. The channel catfish has a chemical sensing system that can detect the equivalent of less than one-hundredth of a teaspoon (1 to 100 micrograms per liter) of alanine (an amino acid) in an Olympic-size swimming pool. (Source: Schmidt-Nelson, K. Animal Physiology. Adaptation and Environment, 5th edition, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 536.)

C. The bill of the platypus is equipped with sensory receptors to detect electrical fields. It may use this ability to find food. (Source: Schmidt-Nelson, K. Animal Physiology. Adaptation and Environment, 5th edition, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 560.)

D. In 2001, there were over 638,000 emergency department visits related to drug abuse in the U.S. The three drugs that caused the most visits to emergency departments were alcohol (34%), cocaine (30%) and marijuana (17%) (Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, The Dawn Report, June 2003.)

E. Louis Braille invented the system of reading by touch (the Braille system) when he was only 15 years old.


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.