Volume 8, Issue 5 (May, 2004)


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 Site
2. Neuroscience for Kids Site of the Month
3. Presidential Nervous Systems
4. Public Library of Science
5. Eye Site on Tour
6. BAW Brain Booklet
7. Media Alert
8. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
9. Support Neuroscience for Kids
10. 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. July and August 2004 Neurocalendars
C. Brain Fitness: Exercise saves cognitive abilities in older adults
D. Fatalities Up as Florida Weakens Motorcycle Helmet Law
E. FDA Warns of Lead Contamination in Some Mexican Candy
F. FDA Bans Ephedra
G. A Spider With Your Grapes?
H. Ant Body Odor Signals Job To Be Done

In April, 25 new figures were added and 73 pages were modified.


The Neuroscience for Kids "Site of the Month" for May is "The Brain From Top to Bottom" at:

"The Brain From Top to Bottom" was developed by the Douglas Hospital Research Centre and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to teach the general public about the nervous system. The site focuses on four topics: neuroanatomy, memory, reward systems and emotions. The complexity of the information about each topic is divided into three levels of difficulty (beginner, intermediate, advanced) and five levels of organization (social, psychological, neurological, cellular, molecular). So, depending on your background, you can read simple or more difficult material about each subject.

Drawings and photographs throughout the site help illustrate concepts and multiple links on each page will connect you to other Internet resources. Unfortunately, there are no descriptions of the links, so you don't know anything about a site until you visit it.

There are plans to add additional units about movement, sensory systems, consciousness, language, sleep and mental disorders. "The Brain From Top to Bottom" is a resource to keep your eye on!


Neurological and mental illnesses are common throughout our society. You may have a friend or relative affected by a brain injury or disorder. Did you know that these problems have affected many presidents of the United States? Although the medical histories of all presidents are not complete (and some are mysterious), biographers have speculated about the health of these men. Here is a list of the neurological problems faced by some presidents before, during or after they served in office:

George Washington: hearing loss

John Adams: major depression, manic depression

Thomas Jefferson: migraine

James Madison: seizures

James Monroe: seizures (due to a stroke, malaria or mushroom poisoning)

John Quincy Adams: nerve damage to arm (suffered in childhood)

Andrew Jackson: lead or mercury poisoning, chronic pain, headaches

John Tyler: botulism poisoning, stroke

Millard Fillmore: stroke

Franklin Pierce: nerve damage

Abraham Lincoln: concussion, depression, traumatic brain injury (bullet)

Andrew Johnson: stroke

Ulysses S. Grant: migraine

Rutherford B. Hayes: hearing loss

Chester Alan Arthur: stroke

Theodore Roosevelt: detached retina, blind in left eye, deaf in left ear

William Howard Taft: Alzheimer's disease

Woodrow Wilson: dyslexia, blind in left eye, stroke, nerve damage

Calvin Coolidge: depression

Franklin Delano Roosevelt: sleepwalking, polio, stroke

Harry S. Truman: very poor eyesight

Dwight D. Eisenhower: stroke

John F. Kennedy: migraine, chronic back pain, traumatic brain injury (bullet)

Lyndon B. Johnson: depression

Ronald Reagan: hearing loss, Alzheimer's disease


Bumgarner, J.R., The Health of the Presidents. The 41 United States Presidents Through 1993 from a Physician's Point of View, Jefferson (NC): McFarland & Company, Inc., 1994.

Cunningham, H.F., The Presidents' Last Years. George Washington to Lyndon B. Johnson, Jefferson (NC): McFarland & Company, Inc., 1989.

Gilbert, R.E., The Mortal Presidency. Illness and Anguish in the White House, New York: Fordham University Press, 1998.


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

A common question I'm asked as a science writer is "Where do you get your information?" I am lucky to be employed by (and live close to) the University of Washington (UW), where I can browse through numerous journals in the Health Sciences Library. When I work from home, I can access many journals using a password to connect my computer to the UW library. Without these connections, researching a topic would be difficult. Most non-university libraries don't have up-to-date scientific journals, for two reasons: 1) the journals are specific to certain scientific fields, and present complex information in language that most people find hard to understand and 2) the journals are very expensive!

The Public Library of Science (PLoS) was created to address these challenges. PLoS is an online and print resource that publishes peer-reviewed science articles. Anyone can access the PLoS from anywhere in the world. This is referred to as "open access." According to the PLoS web page, the entire open-access literature represents less than 1% of the published literature. PLoS Biology published its first issue in October of 2003, and PLoS Medicine is scheduled to launch in the Fall of 2004. For more information about the PLoS project, see:

Scientists communicate their research results by publishing in journals, mainly a type called peer-reviewed journals. Articles in these journals are reviewed by other scientists. Sharing scientific information and breakthroughs advances science. Furthermore, these articles are vital to a researcher's career because job promotion is often based in part on one's publishing record.

But have you ever tried to read and understand one of these articles? Unless you're an expert in the field, the language and concepts can be hard to grasp. That's why the PLoS features a summary (synopsis) with each article. A professional science writer explains the article and its importance so that the material can be understood by a general audience.

Try it! Go to and click on the third box on the right, marked "PLoS Biology." Browse the April 2004 issue and read about how scientists are studying glia cells and the brain mechanisms of insight. Or click on the Archive button to browse past issues. The February 2004 issue, for example, has a fascinating article about stuttering.

You can sign up for e-mail alerts of the monthly content. Best of's free, whether you are a girl in Africa or a retired dentist in Peoria.


"The Eye Site," a National Eye Institute traveling exhibit about the eye and low vision, is still making its way around the country. You can find the exhibit at shopping centers in the following cities over the next few months: Minot (ND), North Olmsted and Beachwood (OH), Cheyenne and Casper (WY), Jameson (ID), Phoenix (AZ), Twin Falls (ID), Las Vegas (NV).

For more information about the exhibit and places where you can see it, visit:


A new Brain Booklet has been added to the Neuroscience for Kids web site. The booklet was produced by Dr. Rigmor Baraas, Ms. Philipa Cotton, Dr. Ellen Poliakoff and Dr. Ingo Schiessl from University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology and the University of Manchester (England) for a Brain Awareness Week event funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. Download this booklet at:


A. "Brain Trust: Scientist Shares His Enthusiasm" by Jerry Large in the Seattle Times (April 4, 2004) describes my visit to a local elementary school.

B. Don't forget "Don't Forget" about memory on May 11, 2004. This show is part of the Scientific American Frontiers series. Check your local listings for showtimes on the PBS station near you.

C. "Treating Back Pain" is the cover story of the April 26, 2004, issue of Newsweek magazine.

D. "Living with Adult A.D.D." is the cover story of the April 26, 2004, issue of U.S. News and World Report.

E. "Freud Returns" by Mark Solms (Scientific American, May 2004) discusses how modern neuroscience fits with Sigmund Freud's theories of the brain and mind.

F. "Brain Fingerprinting" will be shown as part of the PBS Innovation Series on Tuesday, May 4, 2004. This episode will focus on the controversial technology that uses brainwaves to detect deception. Check your local television listings for showtimes on your PBS station.


A. The venom of some scorpions affects a victim's nervous system. In 2002, scorpions stung 15,687 people in the US and two people died. In Mexico, scorpions sting 100,000 to 200,000 people and kill 400 to 1,000 people each year. (Sources: Watson, W.A. et al., Amer. J. Emer. Med. 21:353-421, 2003; Bradley, W.G. et al., Neurology in Clinical Practice, 4th edition, Philadelphia: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2004.)

B. Approximately 24.5% of people between the ages of 53 and 97 years have an impaired sense of smell. (Source: Murphy et al., JAMA, 288:2307-2312, 2002.)

C. There are 186 million MORE neurons in the left cerebral hemisphere of the brain than in the right hemisphere. (Sources: 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 and Pakkenberg, B. and Gundersen, H.J.G. Neocortical neuron number in humans: effect of sex and age. J. Comp. Neurology, 384:312-320, 1997.)

D. Forty years ago, 42% of adults in the US smoked. Today, approximately 23% do. Surveys report that 70% of smokers want to quit. (Source: "Stub Out that Butt!" in Time, January 19, 2004.)

E. A severe lack of vitamin A can result in night blindness, the inability to see in low light conditions. (Source: Schiffman, H.R., Sensation and Perception. An Integrated Approach, New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2001.)


To insure that Neuroscience for Kids stays available, we need your help. If you would like to contribute to the funding of Neuroscience for Kids, please visit:

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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.