Volume 8, Issue 7 (July, 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. Former US President Ronald Reagan dies at 93
4. Don't Supersize Your Coffee Mug
5. Fourth of July Fireworks: Eye Injuries and More
6. Book Review
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 June. Here are some of them:

A. June Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. September 2004 and October 2004 Neurocalendars
C. Children Use Bike Helmets Less Than Their Parents Think
D. Mental Illness in Disney Films
E. Summertime, and the Driving is Easy...
F. New Online Word Search Puzzles
G. Taking the Sting Out of Jellyfish Stings

In June, 15 new figures were added and 56 pages were modified.


The Neuroscience for Kids "Site of the Month" for July is "Frogs: A Chorus of Colors" at:

The American Museum of Natural History (New York City) has a new exhibit to showcase the colorful and noisy life of the frog. For those of you who cannot get to the museum between May 29 and October 3, 2004, the web site can be used to see and hear these fascinating creatures.

The section on Dart Poison Frogs is not to be missed. It details how these amphibians use neurotoxins as a defense. These brightly colored frogs have skin that secretes poison. Some of the poisons target the nervous system of unfortunate animals that come in contact with the frogs. A small amount of some dart frog poisons is strong enough to paralyze or even kill a human. So, look but don't touch...and a good way to see these amphibians is at the museum or through the Dart Poison Frog FrogCam set up on the web site.


Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the United States, died on June 5, 2004. The official cause of death was pneumonia (an infection of the lungs). In 1994, Mr. Reagan announced that he had Alzheimer's disease. People with Alzheimer's disease often have problems with memory, language and emotions. They are also at risk for pneumonia if they have difficulty swallowing food and are bedridden.

In 1995, Ronald and Nancy Reagan and the Alzheimer's Association established the Ronald and Nancy Reagan Research Institute to investigate the causes of Alzheimer's disease and to search for cures. Nancy Reagan recently became an advocate for more research using stem cells as a possible treatment for Alzheimer's disease and other neurological disorders.


Like many people, I start my mornings with a cup of coffee. Even the ritual of making the coffee helps me to feel awake. A new study, however, suggests that the way I drink coffee is all wrong. Instead of one big cup in the morning, smaller doses of caffeine throughout the day may be better at increasing alertness and avoiding the common side effects of large caffeine doses: nervousness and shaking (not to mention frequent bathroom breaks).

If you drink one large cup of coffee (or other caffeinated drink), the level of caffeine peaks and then falls later in the day, just when you feel the most tired. As reported in the May 2004 journal Sleep, the equivalent of two ounces of coffee consumed hourly (0.3 mg per kg per hour of caffeine) was effective in combating fatigue and improving cognitive functions. The study was designed so that the total dose of caffeine was the same -- the difference in treatments was whether the caffeine was given in one dose or in several smaller doses.

This is important news to workers such as doctors or long-distance truckers who often have to stay awake past the normal 16-hour wake cycle. The researchers emphasize that caffeine intake is not a substitute for proper sleep. Nothing is as effective as good sleep for restoring the brain to optimal functioning.

(Think medical science is glamorous? The subjects in this study, 16 men, were each shut in a "windowless suite" for 29 days. They had to stay awake for 28.57 hours out of every 42.85 hours!)


Graham, S., Regular mini doses of caffeine more energizing than morning mug, Scientific American, May 12, 2004.

Wyatt, J.K., Cajochen, C., Ritz-De Cecco, A., Czeisler, C.A., Dijk, D-J., Low-dose repeated caffeine administration for circadian-phase-dependent performance degradation during extended wakefulness, Sleep, 27: 374-381, 2004.


by Ellen Kuwana, Neuroscience for Kids Staff Writer

July 4th, Independence Day, is a time for celebration in the United States. Traditionally, fireworks are set off to mark the holiday. Many states have banned the use of personal fireworks, limiting firework displays to public venues overseen by professionals. For many people, however, the holiday would not be complete without their own fireworks.

Beware! Even small fireworks can caused serious injuries. Sparklers, for example, can reach temperatures near 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. Sparklers are responsible for 26% of all fireworks-related injuries. For children under the age of 15 years, sparklers cause the most injuries. Sparklers, firecrackers, bottle rockets and roman candles (17% each) cause approximately one out of every five eye injuries. Overall in 2002, there were 1,200 fireworks-related eye injuries treated at hospitals.

In 2002, fireworks were involved in 8,800 injuries that required a visit to a hospital emergency department. (Of these, 5,700 were around the Fourth of July.) Almost half of these injuries were to children 15 years and younger and most were to males. Body parts most commonly injured are the hands (32%), eyes (28%) and head/face (16%).

If an eye injury occurs, seek medical treatment immediately. For more information and first aid advice, see the Prevent Blindness America web site at:

SPECIAL NOTICE: On June 25, 2004, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the recall of "T6" Titanium 6 Break Artillery Shell Fireworks (Model #CP1104 has a defective fuse), which were sold from May-June, 2004, for about $40. Return the entire device to the store where it was purchased for a full refund or contact American Promotional Events, Inc, (800) 243-1189, 8 am - 5 pm CT, Monday-Friday. (Source:


"Thank You, Brain, For All You Remember. What You Forgot Was My Fault," by W.R. (Bill) Klemm, Bryan (TX): Benecton Press, 2004, 312 pages, ISBN: 1-930648-82-0. For high school students and older.

Memory: what is it, where is it and how do we improve it? Dr. W.R. (Bill) Klemm tackles these questions and more in his new book titled "Thank You, Brain, For All You Remember. What You Forgot Was My Fault." Klemm references original research studies as he reviews the process of memory.

Many popular theories and controversies surrounding memory are discussed in detail. For example, Klemm writes about false memories, the education system and memory, memory pills, stress, aging and sleep. By piecing together this original research studies, Klemm provides readers with convincing evidence about how memory works and gives practical methods to make memory better.

I asked Dr. Klemm why he wrote his book. He replied:

"There are two reasons I wrote the book: 1) I have always been interested in memory and have even done some of the memory research discussed in the book, and 2) as a professor for 40 years, I have concluded that the biggest handicap most students have is not having a good memory. Everybody can remember better if they know how."



A. "West Nile: A Vaccine on the Way" (Newsweek magazine, June 7, 2004) reports on the development of a vaccine for West Nile Virus.

B. "The Other Stem Cells" (US News and World Report, June 14, 2004) by Bernadine Healy discusses the possible uses of adult stem cells.

C. "As the Shadows Fell" (Newsweek magazine, June 21, 2004) by Evan Thomas and Eleanor Clift discusses how Nancy Reagan coped as Alzheimer's disease took its toll on her husband, Ronald Reagan. This issue of Newsweek has several other articles about Alzheimer's disease.

D. "A Patron Saint" (US News and World Report, June 21, 2004) by Bernadine Healy is a brief review of Alzheimer's disease.

E. "Detecting Mad Cow Disease" (Scientific American, July 2004) by Nobel Prize winner Stanley B. Prusiner discusses new tests and possible treatments for mad cow disease.

F. "Mind Reading" (Newsweek magazine, July 5, 2004) by Jerry Adler discuss how brain imaging methods (functional magnetic resonance imaging, fMRI) are being used to evaluate decision making.


A. The average duration of a single blink is 0.1 - 0.4 seconds. (Source: Schiffman, H.R., Sensation and Perception. An Integrated Approach, New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2001.)

B. Oilbirds breed and roost in caves and search for fruit at night. These birds use echolocation to avoid in-flight collisions. Their eyes have the highest density of rod receptors (1 million rods per square millimeter) of any vertebrate eye. The highest density of rod receptors in humans is only 175,000 per square millimeter. (Source: Martin, G., et al., Naturwissenschaften, 91:26-29, 2004.)

C. There are more than two million cases of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the US each year. Most TBIs are caused by motor vehicle accidents, falls, gunshot wounds and sports injuries. Each year there are 500,000 cases of TBI that require hospitalization and 100,000 people with TBI that result in lifelong disabilities. (Source: Gualtieri, C.T., Brain Injury and Mental Retardation: Psychopharmacology and Neuropsychiatry, Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2002.)

D. The eye of an octopus does not have a cornea. (Source: Schwab, I.R., A well armed predator, Br. J. Ophthalmol., 87:812, 2003.)

E. Panic disorders affect 2.4 million adults in the US each year. (Source: National Institute of Mental Health)


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:

Help Neuroscience for Kids


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.