Volume 9, Issue 6 (June, 2005)


Welcome to the Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter.

Here is what you will find in this issue:

1. Important Notice About Neuroscience for Kids
2. What's New at Neuroscience for Kids
3. Neuroscience for Kids Site of the Month
4. Big and Small
5. Stress, Pain and Basketball
6. Scientists on New United States Stamps
7. Media Alert
8. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
9. Support Neuroscience for Kids
10. How to Stop Your Subscription


On June 30, 2005, funding for Neuroscience for Kids (the entire web site and this newsletter) officially comes to an end. What does this mean? It means that there is no money to support the further development of Neuroscience for Kids.

Over the past year, a few loyal Neuroscience for Kids users have sent donations to help keep Neuroscience for Kids going. Although these gifts have helped, I will have to reduce the time I spend working on Neuroscience for Kids and will not be able to support writers and reviewers. The future of Neuroscience for Kids is unclear. I will attempt to work on the web site and write this monthly newsletter, but I can make few promises. I will look for other sources of funding to support Neuroscience for Kids. If you have any ideas for funding Neuroscience for Kids, please let me know (e-mail:

If you think Neuroscience for Kids is valuable and would like to help, your donations are welcomed; see:


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

A. May Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. Curry Component "Curcumin" Controls Alzheimer's Disease Markers
C. Virtual Reality Games May Help Patients with Stroke
D. Wear RED for the Win
E. New Meningitis Vaccine Recommended for Children
F. Neuroscience for Kids Bookmarks (PDF file)

In May, 15 new figures were added and 114 pages were modified.


The Neuroscience for Kids "Site of the Month" for June is "Web Courses of Tutis Vilis" at:

Dr. Tutis Vilis, a professor at the University of Western Ontario (London, Ontario, Canada) has created two great web courses. The first course, Sensory Physiology, is written for undergraduate university students; the second course, Neurophysiology, is written for first year medical students.

Sensory Physiology is a set of 12 lessons about vision, touch, hearing, balance, memory, eye movements and muscle sense. Neurophysiology has nine lessons that cover movement and reflexes in addition to the senses. Both courses have many images and animations to help readers understand different concepts. You can also view and print the material in PDF format. Each lesson has review questions and links to other web resources to explore a topic in more detail.


The brain is made up of at least 100,000,000,000 (one hundred billion) nerve cells (neurons). But that's not the only big number in the nervous system. There are at least ten times more glial cells. That's 1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion) glial cells! But let's not stop there. Here is an even bigger number for you: 240,000,000,000,000 (240 trillion) -- the estimated number of synapses in the cerebral cortex. How many synapses in the entire brain, you ask? That would be approximately 1,000,000,000,000,000 (1 quadrillion) synapses!

Here are some more nervous system numbers, both big and small:

0.000002 - width (in centimeters) of the synaptic gap (space between two neurons)
0.001 - width (in centimeters) of a typical axon
24 - years spent sleeping (assuming 8 hours/day for 72 years)
268 - speed (in miles/hour) of the fastest action potential
1,400 - weight (in grams) of the average human brain
6,000 - weight (in grams) of the average elephant brain
10,000 - number of taste buds in a human (on tongue, palate and cheeks)
300,000,000 - neurons in the octopus brain
100,000,000,000 - neurons in the human brain
1,000,000,000,000 - glial cells in the brain
240,000,000,000,000 - synapses in the cerebral cortex
1,000,000,000,000,000 - synapses in the brain

References for these numbers can be found on the Facts and Figures page at:


Because I play basketball once or twice a week, I am used to the regular bumps and bruises that come with the game. Last month I experienced a common way that the body responds to stress: pain relief ("analgesia").

As I drove toward the basket, I was tripped and fell to the ground. I didn't think much of the foul and continued to play. A few minutes later, the player who was guarding me noticed some blood on my shirt. We stopped the game to find out who was bleeding. I was surprised to find out it was me! My knee was bleeding from a large cut that must have happened when I was fouled. The cut did not hurt until after we had stopped the game and someone pointed out that I was the one who was bleeding.

Our bodies release various chemicals to help us cope with stressful situations. Endorphins are among these chemicals. The word "endorphins" comes from combining two words meaning "endogenous" and "morphine." In other words, the endorphins are our own morphine-like drugs that reduce pain. Pain during times of stress may distract an animal and prevent it from dealing with the situation by escaping or fighting. The endorphins act to reduce pain until the stressful situation is over. That's what happened to me: even though I was injured, I continued playing the game and did not feel the cut. The cut did not hurt until I stopped playing.


On May 4, 2005, the United States Postal Service issued four postage stamps to honor four American scientists. The stamps feature Josiah Willard Gibbs (electromagnetic theory, thermodynamics), Barbara McClintock (genetics), John von Neumann (math, computers) and Richard P. Feynman (physics). There were no neuroscientists represented in this distinguished group, but the United States does have a stamp that honors neurosurgeon Harvey Cushing. Neuroscientists do appear on stamps from other countries, for example, Santiago Ramon y Cajal, Camillo Golgi and Roger Sperry (Sweden), Antonio Caetano De Abreu Freire Egas Moniz (Portugal), Otto Loewi (Austria) and Hermann von Helmholtz (Germany).

For more about neuroscientists and neuroscience on postage stamps, see:


A. "Is a Single Brain Cell Smart Enough to Recognize Your Face?" by John Horgan (Discover magazine, June, 2005).

B. "Polio's Back. Why Now?" by Jeffery Kluger (Time magazine, May 16, 2005) describes how the number of cases of polio has increased in Africa and other parts of the world.

C. "Medication & Melancholy" by Marianne Szegedy-Maszak (US News & World Report, May 16, 2005) discusses depression, drugs, and kids.

D. The June 2005 issue of Scientific American "Mind" is on newsstands. This issue has articles about consciousness, dreams, confessing to crimes and lying.

E. "His Brain, Her Brain" by Larry Cahill (Scientific American, May, 2005) discusses the differences between male and female brains and how these differences may influence treatments for psychiatric disorders.

F. "How to Keep Your Hearing" is the cover story in the June 6, 2005, issue of Newsweek magazine.

G. "Killers in Paradise" (Smithsonian Magazine, June, 2005) describes the venomous box jellyfish. Also see:


A. Sleepwalking affects 2-14% of all children and 1.6-2.5% of all adults. (Reference: Guilleminault, C., et al., Adult chronic sleepwalking and its treatment based on polysomnography, Brain, 128:1062-1069, 2005.)

B. Ears can be found on the thorax, abdomen, legs, wings and mouths of different insects. (Source: Fullard, J.M. and Yack, J.E. The evolutionary biology of insect hearing, Trends Ecol. Evol., 8:248-252, 1993.)

C. The brain of a 136 kg (300 pound) swordfish weighs only 2.2 grams (0.005 pounds). An adult human brain weighs approximately 1,400 grams (3 pounds). (Source: Carey, F.G., A brain heater in the swordfish, Science, 216:1327-1329, 1982.)

D. Caffeine is the most widely used behaviorally active drug in the world. (Source: Juliano, L.M. and Griffiths, R.R. A critical review of caffeine withdrawal: empirical validation of symptoms and signs, incidence, severity, and associated features. Psychpharmacol., 176:1-29, 2004.)

E. You can often hear doctors on television shows yell "Stat!" The word "stat" is a shortened version of the Latin word "statim" that means immediately or at once. (Source: Haubrich, W.S., Medical Meanings. Glossary of Word Origins, 2nd edition, Philadelphia: American College of Physicians, 2003.)


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.