Volume 9, Issue 8 (August, 2005)


Welcome to the Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter.

Here is what you will find in this issue:

1. What's New at Neuroscience for Kids
2. Neuroscience for Kids Site of the Month
3. Unanswered Questions
4. Quick Reminders
5. Media Alert
6. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
7. Support Neuroscience for Kids
8. How to Stop Your Subscription


Neuroscience for Kids had several new additions in July including:

A. July Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. Newborn Dolphins and Orcas Don't Sleep
C. New Hope for People with Parkinson's Disease
D. Star Trek Actor Dies After a Battle with Alzheimer's Disease
E. Color Neurons and Synapses Online

In July, 12 new figures were added and 64 pages were modified.


The Neuroscience for Kids "Site of the Month" for August is the "Biomedical Acronym Resolver" at:

Science and medicine are filled with many new words and phrases to describe diseases, disorders, symptoms, tests, and measurements. Often the terms are abbreviated. This makes it difficult to understand what is written. Now there is help: the "Biomedical Acronym Resolver." Just enter an abbreviation into the Biomedical Acronym Resolver search box and you will get a definition of the abbreviation and a research paper that uses the term. So, if you have a QUES about an ABBREV, use the BAR to find the ANS.


The July 1, 2005, issue of Science magazine published 125 questions it believes to be the "big questions that face scientific inquiry over the next quarter-century." Among these questions are several involving neuroscience:

What is the biological basis of consciousness?

How can a skin cell become a nerve cell?

What genetic changes made us uniquely human?

How are memories stored and retrieved?

How do prion diseases work?

What synchronizes an organism's circadian clocks?

Why do we sleep?

Why do we dream?

Why are there critical periods for language learning?

Do pheromones influence human behavior?

How do general anesthetics work?

What causes schizophrenia?

What causes autism?

To what extent can we stave off Alzheimer's?

What is the biological basis of addiction?

Is morality hardwired into the brain?

What are the limits of learning by machines?

How much of personality is genetic?

What gave rise to modern human behavior?

What are the evolutionary roots of language and music?

These are great research questions that will keep neuroscientists busy for a long time!


A. Registration for the distance learning course for teachers is still open.

B. There may still be space for the "Neuroscience and Research in the High School Classroom" workshop on August 17, 2005, in Washington, D.C. Registration information and description of the workshop are available at:

C. The annual Society for Neuroscience (SfN) meeting will take place in Washington, D.C., between November 12 and November 16. Apply for the Neuroscientist-Teacher Partner Travel Award to attend the meeting:

D. The new school year will start for many people in the next few weeks. If you have a new e-mail address and would like to continue to receive this newsletter, make sure I have your new address (e-mail:


A. "Honor Among Beasts" by Michael D. Lemonick (Time magazine, July 11, 2005) discusses the possibly of altruism, empathy and a sense of fair play in animals.

B. Visit the Exploratorium in San Francisco (through October 2, 2005) for an exhibit about the more than 700 people who have won the Nobel Prize. To learn about the neuroscientists who have won the award, see:

C. If you like visual illusions, visit the Orlando Museum of Art (through October 30, 2005) to see "M.C. Escher: Rhythm of Illusion."

D. Discover magazine (August, 2005) has several interesting neuroscience-related articles including "No Rest for the Snooze Guru," "Hitting the Sweet Spot" and "Why Can't He Speak."

E. "When Gambling Becomes Obsessive" by Jeffrey Kluger (Time magazine, August 1, 2005) describes how scientists are studying why some people become addicted to gambling.

F. "Sleeping Pills: The Next Generation" by Jennifer Barrett (Newsweek magazine, August 1, 2005).

G. "The Meth Epidemic" is the cover story of the August 8, 2005 issue of Newsweek magazine.


A. Two out of six (33%) adult female chimpanzees yawned significantly more often after they watched videos of other chimpanzees yawning. (Source: Anderson, J.R. et al., Contagious yawning in chimpanzees, Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B., 271: S468-470, 2004.)

B. The highest blood levels of caffeine are reached in 30-45 minutes after it is consumed. (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.)

C. In 1998, the US government required breads and grains sold in the US to be fortified with folic acid. Since then, the number of fetuses at risk for birth defects (such as neural tube defects) caused by folic acid deficiency has decreased by 32%. (Source: "For Babies, Going with the Grain," by John O'Neil, The New York Times, March 2, 2004.)

D. "The Scientist" magazine asked scientists what they'd like to be, if they were not a scientist. The survey results:

18.3%   writer or journalist
13%     doctor
10.7%   musician
9.9%    teacher
6.5%    businessperson
5.1%    professional athlete
2.7%    lawyer
32.4%   other
(Source: The Scientist, February 10, 2003.)

E. Do you know what causes "red eye" when you take a flash photograph? The choroid is a layer of tissue at the back of the eye that contains a large number of blood vessels. Red eye usually happens when a flash photograph is taken in dim light. In dim light, the pupil of the eye is dilated and allows plenty of light to enter the eye. Red eye is caused when the choroid reflects the light of the flash. The pupil does not constrict fast enough to reduce the amount of light that enters the eye. Therefore, the flash of light reflects back out of the eye and is recorded on film. Some cameras use red eye reduction methods that send out a short burst of light before the film is exposed. The brief burst of light allows the pupil to constrict and thus reduces red eye.


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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.