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. The Neuroscience for Kids Page of the Month
3. Healthy Skepticism
4. The Research Paper
5. Science in the News: The Good News and the Bad News
6. Pages You May Have Missed
7. What's Coming Up In Future Issues
8. How to Stop Your Subscription
A. Creative Writing Projects
B. Comparative Neuroanatomy Page
C. June Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
D. Sensory Pile On Game
E. Context Effect (visual illusion) - requires JAVA enabled browser
F. Interactive Afterimages (visual illusion) - requires JAVA browser
G. Fill-in the Blank Worksheets
In June, 97 new figures were added and 91 pages were modified.
This web site contains a lab manual for 12 neuroscience experiments that can be used in the classroom. The manual was created by the National Association of Biology Teachers and the Society for Neuroscience. The web pages were put together by the Division of Life Sciences at The University of Texas at San Antonio and are now located on the web site of the National Association of Biology Teachers.
I received a print version of this manual several years ago and have recommended it to many people. It is great that this resource is now available on the web for everyone to use. The experiments are designed for high school students and most do not require special equipment or materials. The directions for each experiment are easy to understand and there are plenty of illustrations to help perform the studies. Each experiment has a separate guide for teachers and students. The experiments include investigations of:
A. The senses - vision, hearing, pain, touch
C. Electrical circuits
D. Plasticity of the nervous system
F. The action potential
G. Reaction time
The entire manual is in Portable Document Format (PDF) files so you will need to download the Adobe Acrobat Reader if you do not already have it. This Reader is free and you can get it through a link on these Neuroscience Laboratory pages.
3. HEALTHY SKEPTICISM
Skepticism = "...the method of suspended judgment, systematic doubt..."
(from Webster's Third New International Dictionary)
Recently I have received several e-mail letters from people with comments about topics I have discussed on the Neuroscience for Kids web pages and in the Newsletters. These comments have focused on "Therapeutic Touch", the "10% of the Brain Myth" and "Music and Memory". I have talked about these issues by showing both sides of these controversial and misunderstood topics. I am glad that this has stirred up interest in brain research and new treatments for neurological disorders.
Scientists have a lot of healthy skepticism. "Healthy" because skepticism can help scientists ask questions to get at the truth. They are not satisfied when someone tries a new treatment and says "It worked for me". Scientists like to know why. They like to read about an experiment, look at the data, and come to their own conclusions. Scientists usually do this by reading research papers (see next topic in this newsletter) and performing experiments. Most research papers are reviewed by experts in the field before they are published. This is called "peer-review". Many research papers that are submitted to journals are rejected and do not get published. Research is also discussed and debated by scientists at meetings and conventions. Often this discussion can get fairly "heated", but I have never seen it get personal. This type of environment trains scientists to be critical and skeptical.
Many new and controversial treatments are being investigated with funding by the Office of Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health (http://altmed.od.nih.gov/). Research into such topics as massage therapy, acupuncture, music therapy, homeopathy, enzyme therapy, yoga, and hypnosis have all been funded by this government organization. It may be that one or more of these "unconventional" therapies will be useful in treating people with neurological disorders.
Scientists look at particular features of a research paper to evaluate its conclusions. For example, if proper methods and analysis of the data were used, then the data are probably accurate. If more than one laboratory has come up with the same results it means the data are probably reliable. Additional research will determine how the results and conclusions of an experiment stand up to further testing.
A. Introduction: the reason for the research. The introduction tells readers why the research was done. It should be clear what is already known about the subject and why the new work is important. The introduction does not have to be very long, but it should be specific. This is also the place where the author should state the hypothesis of the experiment.
B. Materials and Methods: the procedures used in the research. The materials and methods section is the "how" part of the paper. It tells readers what was done and what supplies and equipment were used. The type of subjects (for example, species of animals), treatments, observations, measurements and statistics should all be described in enough detail for other peple to repeat the experiment. This section of the paper is critical for readers to evaluate how the research was performed.
C. Results: the presentation of the data. The results section contains the evidence or data related to the stated hypothesis. This is where the facts go: numbers, tables, photographs and graphs.
D. Discussion: the explanation of the results. The discussion section should explain how the results support or don't support the hypothesis of the experiment. It should also include a section on how the data fit in with what is already known about the subject.
Sometimes a paper has a brief summary called an "abstract" before the introduction. All research papers should have a list of references that were used after the discussion section.
I hope this brief description of the research paper helps you understand what goes into a scientific publication. Perhaps now you can ask questions and judge reports with a more critical eye. Some research papers from The Journal of Neuroscience are available for you to read at:
Now for the bad news. The "NSTA Reports" (May/June 1998), a publication of the National Science Teachers Assocation, had an article about the cancellation of several science TV shows. You probably know some of them: Newton's Apple, The Magic School Bus, Bill Nye the Science Guy and Beakman's World. Apparently, these shows will be seen in re-runs only - no new shows will be made. The article went on to say that these shows will stop production because of low ratings and lack of corporate funding.
If you want to continue to have good science shows on TV, you should call or write to the TV stations that broadcast these programs and tell them. We need MORE of these shows, not fewer. People may now turn to the Internet to get more of their science information. However, many people are not as lucky as you and me because they do not have access to the Internet. For them, TV is the place they go to for this type of information. Unfortunately, the cancellation of these TV shows will eliminate a powerful source of science information.
A. Neuroscience Jokes/Cartoons
B. Brain Quotes
C. Neuroscience Word Origins
D. Search Page
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.