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. Brain Awareness Week 2001
4. Stress and Behavior
5. New Distance Learning Program for Grade 4-9 Educators
6. Media Alert
7. Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia
8. How to Stop Your Subscription
A. March Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter was archived
B. Nobel Controversy Surfaces
C. No Link Found Between Cell Phone Use and Brain Tumors
D. May NeuroCalendar
E. Brain Awareness Week at the University of Washington
F. A Computer in Your Head? (reprinted from Odyssey Magazine, March 2001)
G. Simon Says Memory Game
H. PCP - Phencyclidine
I. A Career in Neuroscience: A Game of "Survivor?"
In March, 32 new figures were added and 87 pages were modified.
The Neuroscience for Kids "Page of the Month" for April is the Digital Anatomist Project at:
I don't know why the Digital Anatomist has not been a Page of the Month selection earlier. Perhaps it was because the Digital Anatomist was right under my nose all the time! The nervous system portion of this fantastic web site was created at my own university, the University of Washington, in the Department of Biological Structure by Drs. John W. Sundsten and Kathleen A. Mulligan.
Although intended for graduate and medical students, the Digital Anatomist can be used by anyone interested in neuroanatomy. On the opening page, click on the first picture of the brain to enter the Interactive Brain Atlas. Then click on the yellow box labeled "Atlas" in the lower right corner. Explore the brain and spinal cord through photographs and brain scans (magnetic resonance images) taken from different angles and planes of section. You can view the images with or without labels and even take a test to check what you have learned. QuickTime animations are available on a CD-ROM only and cannot be accessed via the Internet.
Go back to the opening page and click on "Neuro Syllabus." The Neuro Syllabus is a laboratory neuroanatomy guide and is organized into chapters. Topics include: development, vessels and ventricles, spinal cord, brain stem and cranial nerves, auditory and visual systems, motor systems, cerebellum and basal ganglia, eye movements, hypothalamus and limbic system, and cortex.
Although the images and brief descriptions are clear, it is sometimes
confusing to view the pictures when the labels and lines are turned on.
In some images, there are so many lines going to different structures that
they are very difficult to follow. Nevertheless, the Digital Anatomist is
a great site to learn basic neuroanatomy or to marvel at the complexities
of the human brain.
Here at the University of Washington, 310 elementary, middle and high school students arrived at the Health Sciences Center on March 6 for the BAW Open House. The students were treated to a "Brain Power Assembly" by the Pacific Science Center/Group Health Cooperative "Brain Power Team." The Brain Power Team presented an engaging skit to introduce the basic anatomy and physiology of the nervous system and to explain how drugs affect the brain. Following the assembly, students visited interactive exhibits set up by local neuroscientists and patient support groups. The Brain Injury Association of Washington and ThinkFirst! organizations gave bike helmets to EVERY student who wanted one and adjusted the fit of the helmet for each person. At the display by the Department of Biological Structure, students could compare the brains of different species. Students also competed for prizes in a reaction-time exhibit sponsored by the UW Department of Rehabilitation Medicine. For those students interested in the more clinical side of neuroscience, an EEG machine (Biobehavioral Medicine) and a transcranial doppler machine (Department of Anesthesiology) were set up to display students' brain waves and brain blood flow.
Each student received a bag containing publications from the DANA Alliance, a Neuroscience for Kids bookmark and either a skull model, a brain model or a spinal column model key chain. Many of the students left the Open House wearing their new bike helmets and several teachers said that some students wore their helmets even when they got back to school! For more about the UW BAW, please see:
On March 10 and 11, I had the opportunity to work with people at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) and the Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) during their BAW program in Portland. OMSI was the site of the annual "Brain Fair" where I teamed with David Heil (previous host of the TV show "Newton's Apple") for a series of "Brain Game" shows for museum visitors. We built giant neurons with the audience, played with visual illusions and found out what visitors knew about the brain. Many neuroscientists from OHSU set up hands-on exhibits to engage adults and children.
Here are a few BAW reports from Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter readers:
From Pat Murphy (language arts teacher) and Sarah Allison (science teacher) at Winnequah Middle School in Monona, WI: as a joint language arts and science unit for seventh graders, we matched 96 of our students with 50 people with disabilities associated with the nervous system - everything from traumatic brain injury to epilepsy to Parkinson's disease to multiple sclerosis. The students researched the disorders and interviewed their person two to three times. They then wrote a narrative of their interviewee highlighting how they are living with the disorder and how they are heroes. The students also did visual artwork and wrote poetry. The project culminated in a celebration in which the students invited their people to a celebration where they shared their written final products: a very touching and rewarding experience for all involved.
From Ernest Jones at Las Positas College in Livermore, CA: sponsored a "Brains, Brains, Brains!!" exhibit on brain research; organized interactive activities and brain information tables with the Psi Beta psychology honor society students; presented a lecture titled "Your Brain on Drugs."
From Sheryl Goldberg at Mildred E. Strang Middle School in Yorktown
Heights, NY: hosted a Brain Symposium where students presented their
research to friends and family. Research topics included: ESP, drugs
effects on the brain, Parkinson's disease, sleep and dreams, false
memories, headaches, cerebral palsy, memory/learning enhancers/detractors,
sleep deprivation, and interpreting facial expressions.
Last month I attended the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) convention in San Francisco. The convention was packed with many interesting lectures including: beginnings of a new language (Nicaraguan Sign Language), how drugs change our brains, and genetic engineering. Aside from hearing a lot of great science, I attended many lectures about how the discoveries might change people's lives. The series of talks that were most fulfilling to me were those organized by Bruce McEwen, a neurobiologist at the Rockefeller University in New York City.
McEwen's research focuses on stress. We use the word stress in a variety of ways. It can refer to the external cause of anxiety as in a stressful job and it can also mean the biological response the body has to a stressful situation. It is this second definition that concerns many neuroscientists. In a symposium "Stress and Health: Biology, Behavior and the Social Environment," strong arguments were made to link stress levels to health. McEwen began by setting the stage for "good" and "bad" stress. In "fight-or-flight" situations, stress can be a very good thing in fighting off a cold, or madly writing an exam. But over long periods of time, stress is a very bad thing. Chronic stress can compromise the immune system, damage the brain, thin the bones, and ultimately shorten one's lifespan. Robert Sapolsky and Michael Meaney were among the speakers who followed McEwen's introduction. Meaney talked about how the behavior of mother rats during the first postnatal week affects rat pups in their adulthood and Sapolsky discussed his studies with baboons in the Serengeti.
Meaney's talk was amazing to me because he created a link between something that is hard see - hormones - and their effect on something that we see easily - behavior. Mother rats lick and groom their newborn pups. Although it's great to get a little loving from Mom, it turns out that those rat pups who get the greatest amount of licking and grooming are less prone to stress later in life than rat pups who get less attention. Meaney measures stress in terms of stress hormones (for example, corticotrophin releasing factor or CRF). Oxytocin was another hormone that Meaney discussed. During motherhood, levels of oxytocin are higher than normal and contribute to maternal behavior. The higher the level of oxytocin, the more licking and grooming the mother will do. In an interesting connection, low levels of oxytocin are brought about by high stress during pregnancy. So, high stress in pregnancy can cause subsequent reduced licking and grooming of pups. In effect, stress can cause more stress.
Sapolsky, when not home "grooming his kids" (or speaking at conventions), studies the baboons of the Serengeti. The Serengeti is by first estimation, a baboon paradise. Food supplies are so plentiful that baboons spend only three hours a day looking for food. What makes the Serengeti a kind of baboon paradise also makes it a behavioral scientist's paradise. With only three daylight hours needed for feeding, baboons can spend the remaining six interrogating one another. And they do! In fact, the leading cause of death among these baboons is violence. Being the top banana would have its advantages then, and yes in fact, those baboons of higher rank also have a lower stress levels and live to a riper age.
Both Sapolsky and Meaney were also careful to point out that while rank
and motherly care are important, so are numerous other factors. For
example, a baboon's personality, and his interpretation of his experiences
influences stress. Picturing a socially inept baboon has me thinking of
how these factors stress me out. But I think I'll conclude as Sapolsky
did: "If we're smart enough to invent psychological stress, we're wise
enough to learn to deal with it."
SPECIAL NOTE: Tuition and registration fees will be covered by a grant for the first 30 people who enroll!
The first class starts on June 18, 2001. For more information on this course and application materials, please see:
C. "Who's Feeling No Pain?" in the March 19, 2001 issue of Time Magazine. On-line at: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,102079,00.html
D. The cover story of the March 12, 2001 issue of Newsweek Magazine discusses Mad Cow Disease.
E. "Vaccine Worries Get Shot Down But Parents Still Fret" in the March 19, 2001 issue of US News and World Report reports on new studies that show the MMR vaccine is not to blame for the rise in autism. On-line at: http://www.usnews.com/usnews/issue/010319/nycu/vaccine.htm
F. "Missing Memories" in the March 26, 2001 issue of Time Magazine discusses how Alzheimer's disease may start earlier than previous thought. On-line at: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,102944,00.html
G. "Deconstruting Dyslexia" in the March 26, 2001 issue of Time Magazine. On-line at: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,102926,00.html
H. The cover story of the April 2, 2001 issue of US News and World Report
is called "Secrets of the Stutter." One article called "Anatomy of a
Stutter" discusses genetic and brain mechanisms responsible for
stuttering. On-line at:
B. The cerebral cortex (neocortex) is composed of six layers of cells.
C. About 30 million people (10% of the population) in the United States have functionally significant hearing loss. (A.J. Hudspeth, Hearing and Deafness, in Neurobiology of Disease Vol. 7, No. 5, Part b, pp. 511-514, 2000.)
D. The lumbar puncture, a method to obtain cerebrospinal fluid by inserting a needle between the lumbar vertebrae and into the subarachnoid space of the spinal cord, was introduced in 1891 by Heinrich Quinke. (A.K. Afifi and R.A. Bergman, Functional Neuroanatomy, 1998.)
E. The word "axon" comes from the Greek word meaning "axle" or "axis."
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.