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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for December 6, 2000

Aired December 6, 2000 - 4:30 a.m. ET


ANNOUNCER: Seen in classrooms the world over, this is CNN NEWSROOM.

SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: Welcome to this special edition of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Shelley Walcott.

Today we're going to get inside your head and delve into "Your Brain." We'll give you the scoop on what makes your brain uniquely yours.

But first, let's look at today's rundown.

Your brain gets top billing today. Find out what it does, what it needs and how it works.

And we'll cover the latest on the U.S. presidential election.

We move farther down your physical form in our daily desk. Learn why businesses are getting serious about your body measurements.

Then, grab your passport, "Worldview"'s traveling to China, where young people are going insane in the membrane over techno music.

Don't touch that remote, there's more brain buzz coming up in "Chronicle."

Topping today's show mind-bending information that -- believe it or not -- has nothing to do with U.S. presidential politics. Today, it's all about your brain. Turns out hormones aren't the only reason teenagers sometimes act crazy. You know the behavior we're talking about: rapid mood swings, poor self-control.

Now, a team of neuroscientists says there's a good reason why adolescent brains seem different: they literally are.


WALCOTT (voice-over): The teen years can roar in like a lion, turning an otherwise easygoing kid, into one with ferocious mood swings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think, in general, teens get kind of a bad rap. WALCOTT: Maybe so, but teens have been known for making silly decisions, appearing out to lunch in the area of self-control, running hot, then cold; loving you one minute, hating you the next.

(on camera): It's behavior often blamed on hormones or youth rebellion.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... inappropriate responses, controlling emotion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sometimes me and my friends, we laugh a lot and we have a lot of jokes and stuff. My parents, they're kind of down to earth and not like that.

WALCOTT: As children grow older, the wave of rapid growth in the frontal lobes responsible for all that organization and planning slows down, not picking up again until much later in adolescence into early adulthood.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Teenagers can plan and organize their lives, just not as well as they probably can when they're maybe 20 or 25.

WALCOTT: The second phase of brain development takes place between the ages of 7 and 13. At that time, there is a growth spurt towards the middle and back of the brain, areas that affect, among other things, language skills.

DR. PAUL THOMPSON, NEUROSCIENTIST, UCLA LAB OF NEURO IMAGING: So one of the things you might want to do is, maybe I'll learn a language at a little bit younger, learn French or Spanish or something like this. That might be a key period for educating children in that type of skill.

WALCOTT: But all this rapid growth suddenly ends around the ages of 13 to 15. During this final phase, the brain begins to fine-tune itself for the adult years, holding on to neurons and connections that get used a lot, and shedding those that are hardly used at all.

A time when certain motor skills, like playing an instrument, become more of a challenge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know, I started playing guitar last year, and I'm still pretty bad at it. So, you know, that might support the theory.

WALCOTT: Scientists say, the brain's growth pattern also explains the characteristic most associated with adolescence: teen angst. That feeling of edginess, and inability to control emotions, plain-old stress. All this, scientists say, can be traced to the amygdala. That's the area of the brain that controls fear, the fight or flight response.

Teen emotions are centered around the amygdala, since their frontal lobes, which temper emotions, are still not fully developed.

DR. DEBORAH YURGELUN-TODD, NEROSCIENTIST, MCLEAN HOSPITAL: It has implications for anything that requires a responsible review of the consequences, and that could be anything from decisions about what kind of work one's going to do, how you're going to apply yourself in school, what kind of relationships you want to have.

WALCOTT (on camera): So whether it's learning French, learning to play an instrument, or learning to control anger, biology plays a big part in those all-important teen years. And while parents may not have much say in the development of their child's brain, they can make a difference in another crucial area.

DR. ELIZABETH SOWELL, NEUROSCIENTIST, UCLA LAB OF NEURO IMAGING: If parents really understand that maybe their teenagers are a little bit scattered or disorganized or take risks or are rebellious because the part of their brain that would keep them from doing that isn't yet finished. So I think that again reinforces that strong structure and support through the teenage years is of critical importance.

WALCOTT: Scientists say, they will continue to probe the teenage brain, and they say parents should take heart. Even though it might sound like the teen brain is nothing more than a mental mosh pit, adolescence is actually the time when nature steps in to help a teenager grow up.


WALCOTT: Typical teen behavior. Scientists say it's often a symptom of the human brain under construction. Which begs the question: How does a grown-up brain work? And what are the things that pose a potential danger to its development? Here's a primer.


WALCOTT (voice-over): Your brain. It's what helps you out for a walk on a sunny morning. The thing that alerts you when you're feeling too hot or too cold. It's what makes the scent of flowers pleasant and the memory of receiving them pure joy.

The brain has been called the "master control center" of the body. Executive decisions from a very delicate organ.

DR. JAY GIEDD, NEUOSCIENTIST, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: Nature's gone through a great deal of trouble to protect the brain. It's wrapped in a tough leathery membrane surrounded by a protective moat of fluid, and completely encased in bone.

WALCOTT (on camera): The brain is a grayish pink, jelly-like ball with lots of ridges and grooves on its surface. But no one brain looks exactly alike. In fact, it's as individual as your face or your fingerprints.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What keeps the moon is orbit with the Earth?

WALCOTT (voice-over): A healthy brain stores formation from past experiences, making learning and remembering possible. The brain is mostly made up of gray and white matter. Gray matter are the actual nerve cells that process information. White matter are the long nerve fibers that move information long distances.

For example, it's your brain's gray matter that recognizes a tennis ball on its way over the net. While the white matter orders the swing sending the ball back to the other side of the court.

In a fully developed adult brain, white matter is fully wrapped in myelin, a fatty substance that lets nerves transmit signals faster and more efficiently.

Some nerves, including those that regulate emotion, judgment and impulse control, are not fully covered in myelin until a person is in their early 20s. As a result, circuits that make sense of incoming information to the brain are still under construction until about the age of 16. All the more reason, scientists say, to protect the growing brain from harmful substances.

GIEDD: It's a real unfortunate irony that at this time when the brain is most vulnerable, during this adolescent pruning period, is also the time when teens are most likely to experiment with drugs or alcohol.

WALCOTT: Scientists are still trying to pinpoint exactly how different types of drugs affect the brain. But Doctor Giedd says one form of inhalant abuse, called huffing, is definitely harmful.

GIEDD: What that does is, as the inhalants go up through the nose, they go directly to the front part of the brain and damage it. That's what gives you this sort of altered feeling. But it's hard to imagine, as a brain scientist, a worse way to alter your feelings, by directly damaging the brain cells in this critical front part of the brain. This is the part of the brain that sort of separates man from beast.

WALCOTT: Aside from addiction, scientists are looking into how brain development during the teen years could be linked to eating disorders, like anorexia and bulimia; as well as learning and developmental problems, such as autism and attention deficit disorder.

The research goes on, but neuroscientists say they know one thing for sure: This three-pound mass, made up of billions of cells, plays one of the most crucial roles in human life.


WALCOTT: The United States presidential dispute enters its fourth week, as Vice President Al Gore runs out of time and legal options. In what may be his final appeal of the Florida vote count, that state's supreme court will hear arguments Thursday morning over a judge's rejection of Gore's election contest.

Monday, Leon County Circuit Court Judge N. Sanders Sauls rejected every Gore argument as to why a state certified victory for Bush should be nullified. All that, as the justices on the Florida Supreme Court prepare their response to the U.S. Supreme Court's request for an explanation of how they ruled to extend the deadline for manual recounts.

Other cases in lower courts involving the validity of absentee ballots could also prove significant in the election battle. Despite his setbacks, Gore says he believes he still has a chance to win the election. He and Governor George W. Bush sent their running mates to Capitol Hill Tuesday. Dick Cheney worked with congressional Republicans to pave the way for a full transition into the White House. Senator Joe Lieberman met with Democrats in attempt to shore up support for the continued presidential fight.

More on your brain later. But, for now, we want to talk about some of your other body parts. If you've ever had trouble fitting into clothes or into an airplane seat, there could be a logical explanation for it. Clothing sizes are not standardized around the world. In fact, a girl that wears a size 7 shoe here in the United States, wears a 39 in Europe and a 24 in Japan.

Elizabeth Cohen tells us about a new study on sizes.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Why is this man stripping down to his shorts and having nearly every millimeter of his body measured? Because he wants...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More room on planes, bigger clothes, clothes that fit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seventy-one-point-one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seventy-one-point-one.

COHEN: Felipe Clayvrooks (ph), a football player at the Georgia Institute of Technology, is a volunteer for an international measuring project. Some of the sponsors, airplane manufacturers such as Boeing, clothing companies like Levi Strauss, and car makers like Ford.

They use old techniques and new.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What you see here are about 10 subjects, and the location of their pupils and the spread of the pupils.

COHEN: This 3-D scan, which measures the distance between the eyes, will help make better-fitting goggles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, 72 stickers.


COHEN: The stickers show up on the scans and are used to measure point to point for inseam sizes or arm length. The measurements could help standardize sizes.

SCOTT FLEMING, U.S. AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY: I hear females talk about from one name brand to the next name brand. They may wear a 6 in one name brand and an 8 or a 10 in another name brand. And that's one of the reasons why it takes so long for them to shop.

COHEN (on camera): They've just finished measuring volunteers in 12 cities in the United States and Canada. Europe comes next. While they haven't tallied all the numbers yet, they do have certain expectations.

KATHLEEN ROBINETTE, U.S. AIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY: he historic data indicated we were getting taller until, it looks like, about the mid-1970s. Now I -- it does -- I don't think we're still getting taller, but we do seem to be getting fatter.

COHEN (voice-over): The Air Force started this project about 15 years ago, and now NATO's joined in, trying to design better military equipment. Football player Felipe Clayvrooks and millions of consumers want something much simpler, a pair of pants that fit, an airplane seat that's comfortable.

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Atlanta


WALCOTT: Talk about a perfect fit. Later in "Chronicle," we'll size up your brain. We'll also talk about how its development affects your behavior. So stay put.

You've been hearing a lot about the brain, but in "Worldview," we are changing gears now to learn about electronic rhythms. Your brain makes sense of the throbbing beat and translates it into music. And something soothing for the senses, as we visit Australia. Our destination: the tranquil setting of a nature park.

But our first stop is China and the music scene. We examine the changing face of culture in China, where the art of dancing dates back nearly 5000 years. Traditional Chinese dance can be divided into four categories: ceremonial, for praying to the Gods for bountiful harvests; dramatic, for commemorating historical events; martial, for demonstrating fighting techniques; and agricultural, for celebrating nature and work.

Dancers also use props such as silk banners, feather fans, ribbons, and swords in their choreography. But today, a younger generation is sidestepping the traditional for new rhythms and new sounds.

Rebecca MacKinnon tells us about China's techno trend.


REBECCA MACKINNON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Down a quiet Beijing alleyway, the invasion has come. China's Internet generation's throbbing to techno music.

Tonight, a visiting disk jockey from Germany pumping out electronic rhythms, punctuated with industrial noises, an electronic pulse running through the dance floor.

Yes, this is the People's Republic of China.

FRANKE MULLER, DISK JOCKEY: It's like something new for them. But anyways, the young generation will do it with or without permission.

MACKINNON (on camera): China's techno music fans are still a very small, hard core minority, but they're determined to be every bit as hip as anyone else in the world.

(voice-over): Techno music, popular among twenty-somethings from New York to Berlin to Tokyo, has replaced karaoke and disco as the coolest cutting-edge for those in China's capital who consider themselves in step with global trends.

They come here to meet other like-minded people who may or may not be from China. The 27-year-old manager says his parents don't understand this place at all.

ANDY CHAN, CLUB ORANGE (through translator): We're totally different than they are. They're conservative and do whatever they're told. We think in a much more complex, international way. If we want our country to develop, we must be as progressive as possible.

MACKINNON: Creating a very different kind of revolution than their parents and grandparents did.

Rebecca MacKinnon, CNN, Beijing.


TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: We've learned a lot about Australia in "Worldview" lately. Sydney was host to the 2000 Summer Olympic Games. Tens of thousands came to Australia to catch a glimpse of the world's best athletes compete. And many were also exposed to some of Australia's beautiful scenery.

The Blue Mountain National Park was one popular tourist destination. The Blue Mountains are a vast mountain range home to the eucalyptus tree. Now, you've no doubt seen and smelled eucalyptus before. It's sold as a dry plant in stores and distinguishes itself by a unique smell and small gray green leaves. In the wild, it's also the food of choice of the koala.

Paul Vercammen was in Australia recently, and got a peek at the peaks of the Blue Mountains.


PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Australia's Blue Mountains National Park each ripple is the top of a eucalyptus or gum tree, too many to count on a million acres here.

WAYNE BRENNAN, PARK RANGER: The eucalyptus trees give off, like a gas that comes out from the oil, and forms a blue haze when you look at it from a distance, and that's why the mountains are actually called the Blue Mountains.

VARCAMMEN: Ranger Wayne Brennan's noble job is to protect this national park, just one and a half hours west of downtown Sydney.

BRENNAN: People are really stressed out in the cities and to have access to these places so close is so important to them.

VARCAMMEN: Aussie's call hiking bushwalking. There's more than 100 kilometers, 62 miles of Blue Mountain trails.

One ends at a cave, where Ranger Lester Ives plays the Aboriginal instrument the didgeridoo.

LESTER IVES, PARK RANGER: I love the didgeridoo. It's a beautiful instrument, home grown in Australia. Not made in a smelly old factory or anything like that. The termites, the little white ants, eat them out.

VARCAMMEN: This white man developed a respect for the Aboriginal way of life as a boy, especially music.

IVES: And why it's called the didgeridoo. It's because one time it was heard being played something like...

VARCAMMEN: Paths here also lead to Ranger Janelle Randall-Court, an Aborigine helping preserve her heritage.

JANELLE RANDALL-COURT, PARK RANGER: That's the main thing. That's what was really important for Aboriginal people to teach the young so that it goes with them and then their children.

VARCAMMEN: There are legends about these peaks, The Three Sisters, and Aboriginal lessons found in earthy paints stroked on bark.

RANDALL-COURT: We know this as X-ray painting, and basically it was sort of used as a tool a long time ago to show the internal parts of animals, like kangaroos, before they were divvied up for a feed.

VARCAMMEN: The Blue Mountains can also be taken in with a descent into paradise. It will hoist the pit of your stomach against the lump in your throat. The scenic railway it boasts to be the steepest in the world.

Tourists leave here awestruck. Park rangers seem to forever keep their sense of wonder.

BRENNAN: Power. Beauty. It's magnificent. I wake up in the morning and I say to myself: My goodness it's good to be alive.

VARCAMMEN: For park rangers, this is home.

Paul Vercammen, CNN, Blue Mountains National Park, Australia.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WALCOTT: It's a question parents of teenagers have no doubt asked themselves: How can I tell if my child is normal? Well, for a long time, the answer to that question was pretty elusive, because scientists didn't really have a tool that could safely probe young brains. That's all changed thanks to a new brain-mapping technique that's thrown open a whole new window to the adolescent mind.


WALCOTT (voice-over): The mental mysteries of youth. What makes teenagers act the way they do? And when is the best time to teach them the skills that will make them well-rounded adults?

Researchers say, they are figuring out the answers to these questions and others, thanks to a new brain-mapping technique. It's called Magnetic Resonance Imaging, the MRI. Technology, they say, that has revolutionized study of the human brain.

GIEDD: Well, advances in computer and mathematics and imaging technology now allow us to examine the developing brain as never before.

WALCOTT: The MRI scanner looks a lot like a huge X-ray machine. But it's actually a giant magnet.

DR. SUSAN BOOKHEIMER, NEUROSCIENTIST, UCLA LAB OF NEURO IMAGING: And what it does is it creates a large magnetic field in which particles inside your brain, actually hydrogen molecules, turn toward the magnet and move around in a certain way that creates a signal that we can pick up with a special antenna, and reconstruct into a picture of your brain.

WALCOTT: A very detailed, 3-dimensional picture. An MRI snapshot highlights different tissue types, giving them different types, allowing scientists to see differences between the brain's gray and white matter.

Gray matter are the actual nerve cells that process information. White matter, the long nerve fibers that move that information long distances. Both key parts of the brain.

BOOKHEIMER: And we can, therefore, look at a picture like this and tell how much gray matter there is, how much white matter there is, if there's anything abnormal in the brain, whether everything is where it should be.

WALCOTT: The MRI is a powerful machine, but it is still one of the safest ways to study children's brains.

GIEDD: old ways of looking at the living brain, such as X-rays or C.T. Scans, use harmful radiation. So we couldn't use that to study healthy children. But MRI, or Magnetic Resonance Imaging, changed all that. It allows safe pictures of very good anatomy of the growing, living human brain, and has launched this whole new era of adolescent neuro-science.

WALCOTT: Teens used as subjects on the MRI must first be demagnetized.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then I need to know if there's anything left in your pockets, or anything like that? no metal objects, any body piercings that you're hiding from us?

WALCOTT: It's to make sure anything metallic that could be ripped off by the highly magnetic machine is removed.

Next, teens are given headsets and special goggles fitted with tiny T.V. sets. Not exactly the comforts of home, but it still helps stave off boredom.

Next, they lie flat on a table that passes through a long, narrow cylinder of the MRI unit.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, I can hear you very loud and clear. I'm going to play a movie for you while you're in there and while we're getting set up OK?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, we're going to play some beeps and bumps from the scanner. You'll be hearing it in the background. Just ignore it and try to keep your head nice and still, OK?



WALCOTT: Current MRI technology requires a person to sit very still for at least eight minutes, making it very difficult to map the brains of children under age three. But scientists have managed to successfully scan at least one three-year-old and several other children under age 15.

Some received scans just two weeks apart; others, at intervals as long as four years, in order for scientists to track changes in a child's brain over the short and long term.

With the scans, scientists were able to produce high resolution maps that track changes in brain development. Just half an inch of growth adds up to millions of new brain cells that help boost a child's ability to take on new skills.

SOWELL: And again, we've only been to, in the last maybe 10 or 15 years, we have only been able to study normal development because of the non-invasive magnetic resonance imaging that we use here.

WALCOTT: Scientists have come a long way in their study of the teen brain, and say they still have a ways to go. But most agree that research from the MRI has key implications for understanding young minds and how they really work. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WALCOTT: Think your brain looks good on television? If so, wait until you check it out on the net. Tomorrow, I'll host a webcast all about your brain. Starting at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, we'll talk about everything from how you sleep to how drugs affect your gray matter.

As for today, that's all the time we have. So I'll see you on T.V. and on-line. Have a good day.



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