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NEWSROOM for August 2, 2001

Aired August 2, 2001 - 04:30   ET


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

RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Rudi Bakhtiar.

Well, science is the topic of the day. Let's take a look at what's coming up.

Headlining today's show, we have your brain on our minds. And matters of the mind are still the focus in "Science Desk" when we experience the reality of artificial intelligence. Then, straight ahead in "Worldview," find out how Cuban officials put their heads together to reduce traffic troubles. Finally, we have a winning combination, teens and "TRL."

In response to the rise in drug use among teenagers, particularly the use of ecstasy, we're bringing back a few stories from our special brain series. We'll talk more about ecstasy abuse in a minute, but first, the mental mysteries of youth that appears hormones aren't the only reason teenagers sometimes act crazy. Neuroscientists say the hard wiring of the adolescent brain is substantially different from a child's or adult's.

Shelley Walcott reports.


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

DR. JAY GIEDD, NEUROSCIENTIST, NATL. INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: 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. But scientists say the root of teen tantrums could be buried deep in their brains.

(voice-over): While using sophisticated brain-mapping technology, U.S. and Canadian scientists made a startling discovery.

GIEDD: It used to be thought that the brain didn't change very much after about the age of 3 or 4. But by studying teens, we now know that the teenage brain is changing very dramatically and very dynamically.

WALCOTT: In other words, the adolescent brain isn't as fully developed as scientists had previously thought, a theory that tends to provoke strong reactions from some kids.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that's dumb, personally. We're just young. We're having fun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, if it's scientifically proven, I guess I have to give some credit to that. But, personally, I'd have to see the results myself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're just having fun. It's not like we're retarded or like -- are you all stupid or something?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, see, we're just out here trying to have some fun, basically, you know. You're only young once.

WALCOTT: For a long time, scientists believed the most important time in brain development occurred during the first few years of life, an assumption that prompted many parents to stimulate newborns with classical music or alphabet flash cards.


WALCOTT: Turns out, parents of young children can relax a bit since researchers say a child's brain is still developing way into puberty.

Just as a teen is all arms and legs one day and all nose and ears the next, different regions of his or her brain also have an awkward sense of timing, with neural growth spurts that seem to coincide with important leaps in learning abilities.

Researchers say there are three major periods of brain growth. The first occurs between the ages of 3 and 6. That's when there is a virtual forest fire of growth in the front of the brain.

DR. ELIZABETH SOWELL, NEUROSCIENTIST, UCLA LAB OF NEURO IMAGING: We know that the frontal lobes are regions of the brain that are responsible for things like planning, organization, inhibiting inappropriate responses, controlling emotion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sometimes me and my friends, just, 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.

SOWELL: Teenagers can plan and organize their lives, just not as well as they probably can when they're maybe 20, 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 toward 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 you might say, you know, maybe learn a language a little bit younger. You know, I want to learn French or learn 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. 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, an 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, NEUROPSYCHOLOGIST, 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.

SOWELL: 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 it just, again, reinforces that strong structure and support through the teenage years is of critical importance.

WALCOTT (voice-over): 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.

Shelley Walcott, CNN.


BAKHTIAR: So if the teen brain isn't fully mature, what does a grownup brain look like and can drugs like ecstasy prevent a young brain from developing properly? That's a question and a possibility some experts presented to Congress this week. A Senate panel is probing the increase in ecstasy use among teens and possible ways to curb it. Additional funding for education and treatment of ecstasy abuse are two options.

Now, Shelley Walcott takes a closer look at how a healthy adult brain functions and why it's so important to protect the brain during its formative years.


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, NEUROSCIENTIST, NATL. 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 information 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 Dr. 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, you know, 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 3 pound mass made up of billions of cells plays one of the most crucial roles in human life.

Shelley Walcott, CNN.


BAKHTIAR: In today's "Science Desk," a closer look at the theme behind one of the most highly hyped films of the summer. "Artificial Intelligence" is about a robot boy programmed to have human emotions. But artificial intelligence isn't just the stuff of movies. In fact, some scientists are actually working on ways to give computers the ability to think. Sounds pretty futuristic, but research and development in this area is moving full speed ahead.

Fred Katayama reports.



WILLIAM HURT, ACTOR: I propose that we build a robot child who can love.


FRED KATAYAMA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the Hollywood world of "A.I.," the boy-robot David, played by Haley Joel Osment...



KATAYAMA: ... is programmed to love his human mother just like a real child. A great story, researchers say, but pure science fiction. While robots are starting to look and act more like people, or even pets, no lifelike emotional robots exist.

RAJ REDDY, COMPUTER SCIENCE PROFESSOR, CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY: Emotional behavior, emotions, expression of emotions has always been hardest of the tasks A.I. has looked at. In particular, can a computer laugh or can a computer express sorrow.

KATAYAMA: The reality, the biggest progress in artificial intelligence is where we can't see it, in software. The milestone...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Deep Blue will have two pawns for the queen.

KATAYAMA: IBM super computer Deep Blue defeating Gary Kasparov in chess, although that took 40 years longer than expected. A.I. is so embedded in our daily lives, we don't realize it. Software robots comb for the lowest prices on the Web, suggest books that might suit our tastes, translate text and check for credit worthiness.

Researchers on the hardware front face a big frontier, making robots learn. These soccer-playing robots at Carnegie Mellon University can block or score, but can't discover new things.

At MIT, Kismet can display sadness or surprise, but can't feel emotion. And robots can be humbled by a kid much younger than David.

ROD BROOKS, DIRECTOR, MIT AI LAB: We still don't have a computer vision program that can reliably, in all circumstances, tell a difference between a cup and a pen. Any 2-year-old can do this. So we are humbled by how hard some things are and surprised by how easy some other things are.

KATAYAMA (on camera): Some researchers say that by 2030, the desktop computer will possess 100 times more capacity than the human brain. The pure power doesn't necessarily translate into robots that can think, act and feel just like humans.

Fred Katayama, CNN Financial News, New York.



JULIE BELLINGER, CONYERS, GEORGIA: Hello, my name is Julie Bellinger. I'm from Conyers, Georgia. And my question is, how does someone fit all this information into a tiny computer chip?

RICK LOCKRIDGE, CNN TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: A computer chip, which is also called a microprocessor sometimes, or a central processing unit, or CPU, is typically a small, thin piece of silicon onto which millions of transistors have been etched. In some cases, as with the new Pentium IV chip, there are 42 million transistors on that 1x1 inch piece of silicon.

Now, this process can take dozens of steps and result in a chip that has up to 20 different layers. But those layers are very thin. And, again, they're made by chemical etchings and recoatings so that, over time, the very delicate circuits that must transmit little pulses of electricity in a very precise way are actually etched into the silicon wafer.

For the past 35 years or so, the development of microchips has pretty much followed an axiom laid out by Gordon Moore, who said in 1965 that he predicted that chips would roughly double in capacity about every 18 months or so. And remarkably, that has held true through all this time.

But now engineers are running up against the laws of physics and they can't get as much electricity to go where they want it to go in such a small space. So in the future, microchips might actually rely on small pulses of light to carry information in the form of ones and zeros instead of those little bitty pulses of electricity that do the job now.


BAKHTIAR: What sings and swims and drives on four wheels, our "Worldview" segment today. We'll take you to Singapore where fish stay in hotels and taxis are musical - right. Stay tuned for those stories. And we'll also cast off for Cuba where auto safety is driving new regulations.

TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: Since Christopher Columbus' discovery of the island 500 years ago, Cuba has been considered one of the most strategically placed islands in the Western Hemisphere. It lies 144 kilometers, just 90 miles, from Florida and is ideally situated as a gateway to the Americas. But ever since a young Fidel Castro and his army overthrew Cuba's government on January 1, 1959, Cuba's relationship with democratic countries like the U.S. has been strained, severely limiting the country's potential for economic prosperity. Today, many in Cuba continue to struggle. Still, the country's capital, Havana, is a busy, bustling city center.

Wayne Gray reports on new regulations designed to keep drivers safe.


WAYNE GRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Every car in Cuba must now undergo a safety inspection. The measure is part of a government campaign to deal with an alarming increase in road accidents.

RAUL MARMN VARONA, MECHANIC (through translator): Here we check the lights, the oil, the suspension, brakes, wheel balance. In other words, a general overhaul to check the car to see if there are any parts in poor condition. The purpose is to ensure safety on the road as much for the drivers as for the cars.

GRAY: Official statistics say chances of getting into a road accident in Cuba are more than four times higher than in the United States and six times higher than in Japan. Even though more Cubans are driving cars today than ever before, the number of vehicles is still low compared to many other countries. The government mainly blames a growing number of careless drivers for the increase in accidents. But many people in Cuba say there are other causes.

ANGEL GOMEZ VALLADOLES, MECHANIC (through translator): The roads have gotten worse and this is a problem which increases the amount of accidents. And there is another problem as well, the car parts that people get hold of are not always good quality and so anybody with a car has these problems to deal with.

GRAY: Many Cubans say they welcome the government's effort to deal with the issue, but they also say simply ordering car inspections is not enough to solve the problem.

Wayne Gray, CNN.


SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: We turn from cars in Cuba to transportation in Singapore, a country on the other side of the globe. Today, we look at Singapore and singing. You'll meet a taxi driver who's putting karaoke on wheels. His service is a hit with passengers hitting the road as Denise Dillon explains.


JEFFREY TAN, TAXI DRIVER (singing): ... my heart, my achy-breaky heart, he might go up and kill this man.

DENISE DILLON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Taxi driver Jeffrey Tan knows how to have a good time on the job, and he knows how to entertain his passengers. His taxi is the only one of the streets of Singapore with a karaoke machine.

TAN: We are living in a very fast-paced world, and very stressful, so a very good form of releasing stress is by singing. So I set up this system for myself and also for my clients so that they can de-stress.

DILLON: And de-stress they do. Some of his regular customers really know how to let their hair down and belt out a tune.

DI YEE, PASSENGER: Bizarre, wild. It's like being encased in a supersonic kind of bubble where you are just letting go of all of your cares and all of your normal life, and you've like an escapism on the road as you are traveling.

DILLON: Since he has passengers from all over the world, Tan has learned songs in more than a dozen languages. He has more than 500 songs to choose from, in various languages, to satisfy most musical tastes. JOYCE KING, PASSENGER: Jeffrey is loads of fun. He loves to sing probably as much as I love to sing. He tells jokes. He is just very entertaining, very pleasant, always punctual, and just a pleasure to deal with.

DILLON: Oh, and if you can't carry a tune, who cares? It's just you, the karaoke machine and Jeffrey Tan, your friendly taxi driver.

Denise Dillon, CNN.


BAKHTIAR: More now on Singapore, one of the busiest ports in the world. Located in the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore is in a central position, which has contributed to the state's growth and prosperity. Tourism has become increasingly important to Singapore's economy. Go there and you'll have no problem finding a hotel. There's even one for your fish, if you like to pamper them. That's right, your fish.

Karuno Shinsho explains.


KARUNO SHINSHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tony Lee visits the Nippon Koi Hotel every other day, not to stay, but to visit his fish. He owns 100 Japanese carp known as koi. He spends some 3,500 U.S. dollars a month on food and rent to make sure they're well taken care of. Lee says his hobby gives him more satisfaction than a night on the town.

TONY LEE, RAISES FISH: You'll find that you don't raise a lot of money in the nightclubs or the karaoke, that you spend all that necessary money away. So when you have a koi fish, when you're free, you just came down here and have a good look with them. And it make you very, very -- feel happy.

SHINSHO: Ah Seng, who opened the hotel, says he did so because many people's houses are too small to keep koi, but there are also other reasons.

AH SENG, NIPPON KOI HOTEL: There are some customer just who do have koi here, they just -- because at home their wives tell - don't like them keep koi but they love koi.

SHINSHO: So far the hotel boasts some 100 customers, all of them male. The hotel has about 200 ponds in three different sizes, costing from 137 to 407 U.S. dollars a month. The largest rooms are known as the presidential suits of ponds. They're for serious breeders who raise koi to sell them at auctions or enter them into competitions.

Raising koi is a serious hobby for Tay Kuan Yan who fell in love with the fish 12 years ago. He owns 80, half of which stay at the Koi Hotel's president suite, the rest are kept at home. But he switches their home every six months because at the hotel's bigger ponds the koi can grow larger. TAY KUAN YAN, RAISES FISH: Important aspect about the Koi Hotel is that just like in a hotel, you are receiving a full suite of services 24 hours a day, which again, you might not receive at home because, well, whether we like it or not, we have a job to do and sometimes that takes us away from the fish.

SHINSHO: The hotel also provides hospital services for the koi, including treatment for skin disease and ulcer. Koi lovers also say their fish can suffer from stress, but with all the amenities at this hotel, that's something they likely won't have to worry about.

Karuno Shinsho, CNN.


BAKHTIAR: OK, folks, it's time to play a little game of what if. What if you're a TV executive trying to come up with a hit show, what kind of things would you need? You could take some hot music acts, drop in some funky studio, toss in a hunky host, which is always good, then top it off with it. That's the one thing that makes it all click. But what exactly is it? For some producers at MTV, it is you and the magic you make happen is called "TRL."


MICHAEL OKWU, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The make the pilgrimage here every weekday, a little overeager, over caffeinated or downright over the top.

It's a safe bet no one here is over 18. That's a formula that's made Total Request Live or "TRL," the franchise on MTV's programming schedule and mecca for any pop act eager to cash in on the teen market.

CARSON DALY, HOST, "TRL": It's simple. Here is a phone number. Call us. Here is the top 10 videos.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, my name is Jennifer.


DALY: And it just became this little cult and it grew, and there was 10 people outside, then 100 people. One kid drove from Long Island. Two weeks later a kid flew in from Peru. Now there is people from all over the world outside.


Please say hi to friends Mark Tom and Travis -- "Blink 182."


TOM DELONGE, BLINK 182: It's a lot more fun to be in area where there is a bunch of kids and you are talking to the kids and interacting with them and it's a good environment, rather than going into a room with somebody and answering some questions and hoping that a kid will find it and read it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's kind of like American Bandstand for today's kids.

ANTHONY DECURTIS, CONTRIB. EDITOR, ROLLING STONE: It gets the music of these bands to an audience that is very hard to reach.

OKWU: Last year teenagers spent more than $3.7 billion on music. And they got a few ideas about how to unload that money boy watching "TRL."

(on camera): More than a million viewers make it the top-rated cable show in its slot. Interest in the program drove MTVs June online audience to a record audience to 3.5 million hits. Record executives now say an appearance on the program is as important a marketing vehicle as radio play.

KEVIN LILES, PRESIDENT, DEF JAM DEF SOUL: It's a very crucial piece of the puzzle. You know your puzzle won't be able to be complete if you trying to sell 3 or 4 million albums without having the "TRL" component.

'N SYNC BAND MEMBER: TRL was one of the building blocks of our career. We wish MTV all the best.

'N SYNC BAND MEMBER: This really picks MTV back up too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whatever you hear you want to go out and buy, because it sounds so good on TV with the videos.

MELINDA NEWMAN, BILLBOARD MAGAZINE: "TRL" is pushing it. It's been the number one video -- voted the number one video for X days in a row, and they think wow! I better go get that single, or if the single is not available, go buy that album.

OKWU: In January of 1999 a video from the relatively unknown rapper called Eminem debuted on "TRL." In March, the album went to number two on the charts.

And remember how fast Britney Spears got hot? So why does "TRL" work? The live format keeps its audience guessing. And the street pans give them their 15 seconds, if not minutes. And their request element makes it the perfect music show for a generation weaned on the Internet.

DECURTIS: "TRL" strikes a nice balance between what television is at its best, and what the Internet can do.

OKWU: But others say through "TRL," MTV now features less innovative music than it had in the past.

CHRISTOPHER FARLEY, MUSIC CRITIC, "TIME": I think it was sort of like music video crack, where they got a quick hit from it. Now they are hooked on it. Don't know how they are ever going to get off of it.

OKWU: No one here seems to agree. Michael Okwu, CNN Entertainment News, New York.


BAKHTIAR: OK, MTV fans, we have more. Log on to for some really cool stuff, including interactive video and a timeline of the network's history. And be sure to tune in to NEWSROOM tomorrow when we take a look back at 20 years of MTV.

Have a great day and we'll see you back here tomorrow.




4:30pm ET, 4/16

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