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Neuroscience For Kids

Treasure Trove of Brain Trivia

A collection of trivia about the brain and nervous system from the archives of the Neuroscience for Kids Newsletter. For more trivia about the brain, see brain facts and figures.

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January, 2015

A. The National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) has been renamed as the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).

B. Pioneering neuroscientist and Nobel Prize winner Santiago Ramon y Cajal wrote science fiction books using the name "Dr. Bacteria." (Source: Otis, L., Ramon y Cajal, a pioneer in science fiction, Int. Microbiol., 4:175-178, 2001.)

C. The term "brainwashing" emerged during the Korean War. The word comes from the Chinese phrase "xi nao" that means "to wash the brain." (Source: Steinmetz, S., There's A Word for It. New York: Harmony Books, 2010.)

D. The olfactory bulb of a shark makes up to 3-14% of its total brain mass. (Source: Helfman, G. and Burgess, G.H., Sharks. The Animal Answer Guide. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014.)

E. 2014 Nobel Prize winning neuroscientist May-Britt Moser wore a dress with a grid cell pattern to the award ceremony. See the dress.

February, 2015

A. The Materia Medica (the great Herbal), written by Greek physician Pediacus Dioscorides in about the middle of the 1st century AD, recommended wearing two stones from the stomach of a young swallow (bird) to cure epilepsy. (Source: Eadie, M.J., The antiepileptic Materia Medica of Pediacus Dioscorides, J. Clin. Neurosci. 11:697-701, 2004.)

B. Napoleon Bonaparte (born 1769; died 1821) likely suffered from epilepsy. (Source: Hughes, J.R., Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte: did he have seizures? Psychogenic or epileptic or both?, Epilepsy & Behavior, 4:793-796, 2003.)

C. American soccer star Tim Howard was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome when he was in middle school. (Source:

D. Carolus Linnaeus coined the phrase "Homo sapiens," Latin for "wise man."

E. The height of a taste bud ranges from 50-100 microns. (Source: Farbman, A.I., Taste Bud, in G. Adelman, eds., Encyclopedia of Neuroscience, 1987.)

March, 2015

A. Penguins lack sweet, umami and bitter taste abilities. (Source: Zhao, H., Li, J., and Zhang, J., Molecular evidence for the loss of three basic tastes in penguins, Current Biology, 25:pR141-R142, 16 February 2015 DOI:

B. Humans have about 450 different types of olfactory receptors. (Source: articles/2015/making-sense-of-scents-smell-and-the-brain/)

C. The Institute of Medicine has proposed that "chronic fatigue syndrome" be renamed as "systemic exertion intolerance disease."

D. The last words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt were: "I have a terrific headache."

E. Australian author Colleen McCullough, who died at the age of 77 on January 29, 2015, wrote the novel "The Thorn Birds." Before McCullough became a full time author, she was a neuroscientist who did research at Yale Medical School.

More trivia from other years:

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