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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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2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1998


January, 2021

A. In 2020, Norway issued a postage stamp to celebrate Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientists Edvard Moser and May-Brit Moser and their work about grid of cells in the brain.

B. Spinosaurus (spine lizard) was a 50-foot-long, seven-ton dinosaur that swam. (Source: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/04/first-spinosaurus-tail-found-confirms-dinosaur-was-swimming/)

C. The Canyon bicycle company sells a mountain bike named the "Neuron."

D. See the winners of the Best Illusions of the Year contest at: http://illusionoftheyear.com/

E. Giant clams (Tridacna species) have several hundred pinhole type eyes on their mantles (Source: Land, M.F., The spatial resolution of the pinhole eyes of giant clams (Tridacna maxima), Proc. Biol. Sci., 270:185-188, 2003.)

February, 2021

A. Each eye of a tarsier (Tarsius wallacei), a small primate found in Indonesia, is as big as its brain. (Source: https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn19738-zoologger-a-primate-with-eyes-bigger-than-its-brains/)

B. Miami Heat basketball fans entering the arena for a game will be screened by dogs that will use their excellent sense of smell to detect COVID-19.

C. Last month, Brown University (Providence, RI) announced that it received an anonymous gift of $25 million to support brain research (Source: https://www.brown.edu/news/2021-01-26/brain-science).

D. Francis Crick, who won the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine with James Watson for discoveries about DNA, wrote in his book "What Mad Pursuit" (1988): "It is essential to understand our brains in some detail if we are to assess correctly our place in this vast and complicated universe we see all around us."

E. Normal cerebrospinal fluid is clear and colorless.

March, 2021

A. Dendrites are not just associated with neurons. The shape of some snow crystals gives rise to a form of ice crystals called stellar dendrites.

B. The Australian Reptile Park (Somersby, Australia) is asking adults to catch funnel web spiders and to bring their catch to the park to be milked to make antivenom. The venom in funnel web spiders is neurotoxic, but there have been no human deaths caused by a funnel web spider bite since the introduction of an antivenom about 40 years ago. (Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FE7y2XxZZI)

C. Bats, dolphins, whales, some oilbirds, swiftlets, shrews, and tenrecs use echolocation to navigate and/or find food.

D. Volunteer scientists, artists and embroiderers have worked on the Cajal Embroidery Project to sew panels depicting the work of neuroscientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal (Source: Mehta et al., The Cajal Embroidery Project: celebrating neuroscience, The Lancet Neurology, 19:979, 2020; also see the project web site at: https://www.edinburghneuroscience.ed.ac.uk/cajal-embroidery-project-2020).

E. In January 2021, musician Dr. Dre was hospitalized after suffering a brain aneurysm. He was treated in a Los Angeles hospital and then returned home to recuperate.

April, 2021

A. "Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." --- Benjamin Franklin, 1758 (in Poor Richard's Almanack)

B. Singer Tony Bennett (born 1926) was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2016.

C. The amygdala is a part of the brain important for emotional behavior, memory, anxiety and fear. "Amygdala" is also the name of an enemy of Batman and first appeared in a 1992 comic book.

D. Dr. Nora Volkow is the current director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health. She is also the great-granddaughter of Leon Trotsky (1879 - 1940), the Russian Marxist revolutionary leader.

E. You may have been sleeping and missed it, but March 15, 2021, was National Napping Day.

May, 2021

A. Earlier this year, United Kingdom retailer End partnered with Saucony to create a shoe called the Azura 2000. The running shoe is also named "The Brain" because it was inspired by that three pounds of tissue in your head and includes a pattern that looks like the surface of the brain.

B. Sigmund Freud, a neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis, was born on May 6, 1856.

C. All happening in the month of May: Better Hearing and Speech Month, Better Sleep Month, Healthy Vision Month, Huntington's Disease Awareness Month, Lyme Disease Awareness Month, Mental Health Month and National Stroke Awareness Month.

D. Bees and wasps can remember human faces. (Source: Avarguès-Weber, A. et al., [2018] Does holistic processing require a large brain? Insights From honeybees and wasps in fine visual recognition tasks, Front. Psychol. 9:1313. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01313)

E. Comedian Steve Martin starred in a 1983 movie titled "The Man with Two Brains."

June, 2021

A. The Chinese red-headed centipede (Scolopendra subspinipes mutilans) uses a neurotoxin called Spooky Toxin (SsTx) to subdue its prey. The toxin interferes with a neuron’s potassium ion channels. (Source: Luo, L. et al., Centipedes subdue giant prey by blocking KCNQ channels, PNAS, 115:1646-1651, 2018)

B. "I like going from one lighted room to another, such is my brain to me; lighted rooms." (Quote from Virginia Woolf [1924], in Leonard Woolf, ed., A Writer's Diary, 1953.)

C. Several Nobel Prize winning neuroscientists were born in June including Allvar Gullstrand (June 5, 1862), Henry Hallett Dale (June 9, 1875), Otto Loewi (June 3, 1875), Georg Von Bekesy (June 3, 1899), Torsten N. Wiesel (June 3, 1924) and Bert Sakmann (June 12, 1942).

D. A mosquito has about 220,000 neurons in its brain and the common fruit fly has about 200,000 neurons in its brain. (Source: Raji JI, Potter CJ (2021) The number of neurons in Drosophila and mosquito brains. PLoS ONE 16(5): e0250381. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0250381)

E. June is National Aphasia Awareness Month and Vision Research Month.

July, 2021

A. The Department of Psychology at Arizona State University will offer a new Bachelor of Science degree in neuroscience this fall.

B. The stonefish has a neurotoxic venom that binds to receptors for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. The sting of a stonefish can cause intense pain, paralysis, heart problems and even death.

C. The Cortex District is a business/innovation area in the St. Louis historic Central West End and Forest Park Southeast neighborhoods.

D. In the United States in 2019, there were about 61,000 traumatic brain injury-related deaths (about 166 traumatic brain injury-related deaths every day). (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/get_the_facts.html).

E. "Neuron" is the name of a coffee shop in Makkah, Saudi Arabia.

August, 2021

A. Bulbophyllum cerebellum is the scientific name for an orchid native to the island of Borneo.

B. Domestic cattle have brains that are 25.6% smaller than the brains of wild cattle. (Source: Balcarcel A.M., et al., (2021), Intensive human contact correlates with smaller brains: differential brain size reduction in cattle types Proc. R. Soc. B.2882021081320210813, http://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2021.0813).

C. The area of the brain called the habenula gets its name from the Latin word for "rein."

D. "He who has to deal with a blockhead has need of much brains." - Spanish Proverb

E. Zaila Avant-garde, the 14-year-old who won the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee, may pursue a career in neuroscience. (Source: CNN, https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/08/us/spelling-bee-winner-zaila-avant-garde/index.html)

September, 2021

A. By 2060, almost 14 million people in the U.S. will be living with dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. The annual cost of dementia in the U.S, estimated at $305 billion in 2020, is expected to rise to $1.5 trillion by 2050. (Reference: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Reducing the Impact of Dementia in America: A Decadal Survey of the Behavioral and Social Sciences. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/26175.)

B. A 310 million-year-old fossilize brain from a horseshoe crab was recently discovered. (Reference: Bicknell, R.D.C. et al., Central nervous system of a 310-m.y.-old horseshoe crab: Expanding the taphonomic window for nervous system preservation. Geology 2021; doi: https://doi.org/10.1130/G49193.1).

C. In 1938, English science fiction writer H.G. Wells published a series of essays and lectures about how to solve the world's problems; Wells titled this work "World Brain."

D. Last month, actress Christina Applegate revealed that she has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a neurological disease that occurs when the insulating material (myelin) around nerve cells is damaged.

E. "Every day shows us that consciousness and volition may be disturbed by the slightest accident to the head and that disease seldom invades the brain without dethroning the mental powers." -- Samuel Solly (from The Human Brain: Its Structure, Physiology and Diseases, 1847)

October, 2021

A. There is a Guinness World Record for completing a marathon run while dressed as a brain.

B. In the early 1900s, Hans Berger developed the electroencephalogram (EEG) in an attempt to understand telepathy (Source: Sanders, L., How Hans Berger's quest for telepathy spurred modern brain science, ScienceNews, July 6, 2021).

C. The word "encephalogram" comes from the Latin words meaning "brain writing."

D. Sir Peter Mansfield, who won the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Paul Lauterbur for discoveries concerning magnetic resonance imaging, was born on October 9, 1933.

E. Wilhelm Konrad Rontgen (1845-1923), who discovered X-rays, was selected as one of LIFE magazine's 100 People Who Changed The World.

November, 2021

A. Julius Axelrod (1912 - 2004), who won the 1970 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, did not receive his Ph.D. until he was 42 years old (Source: The History of Neuroscience in Autobiography, Vol., 1, edited by Larry R. Squire, Washington, D.C.: Society for Neuroscience, 1996).

B. Phineas Gage is the name of a railroad worker and famous patient who suffered a brain injury in 1848 and also the name of a clothing store in West Chester, PA.

C. Have a warm drink and a pastry at the Magic Brain Café in Cape May, NJ.

D. Bonnethead sharks (Sphyrna tiburo) use the Earth's magnetic field for navigation (Source: Keller, B.A., et al., Map-like use of Earth's magnetic field in sharks, Cell Biology, 31:2881-2886, 2021).

E. Honey bees can keep track of time by monitoring the temperature of their hive (Source: Giannoni-Guzman, M.A., et al., The role of colony temperature in the entrainment of circadian rhythms of honey bee foragers, Annals of the Entomol. Soc. America, 114: 596-605, 2021).

December, 2021

A. In 2014, hallucinogenic mushrooms (Amanita muscaria) were discovered growing around Buckingham Palace in London.

B. Between about 1930 to 1950, table tennis was banned in the Soviet Union because the sport was thought to be harmful for the eyes (Source: The Olympics Factbook: A Spectator's Guide to the Summer Games, edited by Rebecca Nelson and Marie J. MacNee, Detroit (MI): Visible Ink Press, 1996).

C. The brain of the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) has about 100,000 neurons (Source: Zheng, Z., A complete electron microscopy volume of the brain of adult Drosophila melanogaster, Cell, 174:730-743, 2018).

D. Horses sleep a little less than 3 hours each day (Source: Lesku, J.A., et al., Phylogenetics and the correlates of mammalian sleep: A reappraisal, Sleep Medicine Reviews, 12:229-244, 2008).

E. Parkinson's disease is named after English physician James Parkinson (born, 1755; died; 1824) who described the symptoms of this neurological disease in "An Essay on the Shaking Palsy" (1817).

More trivia from other years:

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2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1998

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