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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, 2007

A. January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month.

B. Every 21 seconds, someone in the US suffers a traumatic brain injury. (Source: Carroll, L., War on the brain, Neurology Now, 2:12-25, 2006.)

C. Approximately 5% of the neurosurgeons in the United States are female. (Source: Firlik, K., Another Day in the Frontal Lobe: A Brain Surgeon Exposes Life on the Inside, New York: Random House, 2006.)

D. The famous neurosurgeon Harvey Cushing (some people call him the father of neurosurgery) had a colloid cyst deep inside his own brain. (Source: Firlik, K., Another Day in the Frontal Lobe: A Brain Surgeon Exposes Life on the Inside, New York: Random House, 2006.)

E. Hippocrates recommended that teeth be cleaned with a ball of wool moistened with honey. (Source: Wynbrandt, J., The Excruciating History of Dentistry, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998.)

February, 2007

A. The word "window" comes from Scandinavian terms vindr and auga meaning "wind's eye."

B. In the late 1800s, heroin was used as a cough medicine.

C. Heterochromia iridis (or heterochromia iridium) is when a person has eyes with two different colors; it is the result of differences in the pigment of iris in each eye.

D. The retina is the only part of the central nervous system that can be seen from outside of the body...you have to look through the pupil of the eye to see it.

E. The leech has five pairs of eyes on its head. This animal also has other photosensitive cells on other parts of its body. (Source: Schwab, I.R., A backseat driver, Br J Ophthalmol 90:1447, 2006.)

March, 2007

A. March 12-18, 2007, is Brain Awareness Week!

B. The application of turtle brain mixed with honey was an ancient Egyptian remedy for a scar on the cornea of the eye. (Source: Edwards, D.D., Ophthalmology before Hippocrates, in Daniel M. Albert and Diane D. Edwards, eds., The History of Ophthalmology, Cambridge (MA): Blackwell Science, 1996.)

C. Someone in the US dies of a stroke every THREE minutes. (Source: Neurology Now, November/December, 2006, page 17.)

D. "Astrocyte," a type of glial cell, comes from the Greek words meaning "star-like cell."

E. The pesticide strychnine blocks receptors for the neurotransmitter called glycine.

April, 2007

A. Cats are unable to taste sweetness. (Source: Biello, D., Scientific American online, March 8, 2007.)

B. Andrew Bogut, the star seven-foot center for the Milwaukee Bucks National Basketball Association (NBA) team, suffers from migraine. (Source: Wright, G., Shooting hoops, Neurology Now, Jan./Feb., 2007.)

C. The first cervical dorsal spinal nerve and dorsal root ganglia are missing in 50% of all people (Source: Schwartz, E.D. and Flanders, A.E., Spinal trauma: imaging, diagnosis, and management, Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2007.)

D. April is National Autism Awareness Month.

E. Even pets (and wild animals) can get Lyme disease. Dogs, cats, horses, mice, cattle, deer, squirrels, opossum and raccoons can be infected. Many wild animals infected by the bacteria that cause Lyme disease do not show any symptoms. Dogs, however, may develop a fever and have pain in the joints. This can cause them to limp when they walk.

May, 2007

A. More than 12 million people in the United States are estimated to have obstructive sleep apnea. People with sleep apnea may stop breathing 10 or more times an hour while they are asleep. (Source: NIH News in Health, April, 2007.)

B. May is Stroke Awareness Month, Better Sleep Month, Lyme Disease Awareness Month, and Mental Health Month.

C. Many people with multiple sclerosis (MS) have trouble walking and maintaining their balance. Therefore, they may fall more often and break bones. Osteoporosis also puts people with MS at risk for broken bones.

D. In 1962, Michael Siffre spent two months in a cave without information about the time of day in order to study sleep and other circadian rhythms.

E. Failure of the corpus callosum (the band of axons between the right and left cerebral hemispheres) to develop occurs in 1 out of 4,000 people. (Source: Paul, L.K. et al., Agenesis of the corpus callosum: genetic, developmental and functional aspects of connectivity, Nature Neuroscience Reviews, 8:287-299, 2007.)

June, 2007

A. Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, was selected as one of the "Most Influential People in the World" by TIME magazine (May 14, 2007).

B. In 1956, there were 17 states in the US with a law that forbid people with epilepsy from getting married. It wasn't until 1980 that the last state (Missouri) repealed this law. (Source: Epilepsia, 44(s6):12-14, 2003.)

C. Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., the lawyer who defended O.J. Simpson against murder charges, died from complications of a brain tumor in 2005. On May 5, 2007, a research center named in his honor, the Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Brain Tumor Center, opened at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

D. In 2000, US Drug Enforcement Administration agents seized approximately 41.3 kilograms (90.86 pounds) of the hallucinogenic drug LSD. This is the largest seizure of LSD that the DEA has ever made. (Source: DEA Web site)

E. In Greek mythology Sleep (Hypnos), Death (Thanatos), and Dreams (Oniros) were children of the goddess Night (Nyx); Neglect or Forgetfulness (Lethe) and Pain (Algos) were grandchildren of the Night (Nyx). (Source: Ture et al., The art of alleviating pain in Greek mythology, Neurosurgery, 56:178-185, 2005.)

July, 2007

A. Lithium, a metallic element used to treat bipolar disorder, was an ingredient in the original recipe for the lemon-lime soft drink 7UP. In fact, the first name for 7UP was "Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda." (Source: Meyers, M.A., Happy Accidents. Serendipity in Modern Medical Breakthroughs, New York: Arcade Publishing, 2007.)

B. In 1938, Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist Otto Loewi was jailed by the Nazis in Austria. Only when he transferred his Nobel Prize money to a Nazi-controlled bank was he allowed to leave Austria. (Source: Meyers, M.A., Happy Accidents. Serendipity in Modern Medical Breakthroughs, New York: Arcade Publishing, 2007.)

C. Hammerhead sharks can detect one part per 25 million of blood in seawater. (Source: Schwab, I.R. and McComb, D.M., Keeping a cool head, British Journal of Ophthalmology, 91:138, 2007.)

D. In 1979, Anthony (Tony) Coelho became the first person with epilepsy to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

E. Tsar Peter the Great (born, 1672; died, 1725) suffered from seizures that sometimes caused him to lose consciousness. (Source: Hughes, J.R., The seizures of Peter Alexeevich = Peter the Great, Father of Modern Russia, Epilepsy & Behavior, 10:179-182, 2007.)

August, 2007

A. Several countries have issued postage stamps with pictures of famous neuroscientists. (See: http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/stamps/stamps.html)

B. Nobel Prize winner Antonio Egaz Moniz, who introduced the prefrontal lobotomy, was the Portuguese ambassador to Spain in 1917. (Source: Meyers, M.A., Happy Accidents. Serendipity in Modern Medical Breakthroughs, New York: Arcade Publishing, 2007.)

C. Approximately 400 million people around the world have psychiatric and neurologic disorders. (Source: Glannon, W., Bioethics and the Brain, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.)

D. Many people with multiple sclerosis (MS) have trouble walking and maintaining their balance. Therefore, they may fall more often and break bones. Osteoporosis also puts people with MS at risk for broken bones.

E. Approximately 400,000 Americans acknowledge having MS, and every week about 200 people are diagnosed. Worldwide, MS may affect 2.5 million individuals. (http://www.nationalmssociety.org/)

September, 2007

A. US President George W. Bush was treated for Lyme disease in August, 2006.

B. Since 1981, the United States has spent $600 billion in its "war" on illicit drugs. (Source: Dermota, K., Snow fall, The Atlantic, July/August, 2007.)

C. Countries with people who report the highest levels of satisfaction with their lives have the lowest incidence of high blood pressure. (Source: The Atlantic, July/August, 2007.)

D. Approximately 135,000 (65 percent) of sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries treated in U.S. emergency departments occur each year in young people ages 5 to 18 (Source: http://www.cdc.gov/)

E. On September 13, 1848, an explosion sent a rod through the brain of Mr. Phineas Gage. Although Mr. Gage survived, the accident changed his personality and provided scientists with important information about the workings of the frontal lobes.

October, 2007

A. An early patient of neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield (1891-1976) was his sister. Dr. Penfield operated on his sister to remove a brain tumor. (Source: Bynum, W.F. and Bynum, H., editors, Dictionary of Medical Biography, Westport (CT): Greenwood Press, 2007.)

B. During development, the brain creates 30,000 synapses per second for every square centimeter of cortical surface. (Source: Rose, S., The Future of the Brain. The Promise and Perils of Tomorrow's Neuroscience, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.)

C. Bumblebees have a brain volume of about 1.16 cubic millimeters; honeybees have a brain volume of about 0.64 cubic millimeters. (Source: Mares, S., Ash, L., and Gronenberg, W., Brain Allometry in Bumblebee and Honey Bee Workers Brain, Behavior and Evolution, 66:50-61, 2005.)

D. Manatees "see" with 3,000 hairs on their bodies to help them maneuver in murky waters. Each hair is connected to 20-50 nerve fibers. In other mammals, each hair is connected to 5-10 nerve fibers. (Source: Discover, August 2003.)

E. Children with autism spectrum disorder are not as susceptible to contagious yawning as other children. (Source: Senju, A., et al., Absence of contagious yawning in children with autism spectrum disorder, Biology Lett., August 14, 2007 (DOI 10.1098/rsbl.2007.0337).

November, 2007

A. In October, 2007 the Society for Neuroscience had 38,020 members. (Source: Society for Neuroscience) B. Opium and its derivative heroin represent more than 40% of Afghanistan's gross domestic product. Also, the opium production of Afghanistan accounts for 93% of the illegal production in the world. (Source: Sanderson, K., Opiates for the masses, Nature, 449:268-269, 2007.)

C. According to new data from the National Center for Health Statistics, the life expectancy in the US is 77.9 years. Cerebrovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease, respectively, are the third, seventh and fourteenth leading cause of death.

D. November is Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month and Epilepsy Awareness Month.

E. Anatomist Francois Magendie (1783-1855) did not have any formal early schooling and could not read or write when he was 10 years old. (Source: Bynum, W.F. and Bynum, H. (editors), Dictionary of Medical Biography, Westport (CT): Greenwood Press, 2007.)

December, 2007

A. Hammerhead sharks have one of the largest olfactory bulb to brain ratios of any animal. This shark's olfactory bulb is 7% of its total brain mass. (Source: Schwab, I.R. and McComb, D.M., Keeping a cool head, British Journal of Ophthalmology, 91:138, 2007.)

B. When fur seals sleep on land, they show the same slow-wave sleep activity on both sides of their brain (symmetrical slow wave sleep). However, when fur seals sleep in the water, one side of their brain shows slow-wave sleep activity while the other side does not (asymmetrical slow wave sleep). (Source: Lapierre, J.L., et al., Cortical acetylcholine release is lateralized during asymmetrical slow-wave sleep in northern fur seals, J. Neuroscience, 27:11999-12006, 2007.)

C. 30% of high school seniors reported driving after drinking heavily or using drugs, or riding in a car whose driver had been drinking heavily or using drugs, at least once two weeks prior to a survey conducted researcher at the University of Michigan. (Source: O'Malley, P.M. and Johnson, L.D., Drugs and driving by American high school seniors, 2001-2006, J. Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 68:834-842, 2007.)

D. The retina of the eye is 4 mm thick. (Source: Goldstein, E.B., Sensation and Perception, 7th edition, Belmont (CA): Thomson Wadsworth, 2007.)

E. The pygmy-possum (Cercartetus nanus) is the longest "sleeping" animal. One of these animals hibernated for 367 days. (Source: Geiser, F., Yearlong hibernation in a marsupial mammal, Naturwissenschaften, 94:941-944, 2007.)


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