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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, 2010

A. Grammy Award winner Tionne Watkins (T-Boz) of the 1990s singing group TLC had surgery in 2006 to remove a brain tumor. (Source: Herndon, J., Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins fighting to stay alive, People magazine, October 12, 2009)

B. You can walk on a street named Brain Road in the cities of Kings Mountain (North Carolina, USA), Donnelly River (Western Australia, Australia), Witham (England), Moolerr (Victoria, Australia) and Harare (Zimbabwe).

C. As many as 5.3 million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer's disease. (Source)

D. Kim Peek, the man with an incredible memory who inspired the 1988 film Rain Man starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, died after a heart attack on December 19, 2009. An MRI scan performed on Mr. Peek in 1988 revealed that his brain had a malformed cerebellum and was missing the corpus callosum (the large band of nerve fibers that connect the right and left cerebral hemispheres). (Source: Treffert, D.A. and Christensen, D.D., Inside the mind of a savant, Scientific American, December, 2005)

E. Saint Lucy, also known as Saint Lucia or Saint Lukia, is the patron saint of the blind. (Source: Dhillon, N., Dua, H.S., and Singh, A.D., Br J Ophthalmol, 93:1275, 2009)

February, 2010

A. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman in the United States to earn a medical degree, was born on February 3, 1821.

B. February is Age-Related Macular Degeneration/Low Vision Awareness Month and Wise Mental Health Consumer Month.

C. The estimated prevalence of mental disorders in children (8 to 15 years old) in the United States: 8.6% have ADHD; 3.7% have depression; 2.1% have conduct disorder; 0.7% have an anxiety disorder and 0.1% have an eating disorder (anorexia or bulimia). (Source: National Institute of Mental Health, http://www.nimh.nih.gov/science-news/2009/index.shtml)

D. The density of receptor cells in the humpback whale cochlea is 2,600 cells/mm; in humans, the density of receptors cells in the cochlea is 1,000 cells/mm. (Source: Branstetter, B.K. and Mercado III, E., Sound localization by cetaceans, International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 19: 26-61, 2006)

E. Richard Axel, who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2004, played basketball against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor) when they were both high school students in New York. Abdul-Jabbar scored 54 points, Axel scored 2 points. Abdul-Jabbar went on to play basketball at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and in the National Basketball Association (NBA); Axel became a neuroscientist and Nobel Prize winner. (Source: Autobiography by Richard Axel at: http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2004/axel-autobio.html)

March, 2010

A. The "Decade of the Mind" includes stretches from 2010 to 2020.

B. Hawaii is the only state in the US that produces coffee, a major source of caffeine, a central nervous system stimulant. (Source: http://www.hawaiicoffeeassoc.org/)

C. Some deep-sea fish have tubular eyes with each eye having two retinas. The retina on the side of the eye focuses distant objects; the other retina at the base of the eye is used to see near objects. (Source: Creatures of the Deep by Erich Hoyt, Buffalo (NY): Firefly Books, 2001.)

D. The seahorse is the only fish that has a neck. (Source: Scales, H., Poseidon's Steed, New York: Gotham Books, 2009.)

E. The vermis is a part of the cerebellum. The word "vermis" comes from Latin meaning "worm."

April, 2010

A. Oxygen is the most common chemical element (by weight) in the human body. (Source: Balaban, N.E. and Bobick, J.E., The Handy Anatomy Answer Book, Canton (MI): Visible Ink Press, 2008.)

B. Humans shed about 600,000 particles of skin each hour; this is equal to 1.5 pounds per year and 105 pounds by the time someone is 70 years old. (Source: Balaban, N.E. and Bobick, J.E., The Handy Anatomy Answers Book, Canton (MI): Visible Ink Press, 2008.)

C. The first two vertebrae of the spinal column (C1 and C2) allow the head to move.

D. Heterochromia is the rare condition in which a person has eyes of two different colors.

E. In 2009, 58,459 papers were published using the word "brain." (Source: Pubmed.gov)

May, 2010

A. A total of 11 past presidents of the United States have suffered strokes ("brain attacks"). Of these 11 presidents, four had strokes while they were in office. (Reference: Jones, J.M. and Jones, J.L., Presidential stroke: United States presidents and cerebrovascular disease, CNS Spectr. 11:674-678, 2006.)

B. American composer and pianist George Gershwin died on July 11, 1937 soon after he had surgery to remove a tumor from the right temporal lobe of his brain. (Reference: Pearl, P.L., Neurological problems of jazz legends, J. Child Neurol. 24:1037-1042, 2009.)

C. May is Healthy Vision Month and this year's theme is "Your Eyes are the Windows to Your Health."

D. The word "anatomy" comes from the Greek words meaning "up" and "cutting." The word "physiology" comes from the Greek words meaning "study of nature."

E. Each eye of the seahorse can move independently.

June, 2010

A. Betsy Cushing, the second daughter of famous neurosurgeon Harvey Cushing, was married to Jimmy Roosevelt, the son of US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. (Reference: Pearl, P.L., Neurological problems of jazz legends, J. Child Neurol., 24:1037-1042, 2009.)

B. In February 1848, United States President John Quincy Adams had a stroke while he addressed Congress. He died two days later. (Reference: Jones, J.M. and Jones, J.L., Presidential stroke: United States presidents and cerebrovascular disease, CNS Spectr. 11:674-678, 2006.)

C. Cerebrospinal fluid has a pH of 7.4 (Source: Balaban, N.E. and Bobick, J.E., The Handy Anatomy Answers Book, Canton [MI]: Visible Ink Press, 2008).

D. June is Vision Research Month.

E. A 20 oz. cup (a "Venti" size) of Starbucks brewed coffee has 415 mg of caffeine, a central nervous system stimulant. A single espresso shot of Starbucks coffee has 75 mg of caffeine. A maximum strength "NoDoz" pill contains 200 mg of caffeine. (Source for coffee caffeine content: Starbucks Coffee Company pamphlet, 2009.)

July, 2010

A. In 2050, the total costs of care for people in the US (age 65 and older) with Alzheimer?s disease is estimated to be $1.08 trillion per year. (Source: Alzheimer's Association, Changing the Trajectory of Alzheimer's Disease: A National Imperative, 2010, online at: http://www.alz.org/documents_custom/trajectory.pdf)

B. The word for brain in Indonesian is "otak."

C. Last month, Olympic gold medalist (figure skating) Scott Hamilton had successful brain surgery to remove a benign tumor.

D. Have you watched any of the 2010 World Cup Soccer matches from South Africa? Did you also hear the constant, buzzing sound coming from your TV? This sound was caused by thousands of soccer fans blowing a horn called a vuvuzela. The intensity of sound blasted from a vuvuzela can exceed 131 dB and a person standing 2 meters away from a vuvuzela can be exposed to a sound intensity of 113 dB. According to the South African National Standard, people within 2 meters of a vuvuzela should not be exposed continuously to the sound for more than one minute or they risk hearing damage! (Source: Swanepoel, D.W., Hall, J.W. and Koekemoer, D., Vuvuzela - good for your team, bad for your ears, S. African Med. Journal, 100:99-100, 2010.)

E. July is Eye Injury Prevention Month.

August, 2010

A. Takeru Kobayashi holds the world record for eating cow brains (17.7 pounds in 15 minutes) (Source: http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/06/29/new.york.hot.dog.contest/index.html)

B. All tigers have yellow-orange eyes except white tigers that have blue eyes. Tigers also have round pupils; other cats have slit pupils. (Source: Dua, H.S., Dua, A.S. and Singh, A.D., The eye of the tiger, Br J Ophthalmol, 94: 166, 2010.)

C. In a 1546 letter, Artist Michelangelo wrote, "...a man paints with his brains and not with his hands, and if he cannot have his brains clear he will come to grief." (Source: Paoletti, J.T. and Radke, G.M., Art in Renaissance Italy, 3rd edition, London: Laurence King Publishing Ltd, 2005.)

D. Dolphins have very small inner ear canal systems. The bottlenose dolphin and the mouse have semicircular canals that are the same size. (Source: Scudellari, M., Dolphins vs bulls, The Scientist, July, 2010, pp. 21-22.)

E. August is Pain Awareness Month.

September, 2010

A. In 2008, there were 954,224 physicians in the United States. Of these doctors, 5,508 were neurosurgeons, 15,212 were neurologists, and 40,904 were psychiatrists. (Source: Smart, D.R. Physician Characteristics and Distribution in the US. 2010 edition, Chicago: AMA Press, 2010.)

B. As a treatment for headache, the 10th century astronomer and physician Ali ibn Isa recommended binding a dead mole to the head of the patient. (Source: Koehler, P.J. and Boes, C.J., A history of non-drug treatment in headache, particularly migraine, Brain, doi:10.1093/brain/awq170, 2010.)

C. In the United States, 4,700 people sustain a traumatic brain injury every day. This is equal to 3 people each minute! (Source: Scudellari, M., Brain, interrupted, The Scientist, July 2010, p. 37-41.)

D. Members of the Gosuite, a Native American tribe, ground black widow spider eggs onto the tips of their arrows to make them more dangerous when they hunted. (Source: Grice, G., The Red Hourglass. Lives of the Predators, New York: Dell Publishing, 1998.)

E. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that helmets saved the lives of 1,829 motorcyclists in 2008. (Source: NHTSA, http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/pubs/811159.pdf)

October, 2010

A. "Brainiac" is the name of one of Superman's enemies. The character was introduced in a comic published in July, 1958.

B. The word "paralysis" comes from a Greek word meaning "to loosen."

C. The preying mantis belongs to the mantid species. Many of the mantid species do not have ears. In half of the 2,000 mantid species, the male has only one ear (in the center of his chest) and the female does not have an ear at all. (Source: Grice, G., The Red Hourglass. Lives of the Predators, New York: Dell Publishing, 1998)

D. October is Brain Injury Awareness Month, Depression & Mental Health Month, Down Syndrome Awareness Month, Health Literacy Month, and Spina Bifida Prevention Month.

E. A horse sleeps only three hours each day.

November, 2010

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

B. The European magpie has a body that weighs about 190 g and a brain that weighs 5.8 g. This means that this bird's brain is 3% of its total body weight. This brain to body weight ratio is larger than the brain to body weight ratio for humans (about 2%). (Source: Prior, H., Schwarz, A., and Gunturkun, O., Mirror-induced behavior in the magpie (Pica pica): evidence of self-recognition, PLoS Biol. 2008 Aug 19;6(8):e202.)

C. According to U.S. News & World Report, the top five neuroscience Ph.D. programs in the US are located at: 1) Harvard University; 2) Stanford University; 3) University of California, San Francisco; 4) Johns Hopkins University and 5) Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Source: 2011 Edition, America's Best Graduate Schools, Washington, D.C.: U.S. News & World Report, Inc., 2010.)

D. The normal hearing range for young adult humans is between 20 and 20,000 Hz; for goldfish, the hearing range is between 5 and 2,000 Hz; for rats, the hearing range is between 1,000 and 50,000 Hz and for dolphins, the hearing range is between 200 and 150,000 Hz. (Source: Discover Science Almanac, New York: Hyperion, 2003.)

E. There are 5,000 molecules of neurotransmitter in one synaptic vesicle (Source: Kandel, E.R., Schwartz, J.H., and Jessell, T.M. (Eds.), Principles of Neural Science. Fourth ed., New York: McGraw Hill Health Professions Division, 2000, p. 277)

December, 2010

A. 9.5% of children (ages 4-17 years; 5.4 million children) in the United States have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD). (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), Increasing Prevalence of Parent-Reported Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Among Children --- United States, 2003 and 2007, November 12, 2010 59(44);1439-1443)

B. 16.5% of all fatal car accidents in the US involve a drowsy driver. (Source: TIME magazine, November 22, 2010, page 21)

C. The part of the brain known as the substantia nigra gets its name from Latin meaning "black substance."

D. Between 1999 and 2009, 24 new species of poison dart frogs were identified in the Amazon rainforest. (Source: Amazon Alive: A Decade of Discoveries 1999-2009, http://assets.panda.org/downloads/amazon_alive_web_ready_sept23.pdf)

E. The US government spends up to $20 billion each year to reduce illegal drug use. This includes costs associated with crop eradication projects and public education campaigns. (Source: Reuter, P. (ed), Understanding the Demand for Illegal Drugs, Washington, D.C.: National Research Council, 2010.)


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