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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, 2011

A. The five "smartest" American Cities (based on a population's educational attainment) are Boulder (CO), Ann Arbor (MI), Washington, D.C., Durham (NC) and Fort Collins (CO). (Source: Portfolio Magazine)

B. An X-ray of Albert Einstein's skull was auctioned last month in Beverly Hills for $38,750. (Source:, via Associated Press, December 5, 2010)

C. Don Meredith, a former National Football League player and Monday Night Football TV announcer passed away on December 5, 2010, after suffering a brain hemorrhage. He was 72 years old.

D. January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month.

E. Last month, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed A-2743, a new state law intended to protect and prevent concussions in student athletes. ( Read the new law)

February, 2011

A. Children who are 5 to 7 years old consume about 52 mg of caffeine each day; children who are 8 to 12 years old consume about 109 mg of caffeine each day. The more caffeine children consumed, the smaller number of hours they sleep each night. (Source: Warzak et al., Caffeine consumption in young children, J. Pediatrics, 12/15/2010, Epub ahead of print.)

B. The lens of the human eye weighs about 174 milligrams. (Source: Flindt, R., Amazing Numbers in Biology, Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 2006.)

C. The ancient Greeks believed that placing the herb rosemary under a pillow would help a person sleep.

D. There are three different lakes named "Brain Lake" in Canada (in Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan).

E. Using their sense of smell, polar bears can find a whale carcass twenty miles (32 kilometers) away or a seal under six feet of snow and ice. (Source: Shanor, K. and Kanwal, J., Bats Sing, Mice Giggle. The Surprising Science of Animals' Inner Lives, London: Totem Books, 2010.)

March, 2011

A. Dolphins do not have a sense of smell; adult dolphins do not have an olfactory nerve, bulb or tract. (Source: Oelschlager, H.H.A., The dolphin brain -- challenge for synthetic neurobiology Brain Research Bulletin 75:450-459, 2008.)

B. Each eye of a honeybee is made of thousands of small lenses. The number of lenses in each eye depends on the type of bee: drone bees have 8,600 lenses, worker bees have 6,900 lenses, and queen bees have 3,000 to 4,000 lenses. (Reference: Brackney, S, Plan Bee, New York: Penguin Group, 2009.)

C. Brain Lane is a street in Wapato (WA), Brain Drive is a street in Jerome (ID) and Brain Road is a street in Kings Mountain (NC).

D. Estivation is the process by which some animals become dormant in very hot climates; it is similar to a state of hibernation but in hot climates instead of cold climates.

E. March is National Brain Injury Awareness Month.

April, 2011

A. Julius Axelrod, a neuroscientist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1970, was paid $25/month for his first job in a laboratory. (Source:

B. Stuttering affects more than 3 million people in the United States and another 60 million worldwide. (Source:

C. The African Grey parrot has a body that weighs about 405 g and a brain that weighs 9.18 g. This means that this bird's brain is about 2.3% of its total body weight. This brain to body weight ratio is similar 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.)

D. Approximately 5.3 million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer's disease. (Source: 2010 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures, Chicago: Alzheimer's Association, 2010.)

E. The total surface area of the membranes of 86 billion neurons is 25,000 square meters. The is equal to the size of four soccer fields (Source: Bear, M.F., Connors, B.W. and Pradiso, M.A., Neuroscience: Exploring the Brain, 2nd edition, Baltimore: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2001, p. 97.)

May, 2011

A. Neuroanatomist and Nobel Prize winner Santiago Ramon y Cajal born on May 1, 1852.

B. The first US eye bank opened in New York City on May 9, 1944.

C. 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 are all celebrated in the month of May.

D. The "Trinidad Scorpion Butch T" chili pepper is the hottest pepper even grown. This pepper scores a 1.46 million units on the Scoville heat scale. The jalapeno pepper scores only 5,000 Scoville units. The next hottest pepper is the Naga Viper chili with 1.38 million Scoville units. (Source: The Sydney Morning Herald, April 12, 2011.)

E. Academy Award-winning actress Natalie Portman (Black Swan, Star Wars, Cold Mountain, V for Vendetta and many more movies) studied neuroscience at Harvard University. She was a co-author, using her real name, Natalie Hershlag, of a paper titled "Frontal Lobe Activation during Object Permanence: Data from Near-Infrared Spectroscopy" that was published in 2002 in the journal "Neuroimage." You can read the full paper here:

June, 2011

A. Several people who made significant contributions to neuroscience were born in the month of June: Otto Loewi, discoverer of acetylcholine; Eduard Phluger, an early spinal cord researcher; Henry Hallett Dale, who won the Nobel Prize for work on nerve impulses; Thomas Young who theorized that three types of receptors in the retina mediate color vision; Alois Alzheimer, who described the syndrome of neural degeneration that is named for him; Friedrich Wilhelm Adam Serturner, discoverer of morphine; Paul Broca, one of the first to identify a brain location that is associated with language.

B. The British government may build a new highway to connect Cambridge and Oxford. Some have called this new road "The Brain Belt."

C. Northampton College in central England recorded a house cat with a purr of 73 decibels. For comparison, car traffic reaches about 70 decibels and an alarm clock is as loud as 80 decibels. (Source: Seattle Times, March 31, 2011, page A8.)

D. Approximately 75% to 85% of those who stutter in childhood will outgrow it when they become adults. (Source: National Institutes of Health;

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

July, 2011

A. The brain reaches approximately 90% of its adult volume by age 6. (Stiles, J. and Jernigan, T.L., The basics of brain development, Neuropsychol Rev. 20: 327-348, 2010.)

B. "Venti"-sized brewed coffee at Starbucks contains 415 mg of caffeine; a maximum strength "No-Doz" pill has only 200 mg of caffeine. (Starbucks' caffeine statistic from a Starbucks Co. pamphlet.)

C. In 2008, headaches were the first-listed diagnosis for over 3 million emergency department (ED) visits (comprising 2.4 percent of all ED visits) and 81,000 inpatient stays (comprising 0.2 percent of all inpatient stays). (Source: Lucado, J., Paez, K., Elixhauser, A. Headaches in U.S. Hospitals and Emergency Departments, 2008, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. May, 2011.)

D. In 2008, migraines were the most common type of headache associated with inpatient stays, comprising 63.1 percent of all hospital stays with headache as a first-listed diagnosis. (Source: Lucado, J., Paez, K., Elixhauser, A. Headaches in U.S. Hospitals and Emergency Departments, 2008, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. May, 2011.)

E. In 2000, an estimated 3.4 million U.S. residents aged older than 40 years were blind or visually impaired (The Eye Diseases Prevalence Research Group. Causes and prevalence of visual impairment among adults in the United States. Arch Ophthalmol., 122:477-485, 2004.)

August, 2011

A. In the United States, at least 116 million adults suffer from chronic pain conditions. These chronic pain conditions cost $560-630 billion in health care expenses and lost productivity each year. (Source: Committee on Advancing Pain Research, Care and Education; Board on Health Sciences Policy, "Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research," Institute of Medicine, Washington, D.C., 2011).

B. Caffeine, a central nervous system stimulant, belongs to the xanthine chemical group.

C. The name of the brain area called the "pulvinar" comes from the Greek word meaning "cushion" or "pillow."

D. Some fish in the shad and herring families can hear sounds with frequencies as high as 180 Khz. This ability allows the fish to hear the ultrasonic signals sent by dolphins that eat these fish. Humans can hear sounds up to only 20 KHz. (Source: Bear, M.F., Connors, B.W. and Paradiso, M.A., Neuroscience. Exploring the Brain, 3rd edition, Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2007.)

E. The sale and consumption of fugu, the Japanese pufferfish, is banned by countries in the European Union because it contains the potentially deadly neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin.

September, 2011

What do people know about memory and how do these beliefs agree with those of expert memory researchers? This month's trivia are five misconceptions many people have about memory (based on a survey of 1,500 adults).

A. 82.7% of the people agreed with the statement: "People suffering from amnesia typically cannot recall their own name or identity." 100% of professors with more than 10 years of memory research experience (the expert group) disagreed with the statement.

B. 63.0% of the people agreed with the statement: "Human memory works like a video camera, accurately recording the events we see and hear so that we can review and inspect them later." 100% of the experts disagreed with this statement.

C. 54.6% of the people agreed with the statement: "Hypnosis is useful in helping witnesses accurately recall details of crimes." 87.6% of the experts disagreed with this statement.

D. 77.5% of the people agreed with the statement: "People generally notice when something unexpected enters their field of view, even when they're paying attention to something else." 81.2% of the experts disagreed with this statement.

E. 47.6% of the people agreed with the statement: Once you have experience an event and formed a memory of it, that memory does not change." 93.8% of the experts disagreed with this statement.

(Reference: Simons, D.J. and Chabris, C.F. What People Believe about How Memory Works: A Representative Survey of the U.S. Population. PLoS ONE 6(8): e22757. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0022757, 2011.)

October, 2011

A. More than half of the 500 million neurons in the nervous system of an octopus are found in its eight legs. (Source: Bagley, K., Octo-philosophy, The Scientist, 25:16-18, 2011.)

B. The box jellyfish (Tripedalia cystophora) has 24 eyes; 4 of these eyes point upwards to look beyond the water surface. (Source: Garm, A., Oskarsson, M. and Nilsson, D-E., Box jellyfish use terrestrial visual cues for navigation, Current Biology, 21:798-803, 2011.)

C. In Europe during the Middle Ages, physicians placed crushed snails on the heads of children with hydrocephalus as a treatment for the disorder. (Reference: Missori, P. and Curr, A., Pharmacological Basis Plastering the Head with Crushed Snails to Treat Pediatric Hydrocephalus: An Ancient Therapy with a Pharmacological Basis, The Neuroscientist, August 25, 2011.)

D. In 2008, migraine was the most common type of headache associated with inpatient stays, comprising 63.1% of all hospital stays with headache as a first-listed diagnosis. (Source: Lucado, J., Paez, K., Elixhauser, A. Headaches in U.S. Hospitals and Emergency Departments, 2008, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. May, 2011.)

E. In the United States, vision problems cost individuals, caregivers and health-care payers an estimated $51.4 billion each year.(Source: (Prevent Blindness America. The economic impact of vision problems., Accessed May 16, 2011.)

November, 2011

A. The total cost of brain disorders in Europe for 2010 was estimated to be 798 billion Euros per year (1.06 trillion US dollars per year). (Source: Gustavsson et al., Cost of disorders of the brain in Europe 2010, European Neuropsychopharmacology, 21:718-779, 2011.)

B. Some sharks sense light directly through the skull by the pineal body. (Source: Perrine, D., Sharks and Rays of the World, Stillwater: Voyaguer Press, 1999.)

C. The trigeminal nerve is the fifth cranial nerve. The word "trigeminal" comes from Latin meaning "three twins."

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

E. Approximately 795,000 strokes occur in the United States each year. (Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Announcements: World Stroke Day, October 28, 2011, 60(42);1459.)

December, 2011

A. Intracranial contents by volume (total volume = 1,700 ml, 100%): brain = 1,400 ml (80%); blood = 150 ml (10%); cerebrospinal fluid = 150 ml (10%) (Source: Rengachary, S.S. and Ellenbogen, R.G., editors, Principles of Neurosurgery, Edinburgh: Elsevier Mosby, 2005)

B. The Society for Neuroscience has 42,000 members in almost 90 countries. (Source: Society for Neuroscience,

C. An estimated 30 million (12.7%) of people in the US who are 12 years and older have hearing lost in both ears; 48.1 million (20.3%) people have hearing loss in one ear. (Source: Lin, F.R., Niparko, J.K. and Ferrucci, L., Hearing loss prevalence in the United States, Arch. Internal Medicine, 171:1851-1852, 2011.)

D. Approximately 50 to 70 million people in the US suffer chronically suffer from a sleep disorder that affects their health. (Source: Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health, National Academies Press, Washington, DC, 2006)

E. A French proverb states: "A brain is worth little without a tongue."

More trivia from other years:

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2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1998

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