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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, 2014

A. The first successful human corneal transplant was performed by Eduard Konrad Zirm in 1905.

B. The ears get longer by an average of 0.22 millimeters per year from physical maturity on. (Source: Henshaw, J.M., A Tour of the Senses, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012.)

C. The "bel" in "decibel" is named after Alexander Graham Bell.

D. Eyes Ears Nose and Paws is a nonprofit organization in North Carolina that trains dogs to use their senses to help people, for example, by detecting smells that indicate a dangerous health condition. (Source:

E. There are 1,300 nerve endings per square inch of skin in the human hand. (Source: Smithsonian magazine, January, 2014).

February, 2014

A. The European Brain Council has declared 2014 the "Year of the Brain in Europe."

B. The Northern Short-Tailed Shrew (Blarina brevicauda) is North America's only venomous mammal. This animal produces a neurotoxin in its salivary glands that is used to paralyze prey. (Source: Reichl, F.-X. and Ritter, L., Illustrated Handbook of Toxicology, New York: Thieme New York, 2011)

C. A 2001 postage stamp from Angola has a picture of neuroscientist Ramon y Cajal, but incorrectly labels the picture as neuroscientist Camillo Golgi. (Source: Triarhou, L. and del Cerro, M., Ramon y Cajal Erroneously Identified as Camillo Golgi on a Souvenir Postage Stamp, J. History of the Neurosciences, 21:132-138, 2012.)

D. 10% of the mouse cerebral cortex is involved with vision; 50% of the macaque monkey cerebral cortex is involved with vision. (Source: Baker, M., Through the eyes of a mouse, Nature, 502:156-158, 2013).

E. There are 200,000 neurons in primary visual cortex of the mouse and 300,000,000 neurons in primary visual cortex of the macaque monkey. (Source: Baker, M., Through the eyes of a mouse, Nature, 502:156-158, 2013).

March, 2014

A. National Football League players were diagnosed with 189 concussions during the 2012 regular season. (Source: The Scientist, February, 2014, page 14.)

B. "Umami" is the name of a basic taste when foods with glutamate are eaten and it is also the name of a Minneapolis based electro/psych band.

C. The remipede, a small aquatic animal, is the only known crustacean that uses a neurotoxin. (von Reumont, B.M., et al., The first venomous crustacean revealed by transcriptomics and functional morphology: remipede venom glands express a unique toxin cocktail contaminated by enzymes and a neurotoxin. Mol Biol Evol. 2013 Nov 7.)

D. Neuroscientist Nobel Prize winner birthdays in the month of March are Julius Wagner-Jauregg (March 7, 1857), Walter Rudolph Hess (March 17, 1881), Daniel Bovet (March 23, 1907), Bernard Katz (March 26, 1911), John Robert Vane (March 29, 1927), and Erwin Neher (March 20, 1944).

E. The Thai word for brain is "samong."

April, 2014

A. Nearly $1 billion is spent on brain scans by people with headaches in the US. (Source: NBCNews;

B. Steven Hauschka, the placekicker for the Seattle Seahawks professional football team, received his undergraduate degree in Neuroscience from Middlebury College in 2007.

C. Neuroscientist and Nobel Prize winner Rita Levi-Montalcini was born on April 22, 1909. She passed away on December 30, 2012.

D. April is Alcohol Awareness Month, National Autism Awareness Month and Sports Eye Safety Month.

E. The diameter of the common carotid artery in adults is 6 mm.

May, 2014

A. Medical scientists, including neuroscientists, had a median pay in 2012 of $37.01/hour.

B. Medical scientists, including neuroscientists, had a median pay in 2012 of $76,980/year.

C. Employment of medical scientists is expected to grow 13% from 2012 to 2022.

D. 103,100 medical scientists were employed in 2012.

E. 13,700 jobs for medical scientists are expected to be added between 2012 and 2022.

(Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Medical Scientists:

June, 2014

A. Otto Loewi, winner of the Nobel prize and discoverer of acetylcholine, was born on June 3, 1873.

B. Using special hairs on its pincers, a scorpion can detect air moving at a speed of only 0.072 km/hr.

C. The total amount of caffeine in a can or bottle of an energy drink varies from about 80 to more than 500 milligrams (mg). A 5-ounce cup of coffee has about 100 mg of caffeine and a 12-ounce cola has about 50 mg of caffeine. (Source: The DAWN Report, SAMHSA, January 10, 2013.)

D. Wild beluga whales can hear frequencies between 4 kHz and 150 kHz (Castellote, M., et al., Baseline hearing abilities and variability in wild beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas), J. Exper. Biology, 217: 1682-1691, 2014.)

E. A tonometer is an instrument used by eye care professionals to measure the intraocular pressure of the eye.

July, 2013

A. The neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin has been found in two species of terrestrial flatworm (Bipalium adventitium and Bipalium kewense). (Source: Caggiano V, Sur M, Bizzi E (2014) Rostro-Caudal Inhibition of Hindlimb Movements in the Spinal Cord of Mice. PLoS ONE 9(6): e100865. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0100865)

B. In 1898, the Bayer company introduced heroin and marketed it as "completely nonhabit forming" and "a safe family drug. (Source: Dobson, M., The Story of Medicine. From Bloodletting to Biotechnology, New York: Quercus, 2013.)

C. Rudolph Albert von Kolliker coined the term "axon" in 1896.

D. Sir Peter Mansfield, who shared the 2003 Nobel Prize with Paul C. Lauterbur for discoveries concerning magnetic resonance imaging, had an interest in rocketry and when he was about 18 years old had a job in the Ministry of Supply at the Rocket Propulsion Department in Westcott, Buckinghamshire.

E. Neuroanatomist Santiago Ramon y Cajal once said: "Every man if he so desires becomes sculptor of his own brain." (Source: Recuerdos de mi vida, 1901).

August, 2014

A. The brain of the African elephant weighs 4618.6 grams (the human brain weighs 1,400 grams).

B. The brain of the African elephant has 257 billion neurons.

C. The cerebral cortex of the African elephant weighs 2848 grams.

D. The hippocampus of the African elephant weighs 24.42 grams.

E. 97.5% (250.7 neurons) of all of the neurons in brain of the African elephant are located in the cerebellum.

(Source for all statistics: Herculano-Houzel et al., The elephant brain in numbers, Frontiers in Neuroanatomy, 8:1-9, 2014.)

September, 2014

A. Singer, songwriter, record producer Pharrell Williams ("Happy") has synesthesia. (Source:

B. To optimize sleep and alertness in the classroom, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that middle and high schools should start no earlier than 8:30 am. (Source: School Start Times for Adolescents, Pediatrics; published ahead of print August 25, 2014, doi:10.1542/peds.2014-1697)

C. University of Southern California neuroscientist Roberta Diaz Brinton was named "Woman of the Year" by Los Angeles magazine. (Source: LA Magazine)

D. Jean Astruc coined the term reflex in 1736.

E. The cerebellum of a dog weighs about 6.0 grams.

October, 2014

This month's trivia come from Research!America polls of US adults.

A. 50% of those surveyed said it was important for elected officials to listen to scientists.

B. 33% of those surveyed said that scientists are "very trustworthy" spokespersons for science. Only 5% of the respondents thought that elected officials were very trustworthy spokespersons for science.

C. 27% of those surveyed strongly agreed that basic research is necessary; 43% of the respondents somewhat agreed about basic research.

D. 46% of those surveyed said that the federal government is not spending enough on medical research.

E. 70% of those surveyed said that the federal government should increase support of programs and policies that would encourage young Americans to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

November, 2014

A. "Deli bal" is a honey found in Turkey that contains grayanotoxin, a neurotoxin from the rhododendron plant. Consuming deli bal can make someone feel light-headed and may even produce hallucinations.

B. Each year, the United States performs 102.7 MRI exams/1,000 people and Greece performs 320.4 CT exams/1,000 people. (Source: OECD Health Statistics 2013, OECD,

C. Stimulus thresholds for taste: Sour, using hydrochloric acid = 0.0009N Salty, using sodium chloride = 0.01M Sweet, using sucrose = 0.01M Bitter, using quinine = 0.000008M (Reference: Guyton, A.C. and Hall, J.E., Textbook of Medical Physiology, 11th Edition, Philadelphia: Elsevier Saunders, 2006.)

D. Venom from the Chinese red-headed centipede may produce an effective pain reliever. (Source: Yang S, Xiao Y, Kang D, Liu J, Li Y, Undheim EA, Klint JK, Rong M, Lai R, King GF. Discovery of a selective NaV1.7 inhibitor from centipede venom with analgesic efficacy exceeding morphine in rodent pain models. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2013 Sep 30.)

E. Canadian neurosurgeon Dr. Wilder Penfield (born 1891; died 1976) received his undergraduate degree in literature from Princeton University in 1913.

December, 2014

A. Starting next fall, the Fairfax County Public Schools (Virginia), the 11th largest school district in the United States, will delay high school start times so students can get more sleep.

B. The Alzheimer's Disease International organization predicts that 135 million people will have Alzheimer's disease by mid-century. (Source: Gammon, K., Brain windfall, Nature, 515:299-300, 2014.)

C. Owls have three eyelids.

D. Edme Mariotte (born, 1620; died, 1684) is credited as the first scientist to discover the blind spot in the visual system. (Source: Grzybowski, A. and Aydin, P., Edme Mariotte (1620-1684): Pioneer of Neurophysiology. Surv Ophthalmol., 52:443-451, 2007.)

E. Prosopagnosia, the inability to recognize and identify familiar faces, can occur in people who suffer damage to the temporal lobe.

More trivia from other years:

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

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