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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, 2015

A. The National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) has been renamed as the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).

B. Pioneering neuroscientist and Nobel Prize winner Santiago Ramon y Cajal wrote science fiction books using the name "Dr. Bacteria." (Source: Otis, L., Ramon y Cajal, a pioneer in science fiction, Int. Microbiol., 4:175-178, 2001.)

C. The term "brainwashing" emerged during the Korean War. The word comes from the Chinese phrase "xi nao" that means "to wash the brain." (Source: Steinmetz, S., There's A Word for It. New York: Harmony Books, 2010.)

D. The olfactory bulb of a shark makes up to 3-14% of its total brain mass. (Source: Helfman, G. and Burgess, G.H., Sharks. The Animal Answer Guide. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014.)

E. 2014 Nobel Prize winning neuroscientist May-Britt Moser wore a dress with a grid cell pattern to the award ceremony. See the dress.

February, 2015

A. The Materia Medica (the great Herbal), written by Greek physician Pediacus Dioscorides in about the middle of the 1st century AD, recommended wearing two stones from the stomach of a young swallow (bird) to cure epilepsy. (Source: Eadie, M.J., The antiepileptic Materia Medica of Pediacus Dioscorides, J. Clin. Neurosci. 11:697-701, 2004.)

B. Napoleon Bonaparte (born 1769; died 1821) likely suffered from epilepsy. (Source: Hughes, J.R., Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte: did he have seizures? Psychogenic or epileptic or both?, Epilepsy & Behavior, 4:793-796, 2003.)

C. American soccer star Tim Howard was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome when he was in middle school. (Source:

D. Carolus Linnaeus coined the phrase "Homo sapiens," Latin for "wise man."

E. The height of a taste bud ranges from 50-100 microns. (Source: Farbman, A.I., Taste Bud, in G. Adelman, eds., Encyclopedia of Neuroscience, 1987.)

March, 2015

A. Penguins lack sweet, umami and bitter taste abilities. (Source: Zhao, H., Li, J., and Zhang, J., Molecular evidence for the loss of three basic tastes in penguins, Current Biology, 25:pR141-R142, 16 February 2015 DOI:

B. Humans have about 450 different types of olfactory receptors. (Source: articles/2015/making-sense-of-scents-smell-and-the-brain/)

C. The Institute of Medicine has proposed that "chronic fatigue syndrome" be renamed as "systemic exertion intolerance disease."

D. The last words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt were: "I have a terrific headache."

E. Australian author Colleen McCullough, who died at the age of 77 on January 29, 2015, wrote the novel "The Thorn Birds." Before McCullough became a full time author, she was a neuroscientist who did research at Yale Medical School.

April, 2015

A. "Brain of Britain" is the title of a general knowledge game show produced by BBC Radio.

B. Horseshoe crabs have the largest rods and cones (photoreceptors) in the animal kingdom.

C. 350 million people are affected by depression. (Ledford, H., If depression were cancer, Nature, 515:182-184, 2014.)

D. Falls result in the greatest number of traumatic brain injury-related emergency department visits (523,043) and hospitalizations (62,334). (Source:

E. "Excerebrose" is a word that means "brainless."

May, 2015

A. May is National Stroke Awareness Month, Better Sleep Month, Huntington's Disease Awareness Month and Mental Health Month.

B. Sigmund Freud was born on May 6, 1856.

C. In 2009, Washington State was the first state in the nation to pass a youth sports-related concussion safety law (the Zackery Lystedt Law).

D. A nematocyst is a structure used by jellyfish, coral and sea anemones to capture prey.

E. The diameter of an ion channel is about 0.5 nanometer (Source: Breedlove et al., Biological Psychology, 2007).

June, 2015

A. Cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) are colorblind. (Source: Lydia M. Mathger, L.M., Barbosa, A., Miner, S. and Hanlon, R.T., Color blindness and contrast perception in cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) determined by a visual sensorimotor assay, Vision Research, 46:1746-1753, 2006.)

B. James Bond, the spy from Ian Fleming's 007 novels, was poisoned with neurotoxin tetrodotoxin by villian Rosa Klebb at the end of the book "From Russia with Love." Bond survives, as revealed in Fleming's next book, "Dr. No."

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

D. In 1542, Jean Fernel published "De naturali parte Medicinae" that contained the term "physiology" for the first time.

E. Otto Loewi, the German/American scientist who discovered acetylcholine, was born on June 3, 1873.

July, 2015

A. The creator/executive producer and stars of the TV show "The Big Bang Theory" have raised $4 million for scholarships to undergraduate students at the University of California, Los Angeles, who will study science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

B. Approximately 1.7 million scientists have actively published their work about the brain and behavior since 1996. (Source: Joels, M., Hoogenraad, C.C., Poirazi, P. and Di Luca, M., The hitchhikers guide to a neuroscience career, Neuron, 86:613-616, 2015.)

C. Since 2010, neuroscientists have produced approximately 1.8 million publications, amounting to 16% of the world's scientific output. (Source: Joels, M., Hoogenraad, C.C., Poirazi, P. and Di Luca, M., The hitchhikers guide to a neuroscience career, Neuron, 86:613-616, 2015.)

D. On July 3 1946, U.S. President Truman signed the National Mental Health Act that called for the establishment of a National Institute of Mental Health.

E. The volume of the brain is largest in the morning and smaller at other times of the day. (Source: Nakamura, K., Brown, R.A. and Collins, D.L., Diurnal fluctuations in brain volume: Statistical analyses of MRI from large populations, Neuroimage, 118:126-132, 2015.)

August, 2015

A. The word "pheromone" comes from Greek meaning "to carry" and "excite."

B. Early anatomists called the dura mater "pachymeninges" because of its similarity to elephant skin.

C. According to US News & World Report, the top five universities for neuroscience and behavior are 1) Harvard University, 2) Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 3) University of California, Berkeley, 4) Stanford University and 5) University of Oxford. (Source:

D. Using special receptor cells called the Ampullae of Lorenzini, sharks can detect field of 10 billionths of a volt. (Source: From Helfman, G. and Burgess, G.H., Sharks. The Animal Answer Guide. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014.) E. A 3.7 m White Shark brain weighs 35 g or 0.008% of its total body weight. (Source: Helfman, G. and Burgess, G.H., Sharks. The Animal Answer Guide. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014.)

September, 2015

A. Approximately 25.3 million adults (11.2 percent) in the United States experience pain every day. (Source: Nahin, R.L. Estimates of Pain Prevalence and Severity in Adults: United States, 2012, J. Pain. 16:769-780, 2015.)

B. The trochlear nerve was named by William Molins in 1670.

C. The retina has an area of approximately 2,500 square millimeters.

D. Author Oscar Wilde, in the letter "De Profundis" (1905), wrote: "It is in the brain that the poppy is red, that the apple is odorous, that the skylark sings."

E. An Irish Proverb states: "The beginning of health is sleep."

October, 2015

A. Sir Peter Mansfield, who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 2003 for his work on discoveries related to magnetic resonance imaging, was born on October 9, 1933.

B. The eyelid has the thinnest skin on the entire body (Source: Sims, M., Adam's Navel, New York: Viking, 2003).

C. Meningitis can be caused by certain types of bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, cancers, and drugs.

D. Here is an easy way to remember the order of the meninges, starting from the layer closest to the brain: The meninges "PAD" the brain -- Pia; Arachnoid; Dura.

E. Oliver Wendell Holmes (The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, 1858) had this to say about wearing glasses: "Spectacles. I don't use them. All I ask is a large, fair type, a strong daylight or gas-light, and one yard of focal distance, and my eyes are as good as ever."

November, 2015

A. French philosopher Emile Boirac coined the term "dj vu" in 1876.

B. Argus Panoptes, a giant from Greek mythology, is said to have 100 eyes.

C. November is National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month and Epilepsy Awareness Month

D. Neuroscientist John O'Keefe, who shared the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, was born on November 18, 1939.

E. Approximately 14 million people aged 12 years and older have visual impairment (Source:

December, 2015

A. A 5,000 pound, 25 foot tall sculpture of a neuron will be installed in Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA. The public art piece, titled "Nerve Center," was created by sculptor Chris Williams.

B. Memory Lane is a street in the city of Boulder Creek, California.

C. Physiognomy is the ancient Greek practice of determining someone's personality from characteristics of their face.

D. Actor Leonard Nimoy playing the character Mr. Spock in the Star Trek episode titled "Spock's Brain" said, "The knowledge to reconnect a brain does not exist yet in the galaxy."

E. Tryptophan, the amino acid used to make the neurotransmitter serotonin, is found in eggs, meat, skim milk, bananas, yogurt, milk, and cheese.

More trivia from other years:

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

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