Have You Heard of Brain Bee?

From my Healthy Living column in Moncton’s Times & Transcript.

It’s said that there’s something for everyone when it comes to extracurricular activities.

That holds true even for budding neuroscientists who are still in high school.

Brain Bee is an international competition modeled after the ever-popular spelling bee that tests participants knowledge on the brain rather than their spelling skills. It was founded by Dr. Norbert Myslinski, an associate professor of neuroscience at the University of Maryland, in the late 1990s. Dr. Myslinski hoped to motivate young students to pursue studies in neuroscience in university.

Megha Sandhu is a graduate of Villa Maria High School in Montreal who participated in Brain Bee in 2010 and in 2011 at the Montreal Neurological Institute of McGill University. She heard about the program from her environmental science teacher in secondaire four (the equivalent of grade 10) and says that deciding to participate in it was the best decision she made that year. Megha finished third place in the Brain Bee competition this year and says “…Brain Bee has definitely increased my knowledge and therefore my interest in neuroscience. I am not sure if I want to pursue neuroscience, neurology or neurosurgery as a career option but either way I am definitely passionate about the study of the brain. There is so much left to be discovered about this vital organ that I feel like I need to be involved. Brain Bee definitely opened my eyes to the brain and its multiple functions.”

Today, over 70 local Brain Bee competitions are held around the world, in countries including Belgium, Brazil, Egypt, Ghana, India, Italy, Mexico, Nigeria, Romania, Turkey, and of course, the US and Canada. Students who participate and win at the local level are invited to the national competition in their country and depending on their results there, to the Brain Bee international championship. The questions asked during the Brain Bee competition are based on an introductory guide to the brain (available on Brain Bee International’s website).

Currently, there are twelve local Brain Bee competitions held across Canada by universities and research institutes. These local Brain Bee competitions are held in the following cities: Calgary, Edmonton, St. John’s, Halifax, Hamilton, Kingston, London, Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, and Saskatoon.

Although no city in New Brunswick hosts a Brain Bee competition, Monctonian students interested in participating in Brain Bee shouldn’t despair. Teens from localities that do not host their own Brain Bee are invited to contact hosts of Brain Bees in other localities using the contact info provided atwww.internationalbrainbee.com to register for a local Brain Bee outside of their region.

Originally published in the Times & Transcript on October 8th, 2011.

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