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We have  a winner in the 2015 USA National Brain Bee Champion: Soren Christensen, a ninth-grader at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va., representing the Washington, D.C. region of the competition.

What is the Brain Bee? It’s a neuroscience competition for high school students in which 52 regional winners from around the country competed this month at the University of Maryland, Baltimore on March 20-21 during Brain Awareness Week. It tests students’ knowledge of the human brain, including such topics as intelligence, emotions, memory, sleep, vision, hearing, sensations, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, autism, schizophrenia, addictions, brain research and many others.

The competition challenges students with a neuroanatomy laboratory practical exam with real human brains, patient diagnosis involving face-to-face interactions with patient actors, MRI brain imaging analysis, brain histology with microscopes, and a final question and answer component with judges. Some examples of the final questions are:

* The amygdala is important for what kind of memory? (Answer: Emotional memory)

* Name the part of the brain known as its clock or pace-maker. (Answer: The suprachiasmatic nucleus).

* The inheritance of what variation of the apolipoprotein E gene is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease? (Answer: ApoE 4).

For his win, Christensen earned a scholarship, a summer internship at a neuroscience lab, trophies for his school and himself, and the right to represent the United States at the Sixteenth International Brain Bee Championship in Cairns, Australia in August.

The International Brain Bee was founded 16 years ago by Norbert Myslinski, associate professor of neurosciences at the University of Maryland. His organization has expanded to 150 chapters in 30 countries in 6 continents. Its purpose is “to motivate young men and women to learn about the brain, and inspire them to consider careers in basic and clinical neurosciences.” He says “We need them to treat and find cures for the more than 1000 neurological and psychological disorders including Alzheimer’s, Autism, and Addictions.”

PRACTICE QUESTIONS:

1) Approximately how many neurons does the brain contain?

2) Name the device that measures brain waves.

3) Stargazer mice are experimental models for which type of epilepsy?

4) Prozac relieves symptoms of depression by affecting which neurotransmitter?

5) The Greek word for the branches of a tree give us the name of what part of a neuron?

6) Name the surgical procedure that destroys part of the basal ganglia and helps Parkinson’s patients.

7) The biologic clock is located in what part of the brain?

8) Name a brain disorder named after a famous baseball player.

9) What is the mot common type of inherited mental retardation?

10) Name the peptide that accumulates in the senile plaques of brains of Alzheimer’s patients?

11) What chromosome is altered to cause Huntington’s disease?

12) What is the leading preventable cause of mental retardation?

13) The abbreviation PET stands for what brain imagine technique?

14) What kind of molecules are netrins and semaphorins?

15) Name a cognitive disorder associated with chronic alcoholism.

ANSWERS:

1) 100 billion

2) Electroencephalograph

3) Petit mal epilepsy

4) Serotonin

5) Dendrites

6) Pallidotomy

7) Hypothalamus

8) Lou Gehrig’s disease

9) Fragile X Syndrome

10) Beta Amyloid

11) Four

12) Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

13) Positron emission tomography

14) Guidance molecules

15) Korsakoff’s Syndrome