Feb. 9, 2004

High school students prepare for 'brain' storm

Registration is open for first-ever McMaster “Brain Bee” competition

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Who is the "best brain"? High school students will find out by answering questions about the brain and neuroscience at McMaster's Brain Bee Feb. 17.

Hamilton, ON - Brains are buzzing as Hamilton-area high school students prepare for McMaster’s first annual “brain bee,” a competition that will earn the winner a trip to the international competition in Baltimore to compete for a honey pot of prizes including a $3,000 US cash scholarship.

Psychology professor Judith Shedden is working with her brain bee crew of undergraduate and graduate students to coordinate the first event of its kind in Hamilton, guaranteeing one participant a chance to compete with 40 other regional winners across Canada and the United States for the international title.

“I’m very excited for the opportunity to share what we do here with local high school students and to help them become interested in studying the brain before they arrive at university,” she said. “This has been a great opportunity for our brain bee crew to visit a number of high schools and share with teachers and students how interesting the brain really is.”

The Feb. 17 competition is modeled after a spelling bee, with students taking turns answering questions about the brain and neuroscience on topics such as intelligence, memory, emotions, movement, stress, aging and sleep. All answers for the competition will be selected from a single document, a free downloadable 52-page primer on the brain and nervous system, published by the Society for Neuroscience.

Each contestant will receive a certificate of participation, with Titles gift certificates being awarded to the second and third place winners. In addition to an all-expense paid trip to Baltimore for the international competition, the Hamilton-Wentworth area student who is awarded the title of “best brain” will receive a traveling trophy for his or her high school and the opportunity to prepare for international competition with the help of McMaster students.

Two past winners from the University of Toronto have gone on to win first place in the international competition, receiving a cash scholarship, a trip for two to the annual Society for Neurosciences conference (held this year in San Diego), and a summer fellowship to work in a lab with a prominent neuroscientist for a summer.

“Our participation in this competition helps to raise McMaster’s profile in the field of neurosciences and it sends a strong message about the importance of this kind of research to incoming students as well as legislators,” said Shedden.

The international brain bee is part of brain awareness week, running this year from March 15 to 21.

The first annual McMaster brain bee is open to all Hamilton area high school students in Grades 9 to12. For more information about how to register, visit brain.mcmaster.ca/brainbee or phone Professor Judith Shedden at (905) 525-9140 ext 24345.