Brain Bee buzzes with student neuroscience experts

Brain Bee
Students from Northbridge High School Brain Bee team consult a model of the brain to complete the written exam portion of the 2010 Brain Bee.


Quick, what’s the name of the seahorse-shaped structure that’s key to learning, memory and emotion?

A. hypothalamus
B. hippocampus
C. thalamus

If you didn’t say B, the hippocampus, you might want to come to the Fifth Annual Central Massachusetts Regional Brain Bee on Saturday, Feb. 12, to brush up on neuro-anatomy and learn a thing or two about your brain. But be prepared: If this year is anything like prior years, Amphitheatre II will be buzzing with close to 100 teens showing off their knowledge of the human brain.

Hosted by the Brudnick Neuropsychiatric Research Institute (BNRI), a division of the Department of Psychiatry, the Central Massachusetts Brain Bee is part of the school’s ongoing outreach mission to educate teens in Worcester and the surrounding communities. It is one of more than 30 regional competitions that lead up to the National Brain Bee, a program of the Society for Neuroscience and the Dana Foundation designed to educate teens about neuroscience and to encourage them to consider a career in a scientific field.

“The Brain Bee is a great way for us to get high school students to think about careers in neuroscience and psychiatry,” said Douglas M. Ziedonis, MD, MPH, chair and professor of psychiatry. “It’s also very impressive, even for those of us who’ve been in the field for a long time, to see how much these kids know about the brain.”

Nearly 100 area teens in grades nine through 12 from a dozen area high schools have registered for this year’s Brain Bee, which will begin with a written exam of questions such as “What is the approximate number of taste buds on the human tongue?” and “How many watts of power does the human brain consume while awake?” that hit upon structure, function, development and disorders. After the written test, the 10 students with the highest scores will enter an oral question-and-answer competition. Contestants will be knocked out after three incorrect answers, leading to a final round of questions that will leave only one student standing.

The winning student will receive the regional title and the Andrew M. Sheridan Young Neuroscientist Award, named for a Central Massachusetts native who passed away during his sophomore year at Hamilton College in New York, where he hoped to major in neuroscience. The winner will also travel to the National Brain Bee in Baltimore in March—during Brain Awareness Week—to compete against winners of the other regional Bees held across the country. The trip is funded by the Department of Psychiatry, which also co-sponsors the Central Massachusetts Brain Bee with BNRI and the Dana Foundation, a private philanthropic organization that supports brain research through grants and educates the public about the successes and potential of brain research.

For more information about the Central Massachusetts Brain Bee—and for answers to the two questions above, click here.

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