Who has the best brain in Canada?

May 9, 2008

    Isdin Oke won the regional Brain Bee at McMaster. Photo by Susan Bubak.
High school students from across the country will be at McMaster on Saturday, May 10 to compete for the title of "Best Brain in Canada" at the first CIHR Canadian National Brain Bee.

Their knowledge of neuroscience and their skill at patient diagnosis and neuroanatomy will be put to the test. Audience participation is invited on from 1 to 4 p.m. in Room 155 of the Psychology Building.

It's the first time the Brain Bee is being held nationally with funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). Competitors, who range from Grade 9 to Grade 12 students, have already won their regional championships. This year, there were nine regional Brain Bees across Canada, including Calgary, Edmonton, St. John's, Halifax, Hamilton, Kingston, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto.

"Attracting exceptional students to the study of neuroscience is critical to developing our understanding of human thought and behaviour," says John Capone, dean of the Faculty of Science. "The Faculty of Science at McMaster University is fortunate to have an outstanding scientist like Dr. Judith Shedden, who through her leadership and commitment over the last few years has succeeded in drawing many the these extraordinary students towards the study of neuroscience by way of past annual local McMaster Brain Bees, and some of them now study within her lab."

Capone added, "I have no doubt that the CIHR Canadian National Brain Bee will cement for many of these students the goal of becoming a neuroscientist and unlocking the mysteries of the human mind."

Judith Shedden, associate professor in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour, has organized the Brain Bee for the past five years at McMaster, and is currently chair of the CIHR Canadian National Brain Bee Committee.

"Neuroscience research is one of the great frontiers of scientific research," says Shedden. "We are building awareness in communities across Canada about the importance of this kind of research, and inspiring our brightest students to consider a career in neuroscience. Many Brain Bee competitors go on to university to study in neuroscience related fields."

The CIHR Canadian National Brain Bee is modeled after a traditional spelling bee, except that students answer questions about memory, sleep, intelligence, emotion, perception, stress, aging, brain-imaging, neurology, neurotransmitters, genetics and brain disease. The competitors will also diagnose brain damage and disease by interviewing professional patient actors, and identify brain structures and functions of real human brain specimens.

The winner of the national competition will receive $1,500, a summer internship in a neuroscience laboratory, a travelling trophy to display at their school for one year, a trophy to keep and a chance to represent Canada at the International Brain Bee being held this year at the Second Canadian Neuroscience Meeting held jointly by the Canadian Association for Neuroscience and INMHA in Montreal on May 26.

More information about the Brian Bee can be found at brainbee.ca.