International Brain Bee 2016

August 5, 2016
Baltimore, Maryland

Future neuroscientists and neurologists from around the world met in Copenhagen, Denmark last month to compete in the eighteenth World Brain Bee Championship. The chairperson of the Organizing Committee was Dr. Julianne McCall from Heidelberg University. The Brain Bee is the neuroscience competition for young students, 13 to 19 years of age.  It was hosted by the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) at their annual convention. The year-long competition has three tiers.  Worldwide there are about 170 local chapter competitions, each one involving many schools. The winners of the local chapter competitions then compete in their respective regional championships. The regional winners then go on to represent their regions in the World Championship. This year there was a record 25 countries represented. They are tested on their knowledge of the human brain including such topics as intelligence, emotions, memory, sleep, vision, hearing, sensation, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, addictions and brain research. The competition involves a neuroanatomy laboratory component, a neurohistology component, and a patient diagnosis component, and oral and written parts. Sample questions include: What kind of molecules are semaphorin, ephrin, neuropilin and plexin? Damage to which cranial nerve results in a drooping eyelid, dilated pupil, and inability to focus the lens? Cardiovascular function is regulated primarily by the brainstem and what other important brain structure?
The Romanian Region came in first place. The World Champion is Ana Ghenciulescu, a 16-year-old student of mathematics at the “Mihai Viteazul” National College Bucharest. Finishing in 2nd Place was The Canadian Region Representative, Nooran AbuMazen, of Waterloo Collegiate Institute. In 3rd Place was New Zealand Region’s Matthew Z.M Fulton of Auckland Grammar School. In 4th and 5th Places were Iranian Regional Champion Shayan Bagher Baragoori, of Mirzakouchak Secondary School, and American Regional Champion Karina Bao, of Little Rock Central High School. This is the first time that a student representative from a European nation achieved 1st Place. Regions competing for the first time this year were England, Qatar, Taiwan and Egypt. All the competing regions and their representative competitors are listed below. Attached is a photo of the three top winners. Biographies and photos of all student participants are included in the event program, downloadable from the website: http://www.theBrain

Romania Ana Ghenciulescu 1
Canada Nooran AbuMazen 2
New Zealand Matthew Z.M Fulton 3
Iran Shayan Bagher Baragoori 4
USA Karina Bao 5
Italy Chiara Di Censo 6
India Vaibhav Bajaj 7
Australia Onur Tanglay 8
UAE Prijith Babu Pradeep 9
Malaysia Benjamin Wong Yi Ren 10
Germany Friedrich Schwarz 11
Poland Jeremi Chabros 12
South Korea Ji Yun Park 13
Israel Tamir Vultz 14
Taiwan Flora Ho 15
Ukraine Daria Barbash 16
Qatar Raya Makarim Penantian 17
Brazil Lorrayne Isidoro Gonçalves 18
England Megumi Sano 19
China Zichen Tian 20
Japan Yumeka Hirayama 21
Macau Ronald Lao Ian Hou 22
Egypt Omar Ahmad Ahmad Abd Al-Aal 23
Grenada Nicia John 24
Nigeria Precious Tochukwu Okorafor 25

The expert judging panel was a world-class group of neuroscientists representing nine nations and multiple areas of research:

  • Paul Bolam (UK), Editor-in-Chief of the European Journal of Neuroscience and Professor Emeritus of the University of Oxford.
  • Michaela Kress (Germany & Austria), Former President of the Austrian Neuroscience Association and Head of the Department of Physiology at the Medical University of Innsbruck
  • Nicolas Caesar Petersen (Denmark, Australia), Professor of the University of Copenhagen and University of Queensland, Australia and Chair of the FENS 10th Forum Host Society Committee
  • Stephen Macknik (USA), Advisor to Scientific American: Mind, Director of the Laboratory of Translational Neuroscience at the State University of New York, and science writer of books and articles.
  • Susana Martinez-Conde (Spain), Director of the Laboratory of Integrative Neuroscience at the State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center and science writer of books and articles.
  • Gaia Novarino (Italy), Professor at the Institute of Science and Technology of Austria, Klosterneuburg and 2016 Boehringer Ingelheim FENS Research Award winner
  • Andrew Trevelyan (UK), Senior Lecturer in Network Neuroscience of Newcastle University and Winner of the Columbia University Schaefer Research Scholar Award
  • Corette Wierenga (Netherlands), Professor of Cell Biology at Utrecht University

Speaking during the Opening Remarks were Dr. George Paxinos, the third-most cited author in science and co-author of the textbook used for competition preparation, Dr. Menno Witter, FENS representative and Professor of Neuroscience & Director of the Norwegian Research School in Neuroscience, and Dr. Julianne McCall, Director of the 2016 Brain Bee World Championship. Dr. Alison Abbott, Senior European Correspondent of Nature, presented the Awards Ceremony in front of more than 4,000 attending scientists, assisted by Dr. Paul Bolam, representing the judging panel, and Dr. Julianne McCall, on behalf of the Organizing Committee. Photos may be viewed on the website and social media channels.
In addition to the competition sections, students engaged with neuroscientists at the conference through tours of the poster session and exhibit hall, seminars, the Opening Ceremony, and special introductions to the FENS community from 2016 FENS-Kavli Scholars. Apart from the conference and competition sections at the University of Copenhagen (hosted by Professor and Director of Anatomy, Dr. Jørgen Tranum-Jensen), students and adult chaperones enjoyed a tour of the Medical Museum of Copenhagen, an introduction to the Danish Stem Cell Center, complete with seminars from three researchers and a tour through the laboratory facilities, and cultural and culinary opportunities in and around the historic district of the city.
The program was organized on a volunteer basis by a committee of neuroscientists, professors, graduate students, and educators across nine nations, with support from the following partners: The Federation of European Neuroscience Societies, the Society for Neuroscience, the University of Copenhagen, Heidelberg University Hospital Spinal Cord Injury Center, and the Danish Stem Cell Center. More than 50 National Coordinators around the globe are responsible for local chapter and regional competitions, leading up to the culminating World Competition, hosted by a large international neuroscience conference every year.
The International Brain Bee President and Founder is Dr. Norbert Myslinski ( of The University of Maryland Dental School Department of Neural and Pain Sciences. As the most widespread neuroscience competition for secondary school students, the IBB Program seeks to engage young students in exploring the diversity and depth of the mechanisms of the brain. The program provides the motivation, curricular resources, and community support to take them beyond their classroom experience to the level of international competitiveness through providing materials and coaching. Following the event, an Alumni Club supports participants’ careers in higher education with scholarship awareness, internship assistance, science news, and community. Dr. Myslinski is passionate about the program and says, “The purpose of the Brain Bee is to motivate young men and women to study the brain, and to inspire them to consider careers in the basic and clinical neurosciences. We need them to treat and find cures for more than 1000 neurological and psychological disorders. We encourage potential coordinators around the world to start a Brain Bee competition in their cities. It is easy and fun and the media loves it.”  If you would like to start a new chapter, collaborate or make a tax-deductible contribution to this important non-profit cause, E-mail Next year, the 2017 IBB World Championship will be in Washington, DC, USA, hosted by the American Psychological Association.

Contact: Julianne McCall, 2016 World Championship Chairperson;; +49 1626788534
Contact: Norbert Myslinski, President and Founder; 410-274-4998

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