2018 VT Brain Bee

2nd Place Team with Isabel Rosenberg, center, was overall 2018 winner from Middlebury Union High School!

The 9th Annual Vermont Brain Bee (VBB) was held on February 10th, 2018 at the Larner College of Medicine, University of Vermont. Middlebury Union High School (MUHS) and Mount Abraham Union High School (Mt Abe), both sent groups of students to be in the VBB this year and as they have in the past eight years! Isabel Rosenberg, captured first place and Grace Widelitz participated in the Final Oral Round of the top nine students. There were a total of 37 students from 9 high schools, coming from Burlington High School, Burlington Technical Center, South Burlington High School, Essex High School (EHS), Champlain Valley Union High School, MUHS, Mt Abe, Bellows Falls Union High School and Brattleboro Union High School.

This exciting event involves both a competition and a time for exploration through presentations and a final panel discussion. A morning of both a written test of 50 multiple questions and a practical component that is taken in the pathology lab and was twenty questions requiring fill-in responses about brain anatomy and function. All questions are based on material from “Brain Facts”, a neuroscience primer published by the Society of Neurosience and “Neuroscience: Science of the Brain.”

Case presentations were presented by Sharon Leach, PhD, neuropsychologist, and Feyza Basoglu, PhD, child psychiatrist,. They did a presentation mimicking three types of neurological and psychiatric disorders. These were multiple sclerosis, opioid addiction withdrawal, and Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome. The audience could participate by asking questions to help them figure out the different cases.

Next up was the First Oral Round where all the students participated by completing three series of 10 questions that were read out loud and displayed overhead.
After this, the participants were treated to a lunch that was donated by American Flatbread, City Market and Sunrise Orchards. Shortly thereafter, Karen Lounsbury, PhD, Professor of Pharmacology at UVM gave a wonderful Keynote Presentation: “The Influence of Drugs on the Brains Pleasure Pathways”. Excellent slides helped describe this hot topic that also kept the students engaged.

Scores from the First Oral Round yielded the top nine students to participate in the Final Oral Round. They were: Isabel Rosenberg, senior, Middlebury Union High School (MUHS); Isabel Bloch, junior, Burlington Technical Center; Isabelle Petrucci, junior, Essex High School(EHS); Grace Widelitz, junior, MUHS; Zoe Schemm, senior, Bellows Falls Union High School; Madison Spina, freshman, ESH; Kate Connolly junior, EHS; Vilena Lee, junior, Burlington High School; Katherine Hankes, freshman, South Burlington High School.

These students sat in front of the audience while questions were displayed overhead and asked by Sean Flynn, PhD, UVM Associate Professor and lead VBB neuroscientist. Nathan Jebbett, PhD, UVM undergraduate neuroscience lecturer, helped to judge the responses.

After 10 questions were asked, it was figured out that Vilena Lee from Burlington High School, came in third place. To the excitement of the audience, two students, Isabel Rosenberg, MUHS and Isabelle Petrucci, Essex, were tied and thus, battled it out with three more questions taken from the Keynote talk that were related to drugs on the brain. The last question, “What brain region must be activated for a drug to be considered addictive?” Isabel Rosenberg answered correctly with ‘Neucleus Accumbens’ which brought her the 1st place finish over Isabelle Petrucci. This feat makes Rosenberg eligible to be the Vermont High School representative at the National Brain Bee, which will happen during the second weekend of Brain Awareness Week, March 16 – March 18 at the University of Maryland in Baltimore. The Vermont Brain Bee Committee of Lisa Bernardin, VBB Coordinator, Sharon Leach, Sean Flynn and Nathan Jebbett will make sure that Isabel will get some extra tutoring to help prepare her for the National Brain Bee.

There was also a Team Category, whereby, schools with four students could compete as a group. First place went to Essex High School with Isabelle Petrucci, junior, Rachel Chan, freshman, Maegan Beckage, sophomore, Kate Connolly, junior, and Isabelle Petrucci, junior.
Middlebury Union High School took second place with Grace Widelitz; Isabel Rosenberg, senior; Joseph Findlay, sophomore; and Owen Palcik, sophomore. Third place went to South Burlington High School with Trey Michael, freshman; Katherine Hankes, freshman; Kelly Xu, sophomore; and Victoria Chang, sophomore.