Burlington High School Student Wins 10th Annual Vermont Brain Bee
On February 9, 2019, 48 students representing seven high schools around the region traveled to the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont (UVM) in Burlington to compete in the 10th Annual Vermont Brain Bee (VBB), an event that tests students’ knowledge about the brain, nervous system and neuroscience as a whole. Vilena Lee, a senior from Burlington High School, won the competition in the final oral round of the competition.
In addition to Burlington High School, participating high schools included Champlain Valley Union High School (CVU), Essex High School (EHS), Middlebury Union High School (MUHS), Mount Abraham Union High School (Mt. Abe), Rice Memorial High School and South Burlington High School.
After partaking in written and practical examinations – which included real brain specimens – the students observed several case presentations by Sharon Leach, Ph.D., neuropsychologist at the Stern Center for Language and Learning, and Krista Reincke, Psy.D., LICSW, a Burlington psychologist and clinical social worker. The two clinicians performed three short vignettes to help students learn about the importance of asking questions to help differentiate between mental health diagnoses, such as psychosis vs. PTSD, delirium vs. dementia, and narcolepsy vs. other sleep disorders.
All students participated in the first oral round, which yielded the top eight students.
Prior to the final oral round, UVM Professor of Psychiatry Hugh Garavan, PhD, delivered a keynote talk on “Adolescent Neurodevelopment: Substance Use, Risk Factors, and Consequences” and spoke about his role as one of the principal investigators on the national Adolescent, Brain and Cognitive Development (ABCD) study, the largest, long-term study of brain development and child health in the U.S., in which 577 Vermont children are enrolled.
As the Vermont winner, Lee will attend the U.S. Brain Bee Championships in Hershey, Penn. at the Penn State College of Medicine, which takes place April 12 to 14. Isabelle Petrucci, a senior from EHS, and Grace Widelitz, a senior from MUHS, placed second and third, respectively.
The TEAM category had six teams of four students competing and the team that accumulates the most points from all of the events wins in team competition. This plaque was awarded to Mt Abe’s team, including Erik McLysaght, Brynn Winchester, Emily Tardie, and William Wright of Mt. Abe’s neuroscience club that has studied rigorously in hopes of earning this year’s title.
Burlington High School only had two competitors but Vilena Lee, a senior and serious contender did well in all categories and as a result was able to win the competition.
“I had a great time competing at the Brain Bee this year. It’s fun to see how much I know about the brain, and I love meeting students all around Vermont who are interested in pursuing a future in neuroscience. My favorite part of the Brain Bee was watching the neurological and psychiatric case presentations because it’s one thing for me to have read and memorized the causes and symptoms of a neurodegenerative disorder, but it’s another to be able to recognize the symptoms and give a diagnosis without having a textbook in front of my eyes. I’m thrilled to be representing Vermont at the National Brain Bee in April and hope to make our state proud. ” Vilena Lee.