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Mt. Abe junior competes at U.S. Brain Bee

BRISTOL — Lyn Ackert-Smith, a junior at Mount Abraham Union High School, was the winner of the sixth annual Vermont Brain Bee (VBB) held at the University of Vermont College of Medicine on Feb. 7. As the winner of this competition, Ackert-Smith also participated in the National Brain Bee Championships at the University of Maryland in Baltimore on March 20 and 21. The National Brain Bee tests a student’s knowledge of the human brain, and covers such topics as intelligence, emotions, memory, learning, sleep, vision, hearing, sensation, perception, aging, childhood, cognitive and other neural disorders, addictions, brain research and other brain topics.
Prior to heading for the National Brain Bee Championships, Ackert-Smith worked with Sharon Leach, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist at the Stern Center for Language and Learning in Williston; Rae Nishi, Ph.D., lead neuroscientist for the VBB, director of the Neuroscience Graduate Program, and a professor of neurological sciences at UVM; Ethan Roy and Evan Gallagher, senior neuroscience majors from Middlebury College; and the Mount Abraham High School Brain Science Club.
After two days of intense competition in the national competition, Ackert-Smith finished 26th out of a total 52 participants representing 33 different states.
The USA Championship competition features a neuroanatomy laboratory practical exam with 25 real human brain samples, patient diagnosis involving face-to-face interactions with 12 patient actors, MRI brain imaging analysis of 40 slides, brain histology with microscopes, and a final question-and-answer session with judges. Some examples of the final questions include: The amygdala is important for what kind of memory? (Answer: emotional memory); Name the part of the brain known as its clock or pacemaker (Answer: the suprachiasmatic nucleus); The inheritance of what variation of the apolipoprotein E gene is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s Disease? (Answer: ApoE 4).
The winner of the 2015 USA Brain Bee Championships, Soren Christensen, a freshman and winner of the Washington, D.C., Brain Bee, will advance to the International Brain Bee Championships this summer in Sydney, Australia. He will compete against other national winners from countries including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Italy, Kenya, Malaysia, New Zealand, Romania, Singapore, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Arab Emirates.
The International Brain Bee was founded 16 years ago by Norbert Myslinski, Ph.D., of the University of Maryland, and has, to date, expanded to include 150 chapters in 30 countries on six continents. The program’s purpose is to motivate young men and women to learn about the brain, and inspire them to pursue careers in the biomedical field that will then help with treating and finding cures for many neurological and psychological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, autism and addictions.
There are many companies and programs that have donated funds for running the Vermont Brain Bee and for sending Lyn to the National Brain Bee. These include: Vermont Biosciences Alliance; Green Mountain Antibodies; Chroma Technologies; Fisher Scientific; MVI-MicroVideo Instruments; Med Associates; MBF Bioscience; Vermont Chapter of the Society of Neuroscience; UVM Neuroscience, Behavior and Health Initiative; UVM Neuroscience Graduate Program; and the B.S. in neuroscience program in the UVM College of Arts and Sciences.
For more information about getting involved in the regional Vermont Brain Bee, visit www.vermontbrainbee.com.

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