Mt. Abe, MUHS students compete in Brain Bee

BURLINGTON — On Feb. 9, students from seven Vermont high schools traveled to the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont in Burlington, to compete in the 10th Annual Vermont Brain Bee (VBB). Forty-eight students — hailing from Burlington (BHS), Essex (EHS), Rice, South Burlington and Middlebury (MUHS), Mount Abraham (Mount Abe), and Champlain Valley union high schools — tested their knowledge of the brain, nervous system and science as a whole.
THE MOUNT ABRAHAM crew of Ryan Lathrop, left, Erik McLysaght, William Wright, Emily Tardie and Brynn Winchester won the team title at the 10th Annual Vermont Brain Bee at UVM Feb. 9.  
After taking time to ponder questions presented in the written and practical (real brain specimens were viewed) rounds, the students had a break to listen to several case presentations. Sharon Leach, PhD, and Krista Reincke, PhD, delivered three short vignettes to assist the students in learning to ask questions about possible differential diagnoses. These included: psychosis versus PTSD, delirium vs. dementia, and narcolepsy vs. other sleep disorders.
Participants also heard renowned neuroscience researcher Hugh Garavan, PhD, give a keynote talk on “Adolescent Neurodevelopment: Substance Use, Risk Factors, and Consequences.” Garavan also spoke about his role as one of the principal investigators for the “Adolescent, Brain, Cognitive, Development (ABCD) study,” the largest long-term study of brain development and child health in the United States. Out of 11,874 participants in the ABSD study, 577 are Vermont children who are 10-11 years old.
THE MIDDLEBURY UNION High School team of Maeve Hammel, left, Alice Ganey, Grace Widelitz, Owen Palczik, Spencer Doran, Mary Nagy-Benson and Kenneth Barkdoll competed at the medical school auditorium. Below, VBB Coordinator Lisa Bernardin and Keynote Speaker Hugh Garavan.
All students then participated in the first oral round and the results yielded eight students who would compete in the final oral round. In the final oral round, eight finalists competed to win the 10th VBB. This year Vilena Lee, a senior from BHS, won the final oral round and will represent Vermont in the U.S. Brain Bee Championships in Hershey, Penn., at the Penn State College of Medicine on April 12-14. Essex senior Isabelle Petrucci and MUHS senior Grace Widelitz placed second and third, respectively.
The event finished with the students getting a glimpse into UVM’s undergraduate programs through a panel of volunteer neuroscience undergraduates who answered questions from the audience.
The Mount Abe team won a plaque for accumulating the most points over the whole competition. The team consisted of Erik McLysaght, Brynn Winchester, Emily Tardie and William Wright won the team award this year. Mount Abe’s neuroscience club has studied rigorously to take this year’s title. “I’m extremely proud of my team. I can tell how excited they were to show off their knowledge they have been learning all year,” Mclysaght said.
Tardie, a Mount Abe senior, summed it up nicely:
“It reminded me of how much I like learning!”
For more information, visit vermontbrainbee.com.

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