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Virtual Vt. Brain Bee this Saturday

Despite the pandemic, the 12th Vermont Brain Bee (VBB) will be happening this year — albeit virtually.
With the help of Theresa Christiansen, a senior at Mount Mansfield Union High School and winner of the 11th VBB in 2020, the VBB committee has been able to take these strange times and still manage to make the Brain Bee a meaningful interaction by having weekly Virtual Brain Club Sessions with eminent speakers on different topics throughout the 2020 fall and early 2021 winter. The sessions were recorded and available vermontbrainbee.com.
Now organizers are excited to have a Virtual Vermont Brain Bee happen this Saturday, Feb. 13.
A strong contingent of 22 eager students from five Vermont high schools — The Long Trail School in Dorset, Rice Memorial High School in Burlington, Essex High School, South Burlington High School and St. Johnsbury Academy — will take part. Middlebury, Mount Abraham and Champlain Valley union high schools are taking a break from participating after 11 consecutive years.
The competition will be different this year as the students will be taking a proctored exam of written and practical questions for one hour during a chosen time during Wednesday through Friday. Then on Saturday students sign on for the actual virtual VBB.
It kicks off at 10 a.m. with opening remarks from coordinator Lisa Bernardin of Middlebury. Vilena Lee, the 2019 VBB winner, will speak about the National Brain Bee or U.S. Brain Bee Championships at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. The 2020 National Brain Bee was postponed until this April 10-11, and will be held virtually at Northeastern Ohio Medical University in Rootsville, Ohio, for both Theresa Christiansen, the 2020 VBB winner, and a winner from this Saturday’s 2021 VBB.
A Preliminary Oral Round for all students will be led by Dr. Nate Jebbett, followed by Case Presentations of Neurological and Psychiatric Disorder and Diseases by neuropsychologist Sharon Leach, Ph.D.; and child psychiatrist Feyza Basoglu, M.D. “We are going to present a few clinical cases that help the students learn about how neuroscience can be applied to human behavior, neurological and psychological functioning,” Leach said.
After a noon lunch break, Gary Mawe, Ph.D., a UVM Professor of Neurological Sciences will deliver the keynote talk: “The Little Brain in the Gut.” He will review the enteric nervous system of the gastrointestinal tract, what changes occur in enteric neural circuits in various disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Inflammatory Bowel Disease and multiple sclerosis.
Besides a basic introduction, Mawe will review how this nervous system is organized, changes that take place in pathological conditions, and the two-way communication that exists between the gut and the central nervous system, referred to as the “Brain-Gut axis.”
Mawe is said to be an excellent presenter whose talk shouldn’t be missed. For zoom link, go to vermontbrainbee.com. It will also be recorded for future listening.
Following his talk will be the Final Oral Round of the top eight participants. This is used to figure the 12th VBB winner.
To conclude the afternoon, there will be a panel discussion of current undergraduate, graduate, medical students, faculty and professionals who will answer high school students’ questions about studying science, applying to college,  and how to look into potential careers, as well as offer helpful advice on pursuing graduate/medical school.
“The Vermont Brain Bee is an incredible opportunity for high school students like me to understand the inner workings of our amazing brains and connect with passionate professionals and peers,” said Theresa Christiansen, the 2020-21 VBB Media and Outreach Intern. “Interested in chemistry, medicine, computer science, biology or political science? All of these and more can be explored through the lens of neuroscience.”
For more details about the Vermont Brain Bee head online to vermontbrainbee.com; direct questions to [email protected].

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