by Helen Sahin Connelly
3 February, 2018: Students from two high schools battled in the first Paris Brain Bee, a neuroscience competition that is part of the International Brain Bee (IBB)where contestants show their knowledge of the brain.
Lilia Evgeniou from Ecole Jeannine Manuel (EJM) finished first, while Philine Rouwers from International School of Paris (ISP) came in second. In addition to her trophy and a one-year complimentary membership to the American Library in Paris, Evgeniou also qualified to participate in the International Brain Bee (IBB)championships in Berlin, 6-9 July. Winners from over 50 countries will be eligible to compete in the IBB, which will be hosted by the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS). IBB is a non-profit educational organization consisting of partnerships with the American Psychological Association (APA), the Dana Foundation, the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS), the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO) and the Society for Neuroscience (SfN).
Kicking off the first France chapter of IBB, the 20 competitors participated in the 2018 Paris Brain Bee, which tests students on the anatomy of the brain, neurological disorders and diseases, memory, emotion, sleep and addiction. The questions were based on the book Neuroscience: Science of the Brain, available online to all students.
The event was held at ISP in the 16th arrondissement of Paris and was open to students in grades 10-12 (seconde- terminale).
The competition was divided into several sections: Neuroanatomy identification table, a written quiz, patient diagnosis, and a podium question and answer period. Finalists from each school were chosen once the scores were tallied. Three finalists from ISP – Philine Rouwers, Violeta Gibelli and Mo Hofstede; and two finalists from EJM – Lilia Evgeniou and Celeste Borletti sparred in a jeopardy-style question and answer format. Hofstede finished third; Gibelli fourth and Borletti fifth.
When asked what inspired her to sign up for the competition, Evgeniou said, “a few years ago, I fell in love with neuroscience when I read this book called the Tell-Tale Brain by Dr Ramachandran, and then stories by Oliver Sacks. I started remembering parts of the brain, and very extreme and bizarre conditions like “apotemnophilia” and “blindsight.” Which then slowly brought me to loving biology – now I am more into biochemistry, molecular biology, and genetics. So when I heard about the brain bee competition calling peopleat our school, I was very interested in signing up! Especially since it was also at ISP, my old school, and I had a friend from ISP going as well, so I wanted to be with her too.”
Dr. Norbert Myslinski of the University of Maryland, USA, founded the Brain Bee in 1999 in response to the growing incidence rates of neurological diseases. “The purpose of the Brain Bee is to motivate young men and women to learn about the human brain. The world needs future clinicians and researchers to treat and find cures for more than 1000 neurological and psychological disorders,” Myslinski said.
Special thanks go to Mariana Martini and Karen Frey, biology teachers from ISP and EJM respectively. In 2016, a smaller Brain Bee event was organized just for ISP students.
“The first year that we did it, I could not believe the students and judges showed up on competition day. I was about to cry. I was so proud of my students. This year, I was thrilled to see more students sign up and be so enthusiastic,” said Martini who has helped the competition take root in Paris. “Who knows, maybe it will make a small contribution to their education and future.”
The Paris Brain Bee would not have been possible without its devoted team, which included special guest judges who traveled from Germany and the United Kingdom. LaShae Nicholson, from the German Neuroscience Olympiad and Martyna Petrulyte, the coordinator of the British Brain Bee were on hand to guide the contestants and serve as judges along with Ásta Sólveig Georgsdóttir, a cognitive psychologist with a private practice in Paris. We owe a big thanks to Marija Backovic, a researcher in structural virology at Institute Pasteur, for helping prepare academic support to the judges.
The Paris Brain Bee is grateful to Pauline Lemasson for her support and to the American Library in Paris for donating a one-year complimentary membership to the 1st place winner. Medals, certificates and trophies were provided by Gifted in France.
Heartfelt thanks to the rest of the team who filled the following roles and helped us make the event a success:
Academic content: Julianne McCall and Amanda Watson of the German Neuroscience Olympiad. Marija Backovic, Mariana Martini, Karen Frey, Ásta Sólveig Georgsdóttir, LaShae Nicholson, Martyna Petrulyte.
Supporting staff at ISP: Agustin Zuloaga Gonzalez, Mariana Martini, Simon Murray and Damian Kerr.
Supporting staff at EJM: Karen Frey, Sabine Hurley, Alan Damon and Patricia Koncewicz.
Contributing photographers:Hisham Qasmi, Elodie Likhtart, Lea-Anais Hachem and Alessandra Messeri.
Registration, check-in, room supervision, technical support and additional test correctors:Christine Payne, Agustin Zuloaga Gonzalez and Hisham Qasmi, Elodie Likhtart.
Timers:Lea-Anais Hachem and Alessandra Messeri, both are seniors at ISP and former competitors from 2016 ISP Brain Bee.
Certificates for students: Josh O’Donovan.
As we begin organizing the 2019 Paris Brain Bee team, scheduled for February or March 2019, we hope to attract more volunteers, teachers, schools, neuroscientists, sponsors and prizes.
For information on how to join the Paris Brain Bee team or learn about how to bring the event to your school, please contact:
Helen Sahin Connelly
Coordinator, Paris Brain Bee