Aarthi Vijaykumar, 15, of Blaine, placed second in a national competition in Baltimore that recognizes participants’ knowledge of the human brain.
The USA National Brain Bee Championship held March 17-19 at the University of Maryland included winners from 51 Chapter competitions in 30 states.
The students were tested on topics such as intelligence, emotions, memory, sleep, vision, hearing, sensations, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, additions and brain research.
Competitions took many forms, from diagnosing actors who spoke about their symptoms to examinations of human brains.
Vijaykumar said it felt good to place second in this competition.
“I knew everyone here was going to be really experienced,” she said.
A practical exam was to go in a neuroanatomy laboratory to identify different nerves of the human brain where there were pins sticking in a real brain. They also identified areas of the brain using MRI images.
The competitors also needed to identify mental or neurological illness based on what student actors were telling them.
“They would talk to us for maybe a minute or two. After that it would be up to us to ask questions,” she said.
For example, a patient actor who spoke about feeling really great one moment and the feeling really bad could have bi-poplar disorder, she said.
A written test was also part of the competition.
The International Brain Bee competition was started in 1999 by Dr. Norbert Myslinski. Currently there are about 200 Brain Bee Chapters in about 40 countries in six continents.
“Its purpose is to motivate young students to learn about the human brain and inspire them to seek careers in the basic and clinical neurosciences to help treat and find cures for brain disorders,” Myslinski said.
Vijaykumar competed in her first Brain Bee last year and her positive experience inspired her to self-educate herself about the human brain over the summer and throughout this school year. She also had a mentorship opportunity to a neuroanatomy lab.
One of her courses this year is AP psychology. As she has learned more about the brain through her studies, she has become more observant of human behavior.
Fascinating to her is how people’s memories of events can change either subconsciously or through information implanted by someone else.
“They’re not solid blocks that are stored and untouchable,” she said.
Vijaykumar, a sophomore at Mounds View High School, envisions going into the medical field with a focus on neuroscience.
“It’s really interesting to me how this one organ controls so much of our lives,” she said.