UMass Amherst Brain Bee on Feb. 16 Will Choose Area Student for International Competition

AMHERST, Mass. - Question: What tool do we use every minute of every day but rarely notice? Answer: The brain.

On Fri., Feb. 16, a group of faculty and graduate students from the Neuroscience and Behavior (NSB) Program of the University of Massachusetts will host the University''s second annual Amherst-area Brain Bee, a component of an international competition for high school students tied to the upcoming National Brain Awareness Week. The UMass Brain Bee will be one of 35 held in the country, and the only local competition held in the state. The event is open to all students from grades 9 to 12 at area high schools, and it uses a spelling-bee format in which students answer questions about the brain and its functions.

The UMass program begins with a brief talk by neuroscientist Marc J. Tetel about Parkinson''s disease at 3:30 p.m. in room 304 of Tobin Hall. The Brain Bee will follow, and, after the competition, graduate students will provide a guided tour of some of the University''sneuroscience laboratories.

Katherine V. Fite, director of the NSB program, said: "We are very pleased to be sponsoring our second local Brain Bee contest. Once again, we welcome the opportunity to work closely with high-school students excited about brain research."

The week of March 12-18 is National Brain Awareness Week, organized five years ago by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives and the Society for Neuroscience (SFN) to alert the public to advances in neurosciences and to the importance of continued research and education. The week has become both a national and international event, involving programs in 29 countries developed by universities, hospitals, government agencies, research centers, and patient advocacy groups around the world, including the National Alzheimer''s Association, and the Parkinson''s Disease Foundation.

Questions used in the local Bee are provided by the International Brain Bee, and are based on information available in "Brain Facts," a book published by the SFN. Quiz topics will include memory, intelligence, emotions, sensations, stress, movement, aging, sleep, and brain disorders. [Sample questions follow at the end of this release.]

The top three winners of the UMass competition will be awarded neuroscience books as prizes. The NSB will help underwrite the UMass winner''s travel expenses to the International Brain Bee at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, on March 14. First prize in that competition is $3,000.

According to the SFN, 50 million Americans have permanent, neurological disabilities that limit their daily activities. Four million Americans have Alzheimer''s disease and 1,200 a day will suffer strokes, sometimes called brain attacks.

For more information about the UMass Brain Bee, call 413/545-0554.

EDITOR''S NOTE: Here are sample questions taken from this year''s official question book provided by the International Brain Bee:

Question: Approximately how many neurons does the brain contain?
Answer: 100 billion

Question: The abbreviation, PET, stands for what brain imaging technique?
Answer: Positron emission tomography