Shining a flashlight through a skull at a children’s museum, Cal State East Bay Assistant Biology Professor James Murray teaches his young audience about brain awareness, while demonstrating how delicate the skull is.
“When brain cells die, they are not restored,” he says. “They’re gone forever.”
It’s one of many facts that high school students will need to remember when they participate Feb. 4 in the first Northern California brain bee hosted by CSUEB.
Similar in format to a spelling bee, the International Brain Bee is a nonprofit competition where high school students are put to the test and quizzed on their knowledge of the nervous system.
Inspired by worldwide Brain Awareness Week, the Brain Bee competition aims to motivate high school students to learn about the brain and inspire them to pursue careers in biomedical brain research, said event co-coordinator Kathleen Welker, president of The Tremor Action Network.
The Pleasanton-based Tremor Action Network collaborated with Murray to coordinate and head Northern California’s first qualifying round of the international challenge.
“We selected Dr. Murray because he is a member of the Society of Neuroscience, but also because of the enthusiasm he possessed for the idea of helping with the event,” Welker said.
Approximately 30 high school students will compete for an opportunity to participate at the national and international levels of the competition.
With help from the Society of Neuroscience’s text, “Brain Facts,” contestants are studying hard to prepare for the live question-and-answer competition, organizers said.
Founded in 2004 by Dr. Norbert Myslinski, the international competition has grown to attract participation from some 70 Brain Bee coordinators worldwide.
Sponsored primarily by the Tremor Action Network, Welker said community participation has been active. Area merchants, health agencies and community members also contributed to funding the event.
Murray and Welker said they hope to make the brainy challenge an annual event that draws increasing levels of participation.