This Caribbean country is first in the region to participate in internationally recognized competition on the human brain

News > The Caribbean

By STEM Caribbean | Posted on May 31, 2019

Do you know about your brain? In other words, do you know about yourself?

Collage of pictures from Grenada’s participation in the Brain Bee competition over the years / Photo by Grenada Brain Bee

Have you ever wondered how we remember events like our first day in secondary school or the first time we visited another Caribbean island? Or do you contemplate on the fact that we can feel, see, hear, taste, and smell? So much of our actions are made possible by the daily processes in our brains, which set us apart from other living organisms. With sophisticated and intriguing characteristics, the human brain is quite a marvel. Every year secondary school students ages 13 to 18 in Grenada can learn about the many wonders of this astonishing organ, which is the control center of our bodies. Ten years ago, Dr. Francis Fakoya made this possible by starting the Grenada National Brain Bee Challenge (GNBBC), a competition which is structured as a spelling bee, except that competitors answer questions about the brain and neuroscience. The challenge begins in November every year and has four stages. The first stage is a preliminary screening; then the second stage is a zonal competition where students in different geographic locations compete to move on to the third stage, the national competition. The winner of the national competition then goes on to the fourth stage and compete in the International Brain Bee Championship (IBBC) representing Grenada. 

During the week of the much-anticipated national competition, brain awareness week is also celebrated where the public can attend events such as public lectures, and tune in to local radio and TV stations to hear about the brain. This year’s national winner is Jevonie Thomas of the JW Catholic Secondary School. Grenada won the Brain Assembly Contest in 1 minute, 47 seconds out of the 2 minutes allowed, and placed 6th overall out of 8 countries when it was first represented at the IBBC in 2010. In 2018 the national winner, Giovanni De Gannes, won 2nd place at the IBBC in Germany where 25 countries were represented. Grenada is the first and currently the only Caribbean country to participate in this intense educational competition, and was represented 5 times to date. Each participating country has a Brain Bee competition categorized into local competitions and a regional competition. Jevonie will travel to Daegu, South Korea in September this year to battle for the 1st place prize which includes USD 3000. 

Giovanni De Gannes, 2nd place winner in the 2018 Brain Bee World Championship / Photo by Grenada Brain Bee

In 1998 Dr. Norbert Myslinski founded Brain Bee intending to inspire students to learn about the brain and pursue careers in neuroscience to help treat and cure brain disorders. Since then, students from all over the world have participated in the competition. According to the World Health Organization, hundreds of millions of people around the world are affected by neurological disorders. It’s been argued that the brain is the most important organ of the body. Without the normal functioning of our brains, our lives could be significantly affected. Neurological disorders can affect memory, speech, mobility, how other organs function, and even personality. In an analysis of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016, published by The Lancet Neurology in March this year, worldwide in 2016, neurological disorders were the leading cause of DALYs (Disability-Adjusted Life Year), and the second leading cause of death. 

Dr. Norbert Myslinsk, Founder of Brain Bee, and Grenada Brain Bee Alumni / Photo by Grenada Brain Bee

It’s no secret how important neuroscience is. Knowing your brain is knowing yourself. With six successful Brain Bee Challenge events, the GNBBC is influencing the future generation of Grenadian neuroscientists while providing an opportunity for Grenadian students and communities to learn about themselves by learning about the brain. More than 85% of the finalists in the GNBBC have gone on to pursue careers in medicine according to information provided by the GNBBC. It was also noted that Grenada had been declared a Silver Medal Brain Bee Region for its accomplishment in Brain Bee Neuroscience Education for teenagers. Christian Services Corporation, in collaboration with St. George’s Baptist Church in Grenada, has been a partial sponsor of the competition since 2014. The National Coordinator is currently Mrs. Gail Blackette, who plays a significant role in the success of the challenge. Despite challenges faced by the founders, each year the number of students participating in the competition has increased. 

Jevonie Thomas and Mrs. Gail Blackette / Photo by Grenada Brain Bee

“Within ten years most of the dream vision for the GBBC that I had has come to pass, for which course I stand here and Bless the Name of the most High who gave the Vision, the Grace and provided the substance to begin, in spite of the then harsh ambience,” Dr. Francis Fakoya expressed in a speech at the GBBC this year. 

Interested in supporting this great cause? You can contribute by donating to the following account:

Grenada National Brain Bee, #113000162, Grenada Cooperative Bank

If you’re in Grenada and would like to get involved directly, you can volunteer as an usher at the Grand Final. Visit the Grenada Brain Bee Facebook page for more information and to stay up to date with the competition.

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