Undergrads Snare Brain Bowl Victory with Neuroscience Knowledge

UT Dallas Brain Bowl

Front row, from left: Kelsey Pounds, Emily Pingsterhaus, Esmey Osabutey, Sambridhi Bhujel, Sheridan Cavalier and Emily Wand. Back row, from left: Associate professor Dr. Ted Price, Noah Melvin, Yi (Ethan) Fang, Ahnaf Arefin and Zhiyue (Mark) Wang.

A team of UT Dallas undergraduate students recently took home the winner’s trophy from the Brain Bowl, a neuroscience quiz competition held in San Antonio.

The victory marked the second Brain Bowl win for Dr. Ted Price, an associate professor of neuroscience who coaches the team; his first win came as a grad student 14 years ago.

The Brain Bowl is similar to the television show Jeopardy!, with team members buzzing in to answer questions and with a final round of wagering. The questions, however, are quite different than the TV show.

Early round questions this year included “Name the fifth cranial nerve” and “What kind of neurotransmitters are packaged into dense core vesicles?” (The answers are the trigeminal nerve and neuropeptides, respectively.) The UT Dallas team built a big lead in the early rounds. But, according to the coach and the team members, the later rounds got much harder.

“It was pretty difficult. Some of the questions were so intense, none of the teams answered them,” said Yi (Ethan) Fang, a neuroscience senior.

“As it progressed, the questions were pretty tough, requiring more high-level thinking,” Price said.

But the UT Dallas team did well in the later rounds.

UT Dallas Brain Bowl

To secure the win, the UT Dallas team defeated squads from UT Arlington and Trinity College.

The secret for success at the Brain Bowl was to assemble team members who have taken a variety of neuroscience courses, according to Price.

“We were careful choosing the team,” he said. “We didn’t have anybody who had taken all of the neuroscience courses. So we tried to arrange our team so that we had somebody with expertise in each individual area.”

The team was recruited at the beginning of the semester, and preparation for the competition soon began.

“We practiced pretty much every week, twice a week sometimes,” Fang said. “We have a good neuroscience department here at UTD, so I think that prepared us pretty well.”

To secure the win, the UT Dallas team defeated squads from UT Arlington and Trinity College.

Price, who was a neuroscience major at UT Dallas from 1993 to 1997, won the Brain Bowl in 2001 as a graduate student on a team from the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, where the competition was held this year.

“It was neat to take a new group of students from UT Dallas down there. Almost all of the team members are interested in pursuing either a PhD or an MD. So this was a really good opportunity for them to see another medical school,” he said.

Team member Sheridan Cavalier, a neuroscience junior, said participating in the Brain Bowl was a great experience, and she looks forward to competing next year.

“I love watching Jeopardy! at home, and I have always imagined that if Jeopardy! was just neuroscience questions, it would be awesome. And that’s what Brain Bowl is,” she said.

“It was an awesome experience,” Cavalier said. “The competition was fun and I got to be friends with a lot of people in my major that I would never have met otherwise.”

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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