Nyhavn in Copenhagen, Denmark

The Competition

Local Brain Bees

The local Brain Bee level is comprised of grassroots chapters, which are generally organized through universities or research institutions in cities, states, provinces, or other geographic regions. Each local chapter, and also each region’s local chapters, are organized individually, so format may vary.


Most IBB local rounds are based on either the Brain Facts or Neuroscience: The Science of the Brain books. These are brief, introductory materials that offer an introduction to neuroscience. However, please note that each local Brain Bee is organized individually. Please contact your local Brain Bee for specific information as to how the competition will be run, and how to prepare.

National Brain Bees

National Brain Bees are usually held at the scope of a country or territory. Each national Brain Bee is organized individually. Please contact your region’s coordinator for more information regarding your national Brain Bee.

International Brain Bee

The Brain Bee World Championship is designed to be a high-level and friendly academic competition. The material draws from university and medical school course content and requires thoughtful preparation. All participants are expected to support one another throughout the experience, during and between contest sections.

The IBB organizers reserve the right to amend the details of the competition at any stage.

Competition Sections

Upon arrival to the competition, student participants will receive extended and updated rules for each competition section. At the start of each section, the neuroscientist judges will provide an overview of the rules. Official timekeepers will oversee that all questions are complete within the allotted times.

For example, during the Neuroanatomy Section, students will rotate every 90 seconds between table stations, each with one brain and one affiliated question. During the Live Question and Answer Section, different questions may be allotted different lengths of time, which will be clearly stated during the event.

Responses will be graded as correct or incorrect: no partial credit will be granted. Incomplete answers are counted as zero points.

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A neuroanatomy practical exam with whole and sectioned human brains. 90 seconds are granted at each station to provide structure names and/or basic functions. This section will be worth 20% of the final score.

More information

During the Neuroanatomy Section, students should be prepared to name any structure presented in Chapter 1 of the “Neuroscience Essentials” publication and provide a general function for each, if presented in Chapter 1. No list/word bank will be provided during the competition.

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Human tissues will be displayed under microscopes. Students must identify the structures by name and/or describe the basic functions of the tissue within 90 seconds. This section will be worth 10% of the final score.

More information

There will be microscope slides, each with a thin section of any of the following human tissues. Students should be prepared to identify the following structures and substructures by name. The following list will be provided during the competition. Students should research these structures using internet resources.

  • Cerebellum: Purkinje Cell Layer, Granule Cell Layer, White Matter, Molecular Layer
  • Cochlea
  • Cortex: Gray Matter, White Matter, Pyramidal Neurons
  • Hippocampus: Dentate Gyrus, CA1, CA2, CA3, Subiculum
  • Basal Ganglia: Caudate Nucleus, Putamen, Globus Pallidus, Anterior Commissure, Internal Capsule, Ependyma
  • Skin: Pacinian Corpuscle, Meissner’s Corpuscle, dermal papilla
  • Peripheral Nerve: Endoneurium, Perineurium, Epineurium, Nerve Fascicle
  • Retina: Ganglion Cells, Bipolar Cells, Photoreceptors, Pigmented Epithelium, Choroid
  • Spinal Cord: Central Canal, Gray Matter, White Matter, Lateral Horn, Dorsal Horn, Ventral Horn, Ventral Median Fissure, Dorsal Median Sulcus
  • Taste Bud: Taste Pore, Neuroepithelial Cells, Basal/Stem Cells, Microvilli

Written Test

A 45-question multiple-choice and short-answer exam, to be completed in 60 minutes. Some questions will involve data and graphical analysis and reasoning. This section will be worth 25% of the final score.

More information

Questions will be in multiple-choice and short-answer formats.

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Patient Diagnosis

Video footage of patients will be shown alongside a written medical history. Students may request results from two lab or imaging exams to aid in the diagnosis. This section will be worth 20% of the final score.

More information

The Patient Diagnosis Section consists of 10 videos of patients, each with one of the possible neurological disorders listed below. The video will portray motor and/or other visual symptoms of the patient (without sound), and a brief written history, as told by the patient, will be provided. Each disorder will be presented in a common form (no rare forms of the disorders).

After watching each video and reading the patient history, students should request the results of two of the available clinical, laboratory, or imaging tests, listed below. The appropriate results for the tests will be provided immediately, for example, “Normal”, “Abnormal”, “Enlarged Lateral Ventricles”, “Tumor detected in the Occipital Lobe”, “Defective Huntingtin gene”, or other result, depending on the neurological disorder and the requested test. The task then is to diagnose the most likely disorder, with the list of possible disorders and tests provided. Students are given 5 minutes total per diagnosis.

Available Tests:

  1. Family history
  2. Patient history
  3. Physical examination
  4. Blood Test
  5. DNA test
  6. Blood pressure measurement
  7. Biopsy or Neuropathology
  8. Nerve conduction test
  9. Lumbar Puncture
  10. Intelligence Test
  11. Memory test
  12. Reflex evaluation
  13. Motor evaluation
  14. Sensory evaluation
  15. Electromyogram (EMG)
  16. Electroencephalogram (EEG) study
  17. CT scan
  18. SPECT-PET scan
  19. MRI scan / Functional MRI
  20. Other specific test

Possible Neurological Disorders:

  1. Alzheimer’s Disease
  2. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
  3. Autism Spectrum Disorder
  4. Bipolar Disorder
  5. Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
  6. Diabetic Neuropathy
  7. Down Syndrome
  8. Epilepsy
  9. Fragile X Syndrome
  10. Glioblastoma multiforme cancer
  11. HIV/AIDS
  12. Huntington’s Disease
  13. Hydrocephalus
  14. Korsakoff’s Syndrome
  15. Meningitis
  16. Microcephaly
  17. Migraine
  18. Multiple Sclerosis
  19. Neuroblastoma
  20. Parkinson’s Disease
  21. Poliomyelitis
  22. Rabies
  23. Rett Syndrome
  24. Schizophrenia
  25. Shingles
  26. Spina Bifida
  27. Spinal Cord Injury
  28. Stroke
  29. Tetanus
  30. Tourette Syndrome
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Live Q&A

The judging panel will pose questions to the group, occasionally with projected visual components. Students are given 30-90 seconds to write their answers. This section will be worth 25% of the final score.

More information

Sample questions

All questions are formatted to require answers that are either one word or a short phrase.

  • Which neurotransmitter is released by motor neurons that facilitate voluntary movements? Acetylcholine
  • How many axons can be myelinated by a single Schwann cell? One
  • When a patient sleeps, she has difficulty waking up, and when she is awake, she has difficulty falling asleep. Irregular modulation of which chemical messenger is likely causing these troubles? Serotonine


Rules and Assistive Tools Overview

The International Brain Bee expects a high standard of integrity from each student participant. Absolutely zero tolerance will be demonstrated toward acts of cheating, which will result in immediate elimination from the contest. The event will be conducted professionally and in a way that fosters a positive and fair experience for everyone. Student contestants will be given more thorough rules as the competition date approaches.

Contestants may bring their personal writing instruments, such as pens, pencils, erasers, and pencil sharpeners, into the examination rooms. For students from non-English speaking backgrounds, a translation dictionary without any notes may also be used. All translation dictionaries will be checked before exam sections.

Not permitted are mobile phones, programmable calculators, other electronic devices, or any other written materials. Posession of such items in restricted areas may result in immediate disqualification.


Trophy cup

1st Place

  • IBB Championship Trophy (held for 1 year)
  • Summer Research Internship coordinated by SfN
  • $3,000 USD

2nd Place

  • $2,000 USD

3rd Place

  • $1,000 USD

Please be advised that aspects of the competition may vary from year to year.