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Vancouver Island high school students leading scientific study of the brain


At Brentwood College School in Mill Bay, B.C., a small group of students are attempting to better understand something we know little about, the brain.

In particular, the group's studying how sports effect the brain’s ability to function properly.

"They would like to see if there’s any measurable difference between, say, a non-contact sport and a contact sport," said David McCarthy, a biology teacher at Brentwood College School.

It’s a yearlong study that began in September. Four Brentwood College students have been monitoring the brain activity of over 100 students involved in various sports at the school.

"We’re looking at how sub-concussive impacts can change their brain over time," said Zander Levenberg, a Grade 11 student.

Within the next few weeks, the data gathered through these tests will be compiled.

Those results will allow researchers to better understand the long-term effects of injuries such as concussions. Notably, concussions can be the cause of an accelerated formof dementia or mental health-related issues.

"A lot of this data is giving us the ability to be predictive," said Ryan D’Arcy, cofounder of HealthTech Connex.

"If we’re sensitive to detecting concussive impacts with Neurocatch, we can actually use artificial intelligence to start to actually predict and find out before that happens, so we can treat it ahead of time," he said.


D’Arcy is a neuroscientist and the CEO of HealthTech Connex. That company has partnered with the school to complete the study.

He’s also a graduate of the school and says watching students leading this groundbreaking research is the most inspiring part.

"Unleashing the power of these young minds," said D’Arcy. "You can tap students that are in high school to do some of the world-leading science and I think that’s what is sort of inspiring about it."

Students also seem to be excited by the research.

"We can track recovery time for a person who has suffered a concussion so we can know when they can return to school, when they can return to play," said Julian Wan, a Grade 12 student at Brentwood College School.

"The quantitative data can show us where they are at."

The research happening at the school, by students, could give the scientific community a better understanding of how the brain functions, and how to treat the brain after an injury.

"It’s really an awesome opportunity and one that we never anticipated being able to offer the students," said McCarthy. Top Stories

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