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High Schooler Becomes Educator: Young Fencer’s Neuro-Revolution Goes International

High schooler brings neuroscience to a fencing tournament in Paris.
Neurofencing in Paris. (All photos Supriya Nair)

[Updated February 2024]

There’s one thing that beats inspiring kids to take up neuroscience: Watching them not only catch the spark but pass it along! High schooler Supriya Nair is our case in point. Through scientific outreach using our SpikerBox, she has already ignited the interest of hundreds of her peers who got to see and feel the power of action potentials for the first time.

Her latest outreach triumph happened just this month at the 2024 Marathon Foils Tournament in Paris! There, she sparked the NeuroRevolution in dozens of young fencers from France, Italy, Germany, UK and other parts of the globe.

The reception in Paris was warm, and there was quite a lot to be learned too. “Most of my fellow fencers at the event were impressed with the data behind the adage that warming up is good,” Supriya tells us. “When we discussed a reduction of over 50 milliseconds in a 6ft lunge, there was a lot of excitement and cheering. I was humbled and really appreciated their time, everyone of the fencers from these countries were friendly, receptive and welcoming.”

Neuroscience workshop on a fencing tournament in Paris

The young neurofencer thus kick-started a string of international appearances where she is to empower fellow athletes to take up science and use it to level up their performance on the piste. And it’s not just fencers who may get interested in neuroscience. It’s also the other way round, as she’s about to prove in her next workshop in July, on the sidelines of Japan’s biggest annual neuroscience conference Neuro2024!

She has conquered much of America too, conducting upwards of 15 neurofencing workshops in California, Oregon, Arizona, Minnesota and at the SfN 2023 in Washington, D.C., where we met her in person.

Neurofencing at SfN 2023: High Schooler Becomes Educator
Supriya Nair with BYB co-founders Tim Marzullo and Greg Gage at SfN 2023

Quite a meeting it was, and not just because we love cake! It was the annual Society for Neuroscience conference with over 25,000 attendees where she got to present her neurofencing poster in front of PhDs and postdocs.

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Young Neurofencer Wins Washington Science Fair (2nd Year in a Row) Using SpikerBox

young neurofencer wins washington science fair

Swift and agile musclework and bladework is all you need to be a good fencer. Or is it?

As it turns out thanks to Supriya Nair, an eighth-grader from Redmond, WA, the brain and heart have their fair share in it too! The young scientist’s research project on neurofencing just won her yet another first place at Washington State Science Fair (WSSEF), as well as a special award in Health & Medicine and a Broadcom MASTERS nomination!

To record and collect data needed for investiging the role of brain, heart and muscles, Supriya used a BYB combo, Heart & Brain SpikerBox and Muscle SpikerBox.

Supriya isn’t new to being a state science fair laureate. Last year, this young fencer won the WSSEF award for measuring her muscles’ reaction time before and after warm-ups to improve her lunge performance.

This time around, she added the brain and heart into the equation, measuring her EEG, EKG and EMG with and without a 15-minute warm-up.

So what were the results?

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Can Neuroscience Help You Fence Better? Middle-School Scientist Wins State Science Fair Using SpikerBox

can neuroscience help you fence better
Supriya and Sujit Nair establishing a new fencing technique: Neurofencing

Every fencer will hear it countless times: warm-ups are a MUST. Do them and they’ll bump up your performance. Skip them and you may end up hurting yourself.

But not every fencer will ask why! Supriya Nair, a busy sixth-grader from Redmond, WA, decided to conduct an experiment and find out what the correlation is between exercise and performance in her favorite sport. Where other people see a self-evident truth that doesn’t need any questioning, this scientifically-minded middle-schooler saw a hypothesis that she can poke through to test it, quantify it, and prove it!

And what better way to do that than to: 

  1. sport a set of electrodes of a Neuron SpikerBox to capture an EMG signal from her right hand and right leg as she lunges,
  2. measure her muscles’ reaction time from rest to touche in controlled circumstances, with and without 15-minute warm-ups, and compare the findings.

The results came in and won her the First Place Trophy at the annual Washington State Science and Engineering Fair and a nomination for this year’s Broadcom Masters, STEM competition for the nation’s top talented middle-schoolers!

Neurofencing: How It All Began

I’d always hear it from coaches that I needed to do pre-bout exercise. But there was no quantitative data that would support it, just qualitative. And frankly, I was not very disciplined in warm-ups,” Supriya told us in a Zoom interview. That’s how she came up with the idea to eavesdrop on her muscles’ electrical activity using the SpikerBox her dad got her, and measure it to see whether it adds up to the hypothesis. And boom! Pre-bout exercise lasting only 15 minutes can improve a fencer’s performance by a whopping 15%, she discovered.

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