Follow your heart, but take your brain with you! Discovery Learning Neurocardiology Elective Immersion

September 15, 2022
Beverly Tomita
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<em>Beverly Tomita performing at Boston TD Garden</em>
Beverly Tomita performing at Boston TD Garden

Ever wondered how the heart and the brain are connected? As I gazed down 15 feet at the floor during a back flip stunt at the Boston TD Garden, I thought in that moment completely free from gravity or any harnesses: if there’s so much blood rushing to my head all the time, would that make me more susceptible to stroke in later years? The physiological connections are intricate, and their interactions are even more complex. From new areas of research in nerve remodeling for cardiovascular treatments to elucidating the effects of meditation on long-term health, the field of neurocardiology is a fascinating, upcoming field.

For the Discovery Learning block this summer, I took an elective course on neurocardiology taught by Professor Joseph Sepe, whose recent research focused on therapeutic approaches affecting inflammation and neural remodeling following a heart attack. Over the course of four weeks, I broadened my understanding in this new field through discussions on a wide range of neurocardiology topics in research and brainstorming discussions on potential projects that may integrate into my medical training. For example, there is an increasing number of studies that indicate therapeutic potential of brain electrostimulation in improving cardiac remodeling during recovery from a heart attack. Other studies focused more on characterizing immune cell response during the recovery period and identifying novel therapeutics that decreased incidence of arrhythmias. After having the opportunity to talk with several investigators on campus, I found a unique research opportunity to learn more about the electrophysiology of the heart-brain axis.

While my final deliverable started as a modified F30-style research proposal that would include specific aims and research plans, this eventually evolved into a T35 application for geriatric research to be submitted in the upcoming months. Overall, this self-paced course was a great way to relax during the summer while integrating medical knowledge from my first year here and exploring new options for my next steps in becoming a physician innovator.


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Beverly Tomita, Carle Illinois College of Medicine. Photo courtesy of ISS, Inc., a local biomedical devices company.

My name is Beverly Tomita, and I am a member of the Class of 2025. I studied biomedical engineering (biomaterials and tissue engineering) in college and then devoted several years to researching in a rheumatology lab in Boston. I’m constantly looking for intersections between my interests - whether it’s between engineering, medicine, or sports.

Editor's note: As the final deliverable for the  Discovery Learning course in the summer of 2022, Carle Illinois College of Medicine students submitted blog posts describing their summer immersion experience. Beverly Tomita's post detailing her work studying neurocardiology was selected as the best in the Electives Immersion category.