Bridging the Gap

Bridging the Gap focuses on the relationship between basic research and medicine, in order to develop an appreciation for the science that underlies the foundations of modern medicine.

Mariam Bonyadi Mariam Bonyadi (14 Posts)

Columnist and in-Training Staff Member

University of Illinois College of Medicine


Mariam graduated with a BS in microbiology, immunology, and molecular genetics at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she conducted undergraduate research in B-cell development and lymphomagenesis as well as the neurobiology of stress. In high school, Mariam spent several years studying mechanisms of induced pluripotency in an embryonic stem cell research lab at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla. She now studies computational neuroscience and medicine as part of the Medical Scholars Program (MD/PhD) and the Neuroscience Program (NSP) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Outside of research and clinical experiences, Mariam has earned a black belt in Taekwondo and enjoys yoga and San Diego beaches.

Bridging the Gap

Bridging the Gap focuses on the relationship between basic research and medicine, in order to develop an appreciation for the science that underlies the foundations of modern medicine.




Transcending Time

The definition of “getting old” has changed dramatically in recent years. Due to the remarkable advances in medical technologies and interventions, the average life expectancy in the United States has been rising exponentially over the past 50 years. But while our bodies are lasting longer, our brains are still susceptible to the cognitive decline associated with aging.

Too Much Exercise? A Closer Look At Modern Fitness Trends

Social media pages with titles like “Motivation For Fitness” and “Gym Looks” are becoming increasingly popular, and it’s hard not to notice the explosion of fitness popularity. But even as the diet industry dwindles and our newfound fascination with health hits its stride, it is important to consider the ramifications of these cultural changes. Has this new trend led to the rise of what has been called “excessive exercise” and how much exercise is too much? Here, we examine how the current rise in fitness culture may be affecting our bodies.

Food for Thought and Thought for Food: Aberrant Reward Signaling in Eating Disorders

With each new year, we are pressured to construct a “new self” guided by resolutions. We design a “new year, new me,” fueling the marketing of self-improvement products around December and January. The explosion of fitness equipment in stores during this time attests to the pervasiveness of an annual self-improvement routine in our culture. Importantly, this phenomenon of constructing resolutions to improve body image represents some of the elements of our potentially misaligned “beauty culture,” where popular culture could be involved in driving individuals to extreme measures to achieve weight loss.

Another Look at the Antidepressant “Myth”

Within the next three years, ketamine, the popular club drug referred to as “Special K,” may replace the current generation of antidepressant drugs. By substantially reducing the latency of antidepressant effect, the use of ketamine as an antidepressant may hold promise and is in fact in Phase 3 trials for FDA approval. But, how does ketamine work to alleviate depressive symptoms, and how does this approach fit with our current understanding of depression? Do we currently understand depression?

Examining the Role of Psychosocial Factors Beyond the Brain

Anyone who has come face to face with a bear can attest to the fact that our bodies can respond physiologically to emotional stimuli in the environment. A racing heart rate, rapid breathing and pounding cardiac output are all physiological responses that may take place during such an encounter. But we do not necessarily need to run into a bear to dramatically affect our cardiovascular (CV) health.

How Belief Influences the Practice of Medicine

While dancing on the line between church and state, the Supreme Court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby’s decision to not fund contraceptives for its employees drew considerable media attention and controversy. Since the use of contraceptives opposes the religious beliefs of the company leaders, Hobby Lobby employees seeking access to contraceptives must pay for them out of pocket. To better understand the experience of faith that ultimately guided the Hobby Lobby company leaders and in order to “bridge the gap” between science and medicine on the topic of religion, it is important to explore the mechanisms by which widely used religious routines affect our brains.

Ebola-Fueled Racism and the Brain

When a Guinean woman was riding the bus in Italy, she was verbally harassed by a young Italian girl who was also a passenger on the bus. The girl was screaming and accusing the Guinean woman of having the Ebola virus. Then, the young girl’s relatives proceeded to assault and beat the woman. Although the victim was taken to the hospital, she sustained injuries from the attack. Race alone, rather than symptom presentation or travel …

Run, Walk, or Diet? Insights into Exercise Science

During the respiration unit of my undergraduate anatomy class, one of my students asked about differences in lung volume, and the effects of “being a runner” versus someone who does not exercise as regularly. While it is widely accepted that regular exercise can improve inspiratory capacity, the diverse impact of exercise on hormone levels and neurogenesis is not discussed as frequently. Exercise science is currently being heavily researched, and an understanding of recent findings can …

25×25 Global Perspectives: Heart Health and Tobacco Use

Public universities are increasingly becoming “smoke-free” campuses, and the city of Melbourne, Australia, has recently entertained the possibility of becoming a “smoke-free” city. Some countries, including New Zealand, have implemented policies towards an “endgame” goal, in which the entire country will eventually become “smoke-free” on the grounds of protecting the health and wellbeing of its people. There clearly exists a divergence between the policy making of some of the globe’s leading first world countries in …

Nutrition, Cognition, and Longevity

The world’s oldest person, a 116-year-old Japanese woman, Ms. Misao Okawa, recently shared with the media her secret to a long life: “Eat and sleep and you will live a long time.  This advice is certainly appealing to sushi lovers (Ms. Okawa’s favorite meal!) and those who desire the return of “naptime” in school and the workplace. While the benefits of sleep were discussed in detail in a previous article on Bridging the Gap, the …

When the Brain Says, “I Need More…”

While walking around campus at the beginning of the new semester, it is hard not to notice the sudden appearance of signs instructing us to “Breathe Freely” because the campus is now “Smoke-Free.” The new law has challenged some students and faculty to forego smoking altogether, and has enticed discussion about the regulation of harmful addictive substances, often revealing the social baggage associated with addictive behavior. The duality of alcohol, for example, as both the …

To Study Harder, or Sleep Longer?

The long lines at coffee shops and large crowds in the library on a university campus often indicate that it is finals week. The disproportionate numbers of students carrying energy drinks and having zombie-like appearances are both dead giveaways as well. While we are stressfully cramming, consuming junk food (“study snacks”), and consequently depriving ourselves of sleep for just a few more hours of studying, how much are we gaining (or losing) from our shift …

Mariam Bonyadi Mariam Bonyadi (14 Posts)

Columnist and in-Training Staff Member

University of Illinois College of Medicine


Mariam graduated with a BS in microbiology, immunology, and molecular genetics at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she conducted undergraduate research in B-cell development and lymphomagenesis as well as the neurobiology of stress. In high school, Mariam spent several years studying mechanisms of induced pluripotency in an embryonic stem cell research lab at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla. She now studies computational neuroscience and medicine as part of the Medical Scholars Program (MD/PhD) and the Neuroscience Program (NSP) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Outside of research and clinical experiences, Mariam has earned a black belt in Taekwondo and enjoys yoga and San Diego beaches.

Bridging the Gap

Bridging the Gap focuses on the relationship between basic research and medicine, in order to develop an appreciation for the science that underlies the foundations of modern medicine.