Catalyzing a career in sleep research as a physician-scientist



By Amy Pyle
Monday, June 6, 2016

In 2012 AASM member Brendan P. Lucey, MD, transitioned from being on active duty in the United States Air Force to starting a career as a physician-scientist. He landed as junior faculty in the sleep medicine division in the department of neurology at Washington University School of Medicine. 

Following discussions with his mentors, he focused on studying the relationships between sleep, aging and Alzheimer’s disease.  He also applied for the 2013 Physician Scientist Training Award from the American Sleep Medicine Foundation and received an award for his project, “Sleep and preclinical Alzheimer's disease.”

“The award was ideal for me as a means to develop my research ideas and build a successful track record in the field,” said Dr. Lucey.

His project plan was to measure multiple aspects of sleep in the homes of cognitively-normal and mildly cognitively-impaired older adults 65 years of age and older. The research design was to measure sleep using sleep diaries, activity, and a single-channel EEG device worn on the forehead for sleep staging.  These tools would help him gather data on total sleep time, sleep efficiency, sleep stages, and other sleep parameters so that he could investigate relationships between sleep and different cognitive, functional and structural biomarkers of AD pathology, which he measured through cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and amyloid imaging. 

Shortly after submitting his application, the company that made the single-channel EEG device he had planned to use went bankrupt.  He found an alternative device that would allow him to continue the study, but it had not been validated against polysomnography.  During his award period, he led a comparison study between the single-channel EEG device and polysomnography. His work was recently accepted for publication. 

He continued the study and eventually obtained additional funding through a program project grant to extend the sleep assessments longitudinally.  He hopes to submit results from the project for publication within the next year.

“The Physician Scientist Training Award from the American Sleep Medicine Foundation has been a catalyst for my current success in obtaining funding from the Washington University Clinical and Translational Science Award, National Institutes of Health, and other foundations,” stated Dr. Lucey. “I am very grateful for the critical support I received from the ASMF at the start of my research career that laid the groundwork for continuing success.”