Emerging evidence suggests an important relationship between sleep and Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, and currently has no effective treatment. It has long been recognized that patients with Alzheimer’s disease exhibit changes in their sleep patterns, including fragmentation of their sleep and reduced sleep at night. However, recent studies have pointed towards a potential bidirectional relationship between sleep and Alzheimer’s disease, such that poor sleep may also promote the pathology underlying Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Wu and Dr. Spira, along with collaborators at NIH (Drs. Luigi Ferrucci, Eleanor Simonsick, and Susan Resnick) and at Johns Hopkins (Drs. Jason Brandt, Gwenn Smith, and Dean Wong), have been studying the relationship between sleep and Alzheimer’s disease in animal models and humans. Their work supports the notion that poor sleep may promote the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Given that sleep disorders can be effectively treated, this raises the possibility that poor sleep may be a modifiable risk factor in the development or progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Mark Wu was born and raised in Texas, and then went to Cornell University for his undergraduate work. He then attended medical school at Baylor College of Medicine, where he completed his M.D. degree and also a Ph.D. in neurogenetics research. He performed his residency training in Neurology at UCLA, and then went to the University of Pennsylvania for fellowship training in sleep medicine. At that time, he also performed postdoctoral research on fundamental mechanisms underlying sleep using animal models. He joined the faculty at Johns Hopkins in 2009, and is currently a board-certified neurologist and sleep medicine physician in the Department of Neurology. He also holds joint appointments in the Departments of Medicine, Neuroscience, and Genetic Medicine. His laboratory studies basic mechanisms of sleep, the function of sleep, and the relationship between sleep and human disease in animal models and humans.
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Dr. Adam Spira is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and holds a joint appointment in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Dr. Spira received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from West Virginia University, and completed his clinical internship with a geropsychology focus at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, where he subsequently conducted research on sleep and aging as a postdoctoral fellow. He then completed a fellowship in epidemiological aging research in the Division of Geriatrics and the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Spira’s research is focused on cognitive, functional, and psychiatric outcomes of poor sleep in later life, and he is supported in part by a Mentored Research Scientist Development Award from the National Institute on Aging.
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Read "Shorter Sleep Duration, Poorer Sleep Quality Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease" | Article in the Science Daily on Dr. Wu and Dr. Spira's research
Read “Sleep 'cleans' the brain of toxins” | BBC News Article about the research from University of Rochester
The Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorder Center
The Johns Hopkins Hospital Sleep Disorders Center strives to provide outstanding clinical care for all patients with a wide variety of sleep disorders, as well as education for patients and their families, other physicians and physicians-in-training.
The Alzheimer’s Association
The world's leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer's care, support and research.
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