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The Department of Allied Health Sciences (DAHS) is pleased to announce the inaugural winners of the 2018-2019 Sleep Innovative Research Grant (SIRG) awards:

  • Marie Camerota, PhD, and Cathi Propper, PhD, from UNC-Chapel Hill’s Center for Developmental Science, will lead a study titled “Influence of Prenatal Inflammation and Diet on Infant Sleep Quality.” This study will investigate the role of prenatal inflammation and nutrition in the prediction of sleep quality in the first six months of life within an exclusively African-American sample. Leveraging infant sleep data (at three and six months) from a parent project, this pilot study will use biomarkers of prenatal inflammation and nutrition and objective measurement of subsequent infant sleep to explore these critical associations. According to the study’s investigators, this is an important step toward understanding the intergenerational transmission of race-related health disparities.
  • Alana Campbell, PhD, UNC School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry, will join co-PI’s Linda Watson, EdD, and Clare Harrop, PhD, on a study titled “Applying EEG and Behavioral Methods to Understand Sleep Issues in Infants At-Risk for Autism.” This study applies electrophysiological, physiology, behavioral and parent report methods to understand emerging sleep issues in infants at risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Focusing on sleep disturbances in young children at risk for ASD, their work will attempt to characterize sleep patterns in infants at risk for ASD, using video somnography and actigraphy.
  • Graham Diering, PhD, from the UNC School of Medicine Department of Cell Biology and Physiology, and the UNC Neuroscience Center, will head “Molecular Mechanisms of Homeostatic Sleep Drive During Development.” Graham is a member of the UNC Neuroscience Center. The goals of this project are 1) to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying homeostatic scaling that contribute to the restorative functions of sleep; 2) to understand the link between synaptic plasticity and the homeostatic drive for sleep need, and 3) to understand the interaction between homeostatic scaling during sleep and memory As noted by the review panel, by examining the very fundamental cellular level of sleep, this study will have broad applications to the larger community.

Each research team will be funded up to a maximum of $10,000 for their one-year projects.

DAHS Associate Dean and Chair, Stephen Hooper, PhD, noted the strengths of the awarded studies lie in their investigation of understudied populations at elevated risk for sleep problems. “We are looking forward to supporting the work of these investigators and their promising research pilot projects,” Hooper said. “We anticipate that by providing them with funding to support successful pilot projects, their findings will yield sufficient preliminary data to support a future larger-scale grant application.”

DAHS Interim Associate Chair for Research, Elizabeth Crais, PhD, indicated her enthusiasm for the funded project. “This competition has already led to new collaborations across researchers and programs, something we had hoped would become a reality. We will continue to look for ways to bring sleep researchers together across campus. We also express our appreciation to the six reviewers who served on the grant review panel.”

The SIRG program was made possible by a gift from the Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Family Foundation to the DAHS and to the UNC School of Medicine Department of Neurology. The SIRG program was developed as part of this funding an effort to build an internationally recognized program of research in sleep science. Continuing through 2021, the competitive award process will offer three grants annually to UNC-CH investigators.

Sleep grant reviewers include Laura Polittle, Heather Cody Hazlett, Stephen Hooper, Ayse Belger, Heidi Roth, and Zheng (Jane) Fan.

More information about the Sleep Innovative Research Grant program.