Why is this study being done?
As the Canadian population ages, preventing Alzheimer's disease and other causes of cognitive impairment, or slowing its progression, are emerging as key public health challenges.
We spend almost one-third of our lives asleep and many older Canadians experience disrupted or inadequate sleep. Existing research suggests that older adults with disrupted sleep have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and other causes of cognitive impairment. Treatment of sleep disorders such as sleep apnea can have a positive effect on cognition. However, there is a lot that we do not know about the links between sleep health and brain health.
The Ontario Sleep and Brain Health Study is an exciting new initiative that will help to fill this gap.
Between 2015 and 2018, we are inviting 300 participants of existing Ontario-based studies of aging and brain health to measure their own sleep and circadian rhythms in the comfort of their own homes. These measurements will be linked to existing brain scans and cognitive test results to answer three key questions:
- What aspects of sleep disruption (e.g. insufficient sleep, fragmented sleep, irregular sleep, or specific sleep disorders such as sleep apnea) most impact the risk and rate of progression for Alzheimer's disease and other causes of cognitive impairment?
- What causes of cognitive impairment are most affected?
- What are the biological mechanisms underlying these effects?
By building a better understanding of the links between sleep health and brain health, the Ontario Sleep and Brain Health Study will help us design novel sleep-based interventions to enhance brain health and slow or prevent cognitive decline in adults with and without Alzheimer's disease and other causes of cognitive impairment.
Dr. Andrew Lim
Dr. Lim is the principal investigator of the Ontario Sleep and Brain Health Study. He is a scientist in the Hurvitz Brain Sciences Research Program at Sunnybrook Research Institute, an assistant professor of neurology at the University of Toronto and a neurologist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto. The focus of his practice is on disorders of sleep and circadian biology, especially as they relate to brain health. He completed an MD and residency in neurology at U of T, a clinical sleep fellowship at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and a master's degree in clinical investigation at Harvard Medical School.
His research uses statistical genetic, neuropathological and epidemiological studies to understand better the genes and neural circuits that regulate individuals' biological clocks and their sleep. The aim is to understand how disruption of sleep and biological rhythms, as seen in conditions such as insomnia, shift-work and jet lag, impact the risk and progression of Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and stroke. In previous studies, he played a key role in demonstrating that older adults with fragmented sleep have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and related brain changes, and identifying a key brain region responsible for disrupted sleep in older adults with and without Alzheimer's disease.
Dr. Sandra Black
Dr. Black is a co-investigator of the Ontario Sleep and Brain Health Study. She is the director of the Hurvitz Brain Sciences Research Program at Sunnybrook Research Institute and a Brill professor of neurology at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and the University of Toronto. She completed an MD and neurology fellowship at U of T. She is also the executive director of the Toronto Dementia Research Alliance, director of Sunnybrook's LC Campbell Cognitive Neurology Research Unit, and site leader of the Heart and Stroke Foundation Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery. She serves on the executive committees of the Alzheimer's Association International Society to Advance Alzheimer Research and the International Society for Vascular Behavioural and Cognitive Disorders.
As a neurologist at Sunnybrook, her practice specializes in dementia, Alzheimer's disease, vascular cognitive impairment and stroke recovery. Her research focuses on the cognitive effects of stroke and stroke recovery, the differential diagnoses of dementia and the use of neuroimaging techniques to elucidate brain-behaviour relationships in stroke and dementia.
Giselle Kraus is the study coordinator of the Ontario Sleep and Brain Health Study. Before starting as the study coordinator, Giselle was a research coordinator for four years in the mood disorders program of the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, Canada. She has completed a master of science in psychiatry and a bachelor of arts in psychology, both at McGill University.
The Ontario Sleep and Brain Health Study is supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, Brain Canada, ResMed Inc., and Philips-Respironics.