Linking Sleep and Brain Health

Linking Sleep and Brain Health

Carmen Varela, Ph.D., received the Alzheimer’s Association’s Research Fellowship to Promote Diversity award to investigate the relationship between sleep patterns and overall brain health. Poor sleep quality is associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias from early stages and is thought to contribute to the progression of Alzheimer’s, Varela said.

Through this award, Varela will develop new indicators to monitor quality of sleep in deep brain structures affected in Alzheimer’s.

Varela is an assistant professor of psychology in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science and a member of the FAU Stiles-Nicholson Brain Institute. Her research focuses on the role of the thalamus, a critical brain hub that regulates sleep-dependent functions, such as the brain’s capacity to stabilize memories while we rest.

Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S., killing more Americans than diabetes, and more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. More than 6 million Americans are living with the disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2021 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures.

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