Dr. Mander’s recent published work utilized a multimodal neuroimaging approach to quantitatively triangulate relationships between sleep quality, brain structure and function, Alzheimer’s disease neuropathology, and episodic and procedural memory in healthy older adults. Specifically, he has conducted targeted research that revealed that age-related decrements in quantitative measures of non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) sleep oscillations, including slow waves and sleep spindles, contribute to memory decline in older age. These relationships are statistically mediated by the influence of these sleep oscillations on the functioning of the hippocampus in support of facilitating novel encoding and the long-term retention of episodic experiences and procedural skills.
Another critical focus of Dr. Mander’s work is to elucidate the mechanisms explaining why some older adults show more disrupted sleep than others. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques, he has shown that regionally-specific degeneration of white and grey matter in the brain predicts the topographically-specific disruption of NREM slow waves and sleep spindles in cognitively normal older adults. Using positron emission tomography (PET) imaging, he has further shown that, in cognitively normal older adults at risk for Alzheimer’s disease, the degree of accumulated Alzheimer’s disease pathology (e.g. ß-amyloid and tau pathology) disrupts quantitative properties of NREM sleep oscillations in a manner that appears distinct from that observed in normal aging. This is particularly important because identifying preclinical biomarkers of increased Alzheimer’s disease risk will support targeted early interventions to prevent the emergence of Alzheimer’s disease. Moreover, all of this work supports the emerging hypothesis that sleep disruption mechanistically contributes to the initial pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease and to the cognitive impairment associated with its progression. For this collective work, Dr. Mander has received the Wayne A. Hening Sleep Medicine Investigator Award from the American Academy of Neurology, which emphasizes work revealing critical novel links between neurology and sleep medicine. He also received an award for Excellence in Research on Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders from the Northern California and Northern Nevada chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.