This proposal is for a mentored patient-oriented research career development award for Dr. Shawniqua Williams Roberson, Assistant Professor of Neurology and Bioengineering at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Dr. Williams Roberson’s long-term goal is to establish an independent research career using EEG signal processing techniques to study the neurobiology and neurophysiological indicators of ICU delirium and post-ICU cognitive impairment and dementia, a potentially devastating disorder recognized and funded under the Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias (ADRD) for which older adults are at highest risk. To accomplish this, her objectives during the period of this award are: (1) to develop expertise in the design and implementation of patient-oriented clinical research studies in ICU delirium and post-ICU dementia; (2) to gain experience in the assessment of cognitive function as an outcome measure; and (3) to develop the scientific communication, grant writing and leadership skills to support a successful career as an independent researcher.

The central hypothesis of this proposal is that there are objective EEG-based signatures of ICU delirium that predict patterns of post-ICU cognitive impairment and dementia. The specific aims are (1) to characterize quantitatively the resting-state EEG signatures associated with ICU delirium in older adults and (2) to determine the relationship between EEG signatures during recovery from critical illness and post-ICU cognitive performance in this population.

The proposed studies will yield critical information to advance our understanding of the neurobiology underlying delirium and its evolution to post-ICU ADRD by informing development of a novel delirium monitoring tool for the ICU and identifying EEG predictors of ADRD in survivors. The results will be used to inform a subsequent R01 validating an EEG-based index of ICU delirium and a prediction model for post-ICU ADRD. The project will be conducted in the Critical Illness, Brain Dysfunction and Survivorship (CIBS) Center and will allow the PI to capitalize on guidance from a world-class mentoring team. Dr. E. Wesley Ely, a renowned expert in clinical research in aging and critical care populations will be primary mentor and supervise the clinical research methodology.

Dr. James C. Jackson, a world leader in neurocognitive outcomes research, will guide the conduct, analysis and interpretation of cognitive assessments. Dr. Mayur Patel, PI of multiple ongoing NIH-funded studies investigating long-term outcomes after critical care, will oversee professional development in scientific communication, grant writing and leadership. This project will thus provide a platform for Dr. Williams Roberson to establish preliminary data and clinical research skills to launch an independent research career at the intersection of critical illness, cognitive neuroscience, engineering and clinical neurophysiology, where she is uniquely poised to make a durable impact for ICU survivors.