Dr. Elissa Wilker's long term career goal is to become an independent investigator capable of leading studies on environmental impacts and brain activity. The objective of this research proposal is to elucidate the impact of traffic pollution o brain structure and cognitive function in a population that includes individuals with mild memory complaints or early dementia. During the mentored (K99) phase of this award, the applicant will gain expertise conducting studies of the chronic effects of air pollution on cognitive decline and small vessel disease, as assessed by neuroimaging. She will also receive training in the areas of neuroepidemiology, neuroscience and dementia, advanced statistical methodology and exposure assessment. Dr. Murray Mittleman will serve as the Primary Mentor for this award and will oversee all aspects of Dr. Wilker's training. Dr. Mittleman has a unique expertise in environmental epidemiology, biological mechanisms, and statistical methods that will make him an ideal coordinator for the mentorship team. He also has extensive mentorship experience and will provide primary support for career development. In addition, Dr. Wilker will be co-mentored by Dr. Deborah Blacker and Dr. Anand Viswanathan in order to receive specific training in neuroepidemiology, neuroimaging methodologies and their clinical interpretation. Dr. Wilker will also have support in environmental-and neuro-statistical methods as well as environmental exposure assessment. During the independent phase (R00) phase of this award, the applicant will investigate associations between traffic exposures and novel neuroimaging measures of cortical morphology and amyloid deposition. The proposed research uses detailed individual-level estimates of long term exposure to traffic pollution and state of the art neuroimaging to study the effects of traffic on the brain in a population with mild cognitive impairment. This work will provide a first step in developing a comprehensive approach to identify environmental risk factors of structural changes in the brain and declines in cognitive function. The findings from this program of research will elucidate understanding the underlying vascular and non-vascular mechanisms of air pollution effects on the brain in a population at risk for further cognitive decline and dementia.

Public Health Relevance

The environmental risk factors that contribute to cognitive decline are not well understood. Traffic pollution has been associated with cognitive performance in older populations, but never before among individuals with cognitive impairment. In this study, the candidate will examine associations between long-term exposure to traffic pollution and measures of brain structure and cognitive function. The findings from this program of research will help in understanding the mechanisms underlying the effects of air pollution on the brain.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Type
Career Transition Award (K99)
Project #
5K99ES022243-02
Application #
8730653
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZES1)
Program Officer
Hollander, Jonathan
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
2
Fiscal Year
2014
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Name
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Department
Type
DUNS #
City
Boston
State
MA
Country
United States
Zip Code
02215
Ljungman, Petter L; Wilker, Elissa H; Rice, Mary B et al. (2014) Short-term exposure to air pollution and digital vascular function. Am J Epidemiol 180:482-9
Wilker, Elissa H; Wu, Chih-Da; McNeely, Eileen et al. (2014) Green space and mortality following ischemic stroke. Environ Res 133:42-8
Wilker, Elissa H; Ljungman, Petter L; Rice, Mary B et al. (2014) Relation of long-term exposure to air pollution to brachial artery flow-mediated dilation and reactive hyperemia. Am J Cardiol 113:2057-63