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.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
Career Transition Award (K99)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZES1)
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Hollander, Jonathan
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Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
United States
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Ljungman, Petter L; Wilker, Elissa H; Rice, Mary B et al. (2016) The Impact of Multipollutant Clusters on the Association Between Fine Particulate Air Pollution and Microvascular Function. Epidemiology 27:194-201
Wilker, Elissa H; Martinez-Ramirez, Sergi; Kloog, Itai et al. (2016) Fine Particulate Matter, Residential Proximity to Major Roads, and Markers of Small Vessel Disease in a Memory Study Population. J Alzheimers Dis 53:1315-23
Wilker, Elissa H; Preis, Sarah R; Beiser, Alexa S et al. (2015) Long-term exposure to fine particulate matter, residential proximity to major roads and measures of brain structure. Stroke 46:1161-6
Graham, Kelly L; Wilker, Elissa H; Howell, Michael D et al. (2015) Differences between early and late readmissions among patients: a cohort study. Ann Intern Med 162:741-9
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
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