Psychological Science Assistant Professor Receives NIH K23 Award to Support Sleep Research

Ivan Vargas
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Ivan Vargas

Ivan Vargas, assistant professor in the Department of Psychological Science in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, was recently awarded a National Institutes of Health Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award, known as the K23, from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, for his project entitled, "Circadian and Ultradian Cortisol Rhythms in Chronic Sleep Continuity Disturbance."

The K23 is a five-year award, which includes both research and training components. The purpose of this program is to support the career development of individuals with a clinical doctoral degree, "who have the potential to develop into productive, clinical investigators, and who have made a commitment to focus their research endeavors on patient-oriented research."

The scientific aims of Vargas' study are to evaluate whether patients with chronic insomnia, as compared to good sleepers, exhibit an altered ultradian cortisol rhythm (e.g., cortisol pulses every 90-120 minutes) during the day or at night, and to quantify the association between ultradian cortisol secretion and metrics related to spontaneous awakenings from sleep (i.e., timing, frequency, duration, and EEG spectral profile of the awakenings).

The proposed study will be conducted in 20 individuals with chronic insomnia and 20 good sleepers during two consecutive nights in the laboratory. While in the lab, blood will be sampled for 24 hours and sleep will be polysomographically recorded. A refined delineation of both the circadian and ultradian aspects of cortisol secretion may allow for a better understanding of the etiology of chronic insomnia, the efficacy of established treatments, and potentially the development of new therapeutic approaches.

Vargas joined the faculty at the University of Arkansas Department of Psychological Sciences in fall of 2019. He most recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program and the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania. He received his Ph.D. in psychology [clinical science] from the University of Michigan and his B.A. in psychology and sociology from the University of Notre Dame.

Vargas' research broadly investigates the biopsychosocial factors that contribute to the development and maintenance of both insomnia and depression, with the end goal of identifying clinically useful markers that may inform treatment and prevention efforts.



Ivan Vargas, assistant professor
Department of Psychological Science


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