CBM Research Training: Summer Opportunities

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The Cardiovascular Behavioral Medicine Training Program has two openings for Pitt MS-1s to participate in a summer research project while receiving a monthly stipend of $1,731/month for 2 months.  The research topics included in this program and the potential projects are quite broad, ranging from laboratory explorations of pathophysiologic disease mechanisms, to CT or PET imaging, to genetic analyses, to clinical trials, and to epidemiological investigations.  Below we list several concrete examples but strongly suggest that medical students peruse the Faculty Interests of our professors and make a few calls to see where your interests mesh with those of these potential mentors.

1. Studies of Omega-3 fatty acids: The relationships between fish oil, cardiovascular disease and mental health.  The omega-3 fatty acids are essential dietary nutrients yet are consumed in very low quantities by most Americans.  A new data set 280 Pittsburgh-area adults permits exploration of associations between serum levels of these fatty acids and various aspects of physical health, risk for cardiovascular disease, mood and cognitive function.  Students would learn about nutritional biochemistry and neuroscience related to the omega-3 fatty acids, and gain experience conducting data analyses, and writing research reports for publication.

2. Structural and Functional NeuroimagingThese ongoing studies are aimed at two research topics. The first focuses on delineating the brain systems that contribute to a person?s tendency to show large-magnitude cardiovascular reactions to psychological stressors, which are associated with increased risk of developing hypertension and atherosclerosis. The second is aimed at understanding how clinical risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including hypertension and chronic stress, adversely affect the structure of brain areas that are important for cognitive functioning. Students would gain experience in brain imaging data analysis, functional neuroanatomy, and behavioral medicine research methods.

3. Risk Factors for CVD and Sleep The majority of research on psychosocial risk factors for cardiovascular disease has focused on measures collected during wakefulness.  In ongoing studies, we are collecting data regarding the interplay between psychological, social, behavioral, and physiological risk factors for cardiovascular disease and sleep.  One study will identify psychological and interpersonal characteristics that are associated with heart rate variability during sleep and subsequent indices of cardiovascular disease risk such as increased inflammation and development of the metabolic syndrome.  A second study will evaluate the extent to which changes in cardiovascular risk factors, including salivary cortisol, markers of inflammation and heart rate variability, are associated with response to a behavioral sleep intervention in a heterogeneous sample of older adults.  Students will obtain experience in heart rate variability analysis, the measurement of sleep, and general methods that are integral to cardiovascular behavioral medicine research.

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