Researcher first to receive prestigious award at USF

For the past 19 years, Dr. Bruce Lindsey has received funding for research. But none have been like the $3.5-million grant he will start using in April.

Lindsey, chairman of physiology and biophysics at USF’s College of Medicine, is the first researcher at USF to receive the Javits Investigator Award from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The grant is regarded as a prestigious award given to only those who have conducted extensive research in neurological disorders and are likely to continue the research for at least seven years.

“From what I understand the award is difficult to get; too many aren’t given out,” Lindsey said.

The grant allows Lindsey, a neuroscientist, and his seven-member research team to continue their research on nerve cells in the brain stem and the base of the brain. With this understanding, Lindsey said, researchers could help with breathing patterns connected with disorders such as sleep apnea, sudden infant death syndrome, hypertension and stroke.

“Our goal is to improve our understanding of how the neural networks in the brain control breathing and blood pressure,” Lindsey said. “We need to apply advanced methods to study this problem.”

Because of the amount of computation involved, Lindsey said, the research requires computers to process the data and make a computer model of the networks of the brain and monitor its activity and how it controls blood pressure.

“There are some current theories that suggest part of the brain stem involved in disorder of breathing is a major problem in us … especially those with sleep disorder,” Lindsey said. “We hope our work will give us a better understanding of parts of the brain and potential cites for future therapies.”

The grant will begin in April, and Lindsey said the long-term goal is to find areas of the brain that trigger disorders, such as high blood pressure, and how they could treat those areas. Lindsey added that hypertension is also often associated with how parts of the brain control breathing.

By understanding how nerve cells control breathing, Lindsey said, the cause for sudden infant death syndrome could be better understood.

“One current theory suggests that the middle of the brain stem has neurons which, when not working properly, are thought to be involved in underlying causes in (sudden infant death syndrome). We need to understand how those neurons work. I really appreciate the recognition of important things the grant will do.”

Lindsey has spent more than 30 years in medicine. Before coming to USF in 1977, he had a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. Former students of his have worked in medicine at Harvard University, Georgetown and Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Neuroscience.