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Thanks, Jerry: Honoring pioneering Stanford sleep research

As the writer who has long covered the sleep "beat" for our office, I'm quite familiar with Stanford's rich history of sleep research. For those in need of some background: The Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Center, the first center of its kind, was established in 1970 - by William Dement, MD, PhD, who came here after working in the lab where rapid eye movement was discovered - and numerous advances, like the discovery of the cause of narolepsy, have been made since then. Until recently, though, I wasn't familiar with the role of a Stanford dormitory in that history.

As it turns out, for a ten-year period starting in the mid-70s, the residence now known as Jerry House served as the site of a series of pioneering sleep studies: Undergraduates and members of the community lent themselves for study during "summer sleep camps" at the house. Until that time, the field of sleep research - still in its infancy - had centered on nighttime events, but researcher Mary Carskadon, PhD, now a professor of psychiatry & human behavior at Brown University, focused these camp studies on the role of sleep in daytime function. The participants' sleeping and waking were manipulated, recorded and examined; and the end result was important data on sleep restriction and sleep deprivation, and the establishment of clinical protocols still used today.

“Much of the essential, pioneering sleep work at Stanford was done in these camps,” sleep expert Rafael Pelayo, MD, recently told me. “The work had great consequences on the development of the field of sleep research here and around the world.”

This weekend, Pelayo joined Carskadon, Dement and others in honoring this early, important research and unveiling a wood-and-glass commemorative plaque to be housed there. (Writer Patrick May was there and reported on the event for yesterday's San Jose Mercury News.) The plaque outlines the significance of the studies and highlights the successful careers of Carskadon and Dement, but I like its line of summary the best:

Jerry House at Stanford University was the unique site for seminal research findings that apply to every man, woman and child on the planet.

Photo courtesy of Stanford Residential Education

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