JAN. 26, 2012

Media advisory: Jan. 28 ceremony and Grateful Dead-style jam to commemorate landmark sleep research

BY MICHELLE L. BRANDT

“Didn't get to sleep last night ’til the morning came around,” the late, great Grateful Dead singer Jerry Garcia sang in “Friend of the Devil” back in the 1970s. Not long after, hundreds of Stanford University students found themselves sleep-deprived, as well — not because they had “lit out from Reno … trailed by 20 hounds,” but because they had been subjects in a series of pioneering sleep studies held in a Stanford fraternity house.

The historic research is to be commemorated on Jan. 28 at the building, now a dormitory, that was renamed Jerry House in the mid-2000s in honor of the singer. (The building, which has long been decorated with Grateful Dead posters and artifacts, had been called Lambda Nu until students elected for the change.) A large wood-and-glass commemorative plaque will be unveiled at the event that reads, in part, “Jerry House at Stanford University was the unique site for seminal research findings that apply to every man, woman and child on the planet.”

The event will take place in the common room of the residence. There will be talks by the two researchers who led the studies — William Dement, MD, PhD, the Lowell W. and Josephine Q. Berry Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford; and Mary Carskadon, PhD, a professor of psychiatry & human behavior at Brown University who was at Stanford at that time. While Garcia was not involved in the research, the event will also have a Grateful Dead-style jam session, led by Bay Area musicians Jeff Chimenti and Jeff Perhson and several Stanford alumni.

For a 10-year period starting in the mid-1970s, undergraduates and members of the community lent themselves for study during Stanford University Summer Sleep Camps, which Carskadon organized under Dement’s direction. Until that time, most sleep research had focused on nighttime events, but Carskadon focused her studies on the role of sleep in daytime function. The work, in turn, yielded important data on sleep restriction and sleep deprivation, and established important clinical protocols still used today.

“Much of the essential, pioneering sleep work at Stanford was done in these camps,” said Rafael Pelayo, MD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and an organizer of the Jan. 28 event. “The work had great consequences on the development of the field of sleep research here and around the world.”

Pelayo said Dement had wanted for years to do something to mark the spot of this early research, and the university recently approved the installing of a plaque. The plaque outlines the significance of the research and highlights the successful careers of Carskadon and Dement, who founded the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Center, the first center of its kind.

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