PHILADELPHIA — David F. Dinges, PhD, chief of the division of Sleep and Chronobiology and director of the Unit for Experimental Psychiatry in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, has been awarded the 2016 Pioneer Award from the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI).
The National Space Biomedical Research Institute Pioneer Award, started in 1999, recognizes an individual each year whose efforts and accomplishments have blazed new trails on behalf of the Institute, its partnership with NASA and the space biomedical community at large.
Dinges has conducted studies through peer-review grant funding from NSBRI (via NASA NCC9-58) since NSBRI's inception in 1997 and has conducted additional grant-funded research for NASA during this period. His recent research for NASA includes studies of sleep, alertness and neurobehavioral responses of astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS), people living in isolated, confined, extreme space-analog environments, and laboratory experiments on biomarkers of phenotypic vulnerability to the effects of chronic inadequate sleep. He recently completed, together with collaborator Mathias Basner, MD, PhD, MSc, a study of 24 astronauts before, during and after their 6-month missions on the ISS; and studies of sleep medications for personalized medicine in spaceflight. He is currently leading a group of scientists integrating a suite of validated "Behavioral Core Measures" for use by NASA in spaceflight, space analogs and exploration missions.
“I am grateful to NSBRI and the many collaborators who made our research impactful for the space program,” Dinges said. The award acknowledges the critical importance of scientific work on identifying and mitigating factors that adversely affect sleep and chronobiology in spaceflight. Astronauts must perform at a consistently high level in the lethal environment of space, and adequate sleep and circadian timing are essential to their performance capability. Our work to develop tools that identify and prevent these neurobehavioral deficits helps ensure that astronauts are capable of performing at a high level during the rigors of spaceflight.”
In 2007, Dinges received the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, the highest honor NASA bestows to a non-government employee whose accomplishments contributed substantially to the NASA mission. Two years later, he received the Raymond F. Longacre Award for Outstanding Accomplishment in the Psychological and Psychiatric Aspects of Aerospace Medicine from the Aerospace Medical Association.
A renowned expert on the neurobehavioral and physiological regulation of human health and performance in the areas of sleep and chronobiology, Dinges has more than 300 scholarly publications whose findings have impacted public policy, public health recommendations, and work schedules for professionals in safety-sensitive occupations, such as astronauts, pilots, health care professionals, commercial drivers, and first responders.
In addition, Dinges created and validated the psychomotor vigilance test, one of the most widely used assays for behavioral alertness pertaining to sleep need and circadian dynamics.
He received the NSBRI Pioneer Award earlier this month at the 2016 NASA Human Research Program Investigators’ Workshop on "Frontiers in Human Space Exploration Research" at Galveston Island, Texas.
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