University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Promotes Kristine Wilckens, PhD, to Associate Professor of Psychiatry

We are pleased to announce that Kristine Wilckens, PhD, has been promoted to Associate Professor of Psychiatry by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Dr. Wilckens received her PhD in cognitive psychology from the University of Pittsburgh, and completed postdoctoral research training in the Department’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)-funded Clinical and Translational Research Training in Geriatric Mental Health T32 program

Dr. Wilckens’s research incorporates her expertise in both sleep health and geriatric psychiatry. She employs a combination of observational and experimental methods, including cutting-edge imaging techniques, to examine the relationships between sleep, cognitive aging, and brain health, particularly executive function. She has found that more continuous and deeper sleep, characterized by slow-wave activity, promotes memory processing and executive function. She has also related sleep changes to functional imaging markers of executive function and Alzheimer’s disease, including studies using positron emission tomography.

She leads a National Institute on Aging (NIA)-funded R01 examining whether behaviorally enhanced slow-wave activity during sleep leads to improved task-related prefrontal-hippocampal connectivity, plasma Aβ levels, and cognitive function in individuals with Alzheimer's disease. This research addresses whether a simple, feasible, and scalable behavioral sleep intervention improves functional neuroimaging indices of excitotoxicity, Alzheimer’s pathophysiology, and cognitive performance. In addition,

Dr. Wilckens leads an Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center pilot project focused on examining high-resolution flow of cerebrospinal fluid—remarkably, during sleep—in the 7-Tesla scanner. She additionally co-leads Project 2 in the Department’s NIA-funded Program Project Grant, “The role of astrogliosis in aging and the pathological and clinical progression of Alzheimer's disease,” and collaborates as a co-investigator on multiple additional grants.

Dr. Wilckens has published her research in top journals, and has been invited to present her research at numerous meetings including the National Institute on Aging Alzheimer's Disease Centers Fall Meeting. In addition, she is highly involved in service activities with the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, the Sleep Research Society, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine Foundation, and the Alzheimer’s Association International Society to Advance Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment.

A superb teacher, Dr. Wilckens has taught undergraduate, graduate, and medical students, as well as residents, postdoctoral scholars, and other learners. Her medical student teaching includes serving as a sleep medicine lecturer for the Psychiatry Clerkship, and as a facilitator for the Behavioral Medicine Seminar. Dr. Wilckens has provided additional lectures for graduate students in the Bioengineering in Psychiatry T32 predoctoral program, for the Pitt Learning Research and Development Center, and for trainees in the Department of Psychiatry’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)-funded Sleep Medicine T32 program. In the Department of Psychology, she has lectured to graduate students on sleep and circadian rhythms in Alzheimer’s disease, as well as to undergraduates on exercise, sleep, and brain health.

“Dr. Wilckens has established a national and rapidly growing international reputation as a leading expert in the area of sleep and cognition in older adults, and she skillfully employs observational and experimental methods, as well as intervention science, in her work,” said David Lewis, MD (Chair, Department of Psychiatry). “Her research is scientifically innovative and has great potential to improve lives. Dr. Wilckens is additionally a highly productive member of the scientific community and provides outstanding teaching and mentorship to diverse learners.”

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Wilckens!