Grantee: Michael R. Irwin

Michael R. Irwin

Michael R. Irwin, MD

Psychiatric Clinical Translational Scientist
  • University of California - Los Angeles

Michael Irwin, M.D., is one of the world's foremost experts on the psychoneuroimmunological pathways by which psychosocial and behavioral factors influence health and disease. He is the Norman Cousins Distinguished Professorship in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Science at the UCLA Geffen School of Medicine; Director of the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at the UCLA Semel Institute; and Director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at the UCLA Semel Institute. His research focuses on understanding the reciprocal interactions between the immune and central nervous systems and the role of sleep disturbance on the molecular and cellular inflammatory signaling pathways that influence depression and physical health risk among cancer survivors and older adults.

Dr. Irwin discovered that stress activation of central neuropeptides (i.e., CRH) regulates cellular and innate immune responses. It is characterized as a "conserved transcriptional response to adversity," in which stress both steers a reduction in anti-viral immunity and simultaneously induces transcriptional activation of inflammatory signaling. Stress activation also demonstrated that sleep disturbance activates biological aging, which increases risk for chronic disease and depression. Dr. Irwin was among the first to show that inflammation causally induces depression by regulating affect mechanisms, reward processing, and related neural sensitivities. These mechanisms together guided his development of a novel social signal transduction theory of depression. His pioneering work in psychoneuroimmunology has defined the biological basis for the efficacy of behavioral and mind-body treatments to complement traditional biomedical approaches, augment anti-viral vaccine responses, and reverse inflammatory signaling and molecular markers of aging. Dr. Irwin has developed and empirically validated a curriculum-based mindfulness program for depression and insomnia, which is now used in multi-site trials and disseminated globally by virtue of community outreach, an international training program, and web-based platforms.

The Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at UCLA has discovered that sleep and health are intimately inter-connected: insomnia induces adverse trajectories of disease risk, activates inflammatory biology, and accelerates cellular aging. In turn, interventional strategies from behavioral to mind-body treatments effectively target sleep problems and reverse the course of biological mechanisms of disease risk, aging, and possibly cancer, which together optimize healthspan.”

Selected Grants

Project Title Grant Number Program Director Application
Sleep Disturbance, Inflammation, and Cellular Aging in Breast Cancer Survivors 1R01CA207130-01 Paige Green App PDF File

* The Behavioral Research Program is grateful to this investigator for providing a Sample Grant Application as an excellent example of grantsmanship. The Adobe Reader is needed to read PDF files. Download Adobe Reader for free.