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Getting to the Heart of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Stony Brook researcher receives $1.5 million NIH grant to evaluate daily activity patterns and heart rate of those who suffer from this debilitating illness

Friedberg
Dr. Fred Friedberg explains the heart monitor and electrode placement used in the chronic fatigue syndrome study to fellow investigator Dr. Patricia Bruckenthal of the School of Nursing, and Jenna Adamowicz, center, study coordinator from the Department Psychiatry.

STONY BROOK, N.Y., June 23, 2016 – By better understanding daily activity levels and heart rate patterns of those who suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), scientists hope to discover more about this complex illness condition. Fred Friedberg, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, has received a four-year $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to take this research approach to determine if heart rate fluctuations in combination with certain daily activity patterns can be used to predict or prevent relapse in people with CFS.

According to Dr. Friedberg, also the President of the International Association for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, CFS affects some one million people in the United State and millions worldwide. This condition is characterized by a state of chronic fatigue and other debilitating symptoms, such as post-exertional collapse and cognitive difficulties. These symptoms and related impairments persist for more than six months and have no clearly identified cause.

This study will involve patients self-reporting their symptoms and activities on a weekly online diary over a period of six months. Data will also be recorded from mobile heart devices and activity monitors that the patients wear at home. Over the six month study period, patients will regularly send this objective data back to the Stony Brook laboratory where the information will be downloaded and analyzed for patterns related to CFS symptoms, activities, and impairments. The participants will then be interviewed by a psychiatric nurse via phone about other potentially important illness factors including major life events they have experienced over the study period, their physical and social functioning, and changes in their illness status – i.e., improved or worsened.

“What is promising is that we have proposed an illness model to potentially identify the factors that lead to relapse or improvement,” said Dr. Friedberg. “If a predictor of relapse is discovered, such as heart rate variability in conjunction with certain activity patterns, we may be able to prevent or reduce relapse by adjusting such activity patterns in advance. This could potentially be the first biomarker of illness worsening or improvement in this illness.”

Dr. Friedberg expects that the data collected from the study will be used to generate a new, potentially more effective self-management program that ultimately helps patients avoid relapses and feel and function better.

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About Stony Brook University 

Part of the State University of New York system, Stony Brook University encompasses 200 buildings on 1,450 acres. Since welcoming its first incoming class in 1957, the University has grown tremendously, now with more than 25,000 students and 2,500 faculty. Its membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU) places Stony Brook among the top 62 research institutions in North America. U.S. News & World Report ranks Stony Brook among the top 100 universities in the nation and top 40 public universities, and Kiplinger names it one of the 35 best values in public colleges. One of four University Center campuses in the SUNY system, Stony Brook co-manages Brookhaven National Laboratory, putting it in an elite group of universities that run federal research and development laboratories. A global ranking by U.S. News & World Report places Stony Brook in the top 1 percent of institutions worldwide.  It is one of only 10 universities nationwide recognized by the National Science Foundation for combining research with undergraduate education. As the largest single-site employer on Long Island, Stony Brook is a driving force of the regional economy, with an annual economic impact of $4.65 billion, generating nearly 60,000 jobs, and accounts for nearly 4 percent of all economic activity in Nassau and Suffolk counties, and roughly 7.5 percent of total jobs in Suffolk County.

Greg Filiano
Media Relations Manager, School of Medicine
631-444-9343
gregory.filiano@stonybrookmedicine.edu