Trey Sunderland


For some reason, I have always liked older people. Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, I went to Harvard to study psychology. Even as an undergraduate, my special interest was in geriatrics. After studying medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine, I did a medical internship at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. My residency was in psychiatry at Harvard's McLean Hospital in Belmont, MA where I further pursued my interest in geriatric psychiatry. Back in Washington, DC, I did a research fellowship at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). It was there that I started a research program in Alzheimer's disease and geriatric depression. Over the next twenty-five years, I was able to build my interests from small individual research studies to create the Geriatric Psychiatry Branch at the NIMH. 

My main scientific interest has been the use of biomarkers to help establish an early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. We used genetic markers, structural and functional brain imaging, cognitive testing, blood tests and cerebrospinal fluid measures to help predict future dementia in normal people. It is hypothesized that these biomarkers will generate an early "fingerprint" of Alzheimer's disease. If we can catch the illness early, maybe even years before symptoms start, perhaps there are treatments that might help delay or even prevent the first symptoms of this devastating illness. This strategy could eventually help millions of people, but we need an effective preventative medication and that is not yet available. That is the future challenge in Alzheimer’s disease research.

As a scientist, I have published over 250 scientific papers in national and international journals. I am also the co-author of Aging and Mental Health, a general aging textbook, with Robert N. Butler and Myrna Lewis. For many years, I was the Chair of the Medical Advisory Board for the Washington, D.C. Alzheimer Association. Currently, I am a member of several national research organizations, have served on editorial boards for multiple scientific journals and am a Past-President of the Society of Biological Psychiatry. Since retiring from the NIMH in 2007, I have established a private practice in adult psychiatry where I see people of all ages but focus on elderly patients. I am also the psychiatric consultant to several nursing facilities in northwest Washington, DC. It appears I still like older people.