Honours Opportunity - Biomarkers and Motor Vehicle Accident Risk

BMedSci Honours Project 2019

Project Subject Area(s):- Assessing the performance of a new fitness to drive test in patients with obstructive sleep apnea


Brief Outline of Project: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common sleep disorder linked with increased daytime sleepiness, impaired driving performance and increased motor vehicle accident risk. However, not all patients are impaired by OSA and identifying which patients are affected is a daily clinical challenge for sleep specialists. To address this problem, the main aim of this project is to validate a new assessment of driving impairment in patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) towards developing a clinically deployable, simplified and cost effect fitness to drive assessment.

The current gold standard clinical test for daytime sleepiness is the maintenance of wakefulness test (MWT), which assesses the patient’s ability to stay awake in a controlled sleep laboratory soporific environment. The problem with this test is that it is an all-day, labour intensive and expensive test, limiting its utility to only in a small portion of OSA patients where excessive sleepiness is clear or work regulations require the test (professional drivers). This leaves most patients with OSA untested in regards to the risk of alertness failure while driving, and hence forms the rationale for this research to develop a much simpler fitness to drive assessment.

As part of a larger project funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC), there is a unique opportunity for an enthusiastic student to undertake an honours project. The project would involve comparing the ability of the current MWT gold standard sleepiness test vs the new simplified assessment to predict driving impairment in both OSA patients and healthy matched controls. The protocol will involve sleep deprivation and driving simulator assessments. As part of the broader project there will also be measurements including, sleep and wake EEG, balance tests, skin temperature measures as well as biological (blood and saliva) samples towards further biomarker discovery. This provides a range of opportunities for other project topics and questions to be explored with interested prospective students.

If you are interested in this honours project opportunity, please do not hesitate to reach out via email for any more information about the project and/or to set up a face to face meeting to discuss the project further.


For further information please contact Dr Andrew Vakulin

E: andrew.vakulin@flinders.edu.au

T: 08 7221 8308