Dr. Bunney is an Executive Director at University of California Irvine/Pritzker Brain Bank and a member of the Pritzker Research Consortium.
Dr. Bunney has a longstanding interest in circadian research since ﬁrst observing how the manipulation of sleep could dramatically decrease symptoms in a subset of severely depressed patients within 24 hours instead of the weeks to months associated with conventional treatments. Her work and related work by others in this field have been widely cited.
In her current position at the University of California, Irvine, Dr. Bunney continues her work in the ﬁeld of circadian research and depression. In collaboration with the Pritzker Consortium, she has shown that depressed patients had signiﬁcantly dysregulated 24hr rhythms across widespread regions of the brain compared to non-psychiatric controls, who had highly synchronized core clock rhythmicity.
Dr. Bunney, in a separate collaboration, demonstrated that two of the most rapid-acting antidepressants, subanesthetic ketamine and sleep deprivation have overlapping mechanisms of action on clock gene expression in mice. The results suggest that down-regulation of a subset of these clock genes could help ameliorate severe depression.
While working at the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Bunney was one of 24 members of the Department of State Medical Transition Team who ﬂew to Weisbaden, Germany to help in the medical assessment of the American hostages who had been held in Tehran upon their release. As part of this project, she helped assess stress-related cortisol rhythms over a 24hr period. Research has shown that high levels of circadian-regulated cortisol could increase the risk for suicide. She was honored for her work by the Secretary of State and the Foreign Service.
Dr. Bunney has published over 50 scientiﬁc articles and is now expanding her research to include circadian clock gene biology and cancer.