Imperial College London


Faculty of MedicineNational Heart & Lung Institute

Professor of Sleep & Respiratory Physiology







Room 103ASir Alexander Fleming BuildingSouth Kensington Campus





Mary Morrell is Professor of Sleep and Respiratory Physiology at the National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London. She received her PhD in Physiology from the University of London, having previously trained and practised as a Nurse at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington. As a PhD student in the Department of Respiratory Medicine at Charing Cross Hospital, she developed an interest in sleep and the control of breathing, which has shaped her research career.

Mary is the Director of Phase One (Years 1-3) of Imperial College School of Medicine (ICSM) MBBS programme and the Interim Head of the newly formed Cumbria School of Medicine.

Research: Mary completed her postdoctoral training at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, funded by a Wellcome Trust Prize International Travelling Research Fellowship. Upon her return to the UK, she set-up the Academic Unit of Sleep and Breathing with clinical colleagues at the Royal Brompton Hospital. The group aimed to investigate the causes and consequences of sleep disordered breathing and, specifically, to translate research findings into improvements in patient care. This led her to establish a UK respiratory sleep research network. The trials carried out by this team have been incorporated into healthcare guidelines (NICE: National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, UK) increasing treatment options for patients with sleep apnoea.

Leadership: Mary has served on the Board of Directors of the American Thoracic Society as Chair of the Respiratory Neurobiology and Sleep Assembly, and on the Executive Committee of the Physiological Society as a Trustee and Chair of Policy Committee. She is a former President of the British Sleep Society. 

Education: â€˜Education is freedom’ and Mary is an enthusiastic lifelong learner. As Director of Phase One, she is responsible for the first three years of the ICSM MBBS programme, managing a team of educators and over 1,000 students.

Imperial College School of Medicine has recently completed a major curriculum review, rolling out a new MBBS programme in 2019-20. Mary led a team of over 60 people to develop the new Phase One curriculum.  The new curriculum focuses on clinical skills, underpinned by the scientific understanding of medicine, incorporating the use of technology.  The programme has been designed to prepare students for the introduction of the new Medical Licensing Assessment and the challenges of working in the NHS.

Mary has also developed other educational programmes including an MSc Cardiovascular and Respiratory Healthcare, an intercalated BSc in Remote Medicine, and a Research Development Course, which is now managed by the Clinical Academic Training Office. She has also supervised 25 PhD/MD research fellows from a range of clinical and scientific backgrounds (two students currently registered).

In 2014, Mary was awarded the President's Medal for Excellence in Teaching in recognition for her leadership in the development of the Imperial College Success Guide for Undergraduate students. In 2023, she was also the recipient of a Faculty of Medicine 25th Anniversary Staff Award for Outstanding Leadership in Education, based on nominations from the Faculty community.

In April 2022, University of Cumbria and Imperial College London announced plans for new medical school in Carlisle and in August 2023, Mary was appointed the Interim Head of the newly formed Cumbria School of Medicine.

When not in the lab or teaching, Mary has also carried out Sleep Research Projects at high altitude and has held a Wellcome Trust Science Arts Grant.

Selected Publications

Journal Articles

Polsek D, Cash D, Veronese M, et al., 2020, The innate immune toll-like-receptor-2 modulates the depressogenic and anorexiolytic neuroinflammatory response in obstructive sleep apnoea, Scientific Reports, Vol:10, ISSN:2045-2322

Wimms AJ, Kelly JL, Turnbull CD, et al., 2020, Continuous positive airway pressure versus standard care for the treatment of people with mild obstructive sleep apnoea (MERGE): a multicentre, randomised controlled trial, The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, Vol:8, ISSN:2213-2600, Pages:349-358

Benjafield AV, Ayas NT, Eastwood PR, et al., 2019, Estimation of the global prevalence and burden of obstructive sleep apnoea: a literature-based analysis, The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, Vol:7, ISSN:2213-2600, Pages:687-698

Alqurashi YD, Nakamura T, Goverdovsky V, et al., 2018, A novel in-ear sensor to determine sleep latency during the Multiple Sleep Latency Test in healthy adults with and without sleep restriction, Nature and Science of Sleep, Vol:10, ISSN:1179-1608, Pages:385-396

Polsek D, Gildeh N, Cash D, et al., 2018, Obstructive sleep apnoea and Alzheimer's disease: in search of shared pathomechanisms, Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, Vol:86, ISSN:0149-7634, Pages:142-149

Bucks RS, Olaithe M, Rosenzweig I, et al., 2017, Reviewing the relationship between OSA and cognition: Where do we go from here?, Respirology, Vol:22, ISSN:1323-7799, Pages:1253-1261

Looney D, Goverdovsky V, Rosenzweig I, et al., 2016, A Wearable In-Ear Encephalography Sensor for Monitoring Sleep: Preliminary Observations from Nap Studies, Annals of the American Thoracic Society, Vol:13, ISSN:2329-6933, Pages:2229-2233

Emamian F, Khazaie H, Tahmasian M, et al., 2016, The Association Between Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Alzheimer’s Disease: A Meta-Analysis Perspective, Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, Vol:8, ISSN:1663-4365

Rosenzweig I, Glasser M, Polsek D, et al., 2015, Sleep apnoea and the brain: a complex relationship., Lancet Respiratory Medicine, Vol:3, ISSN:2213-2619, Pages:404-414

Rosenzweig I, Williams SCR, Morrell MJ, 2014, The impact of sleep and hypoxia on the brain: potential mechanisms for the effects of obstructive sleep apnea, Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine, Vol:20, ISSN:1070-5287, Pages:565-571

McMillan A, Bratton DJ, Faria R, et al., 2014, Continuous positive airway pressure in older people with obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (PREDICT): a 12-month, multicentre, randomised trial, The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, Vol:2, ISSN:2213-2600, Pages:804-812

Morrell MJ, Jackson ML, Twigg GL, et al., 2010, Changes in brain morphology in patients with obstructive sleep apnoea, Thorax, Vol:65, ISSN:0040-6376, Pages:908-914

Twigg GL, Papaioannou I, Jackson M, et al., 2010, Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome Is Associated with Deficits in Verbal but Not Visual Memory, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Vol:182, ISSN:1073-449X, Pages:98-103

Goff EA, O'Driscoll DM, Simonds AK, et al., 2008, The cardiovascular response to arousal from sleep decreases with age in healthy adults, Sleep, Vol:31, Pages:1009-1017

Morrell MJ, Meadows GE, Hastings P, et al., 2007, The effects of adaptive servo ventilation on cerebral vascular reactivity in patients with congestive heart failure and sleep-disordered breathing, Sleep, Vol:30, Pages:648-653

Morrell MJ, McRobbie DW, Quest RA, et al., 2003, Changes in brain morphology associated with obstructive sleep apnea, Sleep Medicine, Vol:4, ISSN:1389-9457, Pages:451-454

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