UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Donna M. Fick, Elouise Ross Eberly Professor of Nursing and director of the Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence at Penn State, is part of an interdisciplinary team awarded a $3.7 million grant from the National Institute on Aging — the first of its kind — to build a worldwide interdisciplinary collaborative network of delirium researchers.

The Network for Investigation of Delirium across the United States (NIDUS) will unite delirium experts from at least 27 organizations in focused collaborative efforts, said Sharon K. Inouye, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and leader of the NIDUS team.

“The study of delirium is inherently difficult, with multiple challenges influencing the pace of scientific discovery,” said Inouye, who is also director of the Aging Brain Center at the Institute for Aging Research at Hebrew SeniorLife, a Harvard Medical School affiliate. “I believe bringing together multiple experts with varying approaches and skill sets will be the approach most likely to accelerate advancements in this area.”

Delirium, a common clinical syndrome in older adults, presents as an acute mental condition characterized by confused thinking and disrupted attention. It affects more than 2.6 million older Americans each year, typically following surgery, hospitalization or acute illness. With a price tag of more than $164 billion in annual health care expenditures, delirium can be serious and even life threatening, often leading to cognitive decline and an increased risk of morbidity and mortality.