Ben Julian Agustin Palanca, MD, PhD, MSc

Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Psychiatry (with tenure)

Department of Anesthesiology
Division of Clinical and Translational Research
Division of Cardiothoracic Anesthesia

Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences
Neurosciences Program

​Department of Biomedical Engineering
Affiliated Faculty

​Clinical Licensure
Missouri, Physician and Surgeon
American Board of Anesthesiologists
National Board of Echocardiography Special Competence in Advanced Perioperative
Transesophageal Echocardiography


Dr. Ben Julian Palanca is a tenured Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, with an affiliated faculty appointment in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis. He completed his Ph.D. in Neuroscience at Washington University prior to completing his medical training at the same institution. Dr. Palanca served as a Chief Resident during his Anesthesiology training at Barnes-Jewish Hospital/Washington University prior to completion of his cardiothoracic anesthesia fellowship. He has maintained an active clinical practice as a cardiac anesthesiologist since 2010.

As a physician-scientist, he leads the Sleepy Brain Lab at investigating novel markers and interventions for neuropsychiatric disorders. Dr. Palanca’s research efforts focus on three areas: postoperative delirium, treatment-resistant depression, and the interface between anesthetized and sleep states. Markers and modulators of sleep are at the core of these efforts. The group leverages electroencephalography, functional magnetic resonance imaging, and cognitive assessments in human translational neuroscience investigations. He has been fortunate to receive prior support from the Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research and serves as the site-PI for the Medical Student Anesthesia Research Fellowship. Dr. Palanca has been continuously NIH-funded since 2013. His collaborative efforts have disseminated in over 40 publications, spanning journals including NEJM, eLife, Science, and Neuron. Dr. Palanca is actively involved in Washington University Center on Biological Rhythms and Sleep, the American Delirium Society, and the Association of University Anesthesiologists. He serves on the editorial board for the recently launched journal, Delirium, and as an ad hoc reviewer for many journals.

Research Interests

  • Anesthesia
  • Delirium
  • Seizures
  • Electroconvulsive therapy
  • Depression
  • Cardiac surgery
  • Sleep
  • Consciousness
  • Cognition
  • Electroencephalography
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Cognitive dysfunction
  • Perioperative monitoring
  • Neuromodulation

Education and Training

B.S. Biologysumma cum laude
B.S. Biochemistrysumma cum laude
University of Washington (1993-1997)
Seattle, WA

Ph.D. in Neuroscience
Washington University School of Medicine (1997-2005)
St. Louis, MO

Washington University School of Medicine (1997-2005)
St. Louis, MO

M.Sc. in Clinical Investigation
Washington University School of Medicine (2010-2015)
St. Louis, MO

Anesthesiology Internship
Barnes-Jewish Hospital/Washington University
Washington University School of Medicine (2005-2006)
St. Louis, MO

Anesthesiology Residency
Barnes-Jewish Hospital/Washington University
Washington University School of Medicine (2006-2009)
St. Louis, MO

Chief Anesthesiology Resident
Barnes-Jewish Hospital/Washington University
Washington University School of Medicine (2008-2009)
St. Louis, MO

Honors and Awards

William D. Owens Research Fellow, Washington University Department of Anesthesiology (2010-2012)
Mentored Research Training Grant, Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research (2010)
Postdoctoral Scholar, Washington University Clinical Research Training Center (K30) (2010)
W.M. Keck Postdoctoral Fellowship (declined due to multiple grants received; 2010)
Election to Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society, Washington University Chapter (2010)
Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research (FAER) Scholar (2007)
National Eye Institute Vision Sciences Predoctoral Training Grant (2001-2003)
University of Washington President’s Medal (most distinguished record at graduation; 1997)
Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship for Excellence in Education (1996)
Election to Washington Alpha Chapter, Phi Beta Kappa(1996)
Howard Hughes Undergraduate Summer Research Internship (1996)
University of Washington Junior Medal for High Scholarship (1995)
University of Washington Undergraduate Research Stipend (1995)
National Academy of Science, Space, and Technology Scholarship (1994)

Personal Bio

Ben grew up in Everett, Washington, and graduated summa cum laude at the University of Washington. He completed his medical and doctoral training at Washington University in St. Louis in 2005. He completed his residency training in Anesthesiology and Critical Care at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Following subspecialty clinical fellowship training in Cardiothoracic Anesthesia in 2010, he has held a faculty appointment in the Department of Anesthesiology. Ben lives with his wife, two children, and two dogs.