Skip to main content

Amal Isaiah, MBBS, DPhil

Academic Title:


Primary Appointment:

Otorhinolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery

Secondary Appointment(s):

Pediatrics, Diagnostic Radiology Nuclear Medicine

Administrative Title:

Chief of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology


16 S. Eutaw St Ste 500, Baltimore, MD 21201

Phone (Primary):


Phone (Secondary):




Education and Training

Medical School: St. John's Medical College, Bangalore, India (MBBS)

Graduate School: University of Oxford, England (DPhil, Neuroscience)

Internship: University of Maryland Medical Center, Baltimore, MD 

Residency: University of Maryland Medical Center, Baltimore, MD (Otorhinolaryngology)

Fellowship: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center & Children's HealthSM, Dallas, TX (Pediatric Otolaryngology)

Board Certification: Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (American Board of Otolaryngology), Complex Pediatric Otolaryngology (American Board of Otolaryngology)


Dr Amal Isaiah graduated from St. John's Medical College in Bangalore, India. He was elected a Rhodes Scholar in 2006, following which he completed a DPhil (PhD) in Neurophysiology at Oxford University, England, focusing on developmental plasticity associated with cochlear implantation. Dr Isaiah then completed residency training in Otolaryngology at University of Maryland, and a clinical fellowship in Pediatric Otolaryngology at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center/Children's Health Dallas. He is certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and Complex Pediatric Otolaryngology. 

Dr Isaiah's clinical interests include ear, nose and throat disorders in infants and children with focus on sleep disorders, airway-related problems, ear infections and hearing loss. With over 70 peer-reviewed publications, 7 book chapters, 5 patents, and numerous national and international presentations, Dr Isaiah leads a productive research group investigating brain outcomes of pediatric sleep disordered breathing. He is funded by an R01 research grant from the National Institutes of Health/the National Heart Lung Blood Institute. His work in this area has received international attention

Research/Clinical Keywords

sleep disordered breathing; statistical modeling; machine learning; brain development

Highlighted Publications

Development of a behavioral model of hearing loss: During my doctoral training funded by a Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford University, I developed a novel behavioral animal model of hearing loss and characterized its impact on the developing brain (Thesis: A behavioral model of bilateral cochlear implantation). The publications arising from these studies contained substantial technical contributions (e.g., signal processing in cochlear implants, development of custom intracochlear arrays, integration of visual and auditory stimuli in a behavioral paradigm and information-theoretic approaches to assess stimulus-dependent neural processing). Furthermore, I gained experience in the use of a variety of tools to probe the functional activity of the brain including single neuron electrophysiology, imaging, histology, and behavioral assessments.

  1. Hartley DE, Vongpaisal T, Xu J, Shepherd RK, King AJ, and Isaiah A. Bilateral cochlear implantation in the ferret: A novel animal model for behavioral studies. Neurosci. Methods. 2010 Jul;190(2):214-28. PMID: 20576507; PMCID: PMC2938482
  2. Isaiah A, Vongpaisal T, King AJ, and Hartley DEH. Multisensory training improves auditory spatial processing following bilateral cochlear implantation. J Neurosci. 2014 Aug;34(33):11119-11130. PMID: 25122908; PMCID: PMC4131019
  3. Hartley DE, Isaiah A. Envelope enhancement increases cortical sensitivity to interaural envelope delays with acoustic and electric hearing. PloS one. 2014 Aug;9(8):e104097. PMID: 25093417; PMCID: PMC4122409.
  4. Isaiah A and Hartley DE. Can training extend current guidelines for cochlear implant candidacy? Neural Regen. Res. 2015 May;10(5):718. PMID: 26109944; PMCID: PMC4468761

Probing brain development using electrophysiology and imaging: During my surgical residency, I undertook additional post-doctoral training during which I applied models of information processing to identify a neural substrate for the cross-modal interactions related to the early development of the auditory and visual systems. These efforts enhanced my ability to take part in and publish basic research alongside busy clinical training. More recently I have worked on the effect of socioeconomic deprivation on the developing brain using statistical and computational techniques. Lately, I have collaborated with Dr. Heather Bortfeld to set up a new model of SDB outcomes using functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) of the brain.

  1. Petrus E,* Isaiah A,* Jones AP, et al. Crossmodal induction of thalamocortical potentiation leads to enhanced information processing in the auditory cortex. Neuron. 2014 Feb;81(3):664-673 (*equal first). PMID: 24507197; PMCID: PMC4023256
  2. Wess JM,* Isaiah A,* Watkins PV, and Kanold PO. Subplate neurons are the first cortical neurons to respond to sensory stimuli. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017;114(47):12602-12607. PMID: 29114043; PMCID: PMC5703299 (*equal first)
  3. Yang F, Isaiah A, Kim WH. COVLET: Covariance-Based Wavelet-Like Transform for Statistical Analysis of Brain Characteristics in Children. In International Conference on Medical Image Computing and Computer-Assisted Intervention (MICCAI) 2020 Oct 4 (pp. 83-93). Springer, Cham.
  4. Cho H, Park G, Isaiah A, Kim WH. Covariate Correcting Networks for Identifying Associations Between Socioeconomic Factors and Brain Outcomes in Children. In International Conference on Medical Image Computing and Computer-Assisted Intervention (MICCAI) 2021 Sep 27 (pp. 421-431). Springer, Cham.

Improvement of standard of care for children with SDB: Based on a robust clinical practice in a region with high prevalence of respiratory disorders and SDB, I have participated in numerous prospective studies related to the diagnosis and management of SDB. These include the use of innovative machine learning algorithms that demonstrate the use of oximetry in predicting polysomnographic severity thresholds in resource-limited environments, a randomized controlled trial improving pain control in children with SDB undergoing adenotonsillectomy, a novel anesthetic regimen to reduce adverse events, and the use of a novel imaging paradigm to detect the site of obstruction. These studies also demonstrate ability to recruit and retain patients in clinical research studies. Cumulatively, these studies have enrolled 400+ (pre-pandemic) children supporting feasibility for similar studies. 

  1. Isaiah A, Pereira KD. Outcomes after adenotonsillectomy using a fixed anesthesia protocol in children with obstructive sleep apnea. Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 2015 May;79(5):638-643. PMID: 25727307
  2. Isaiah A, Kiss E, Olomu P, Koral K, Mitchell RB. Characterization of upper airway obstruction using cine MRI in children with residual obstructive sleep apnea after adenotonsillectomy. Sleep Med. 2018 Oct; 50:79-86. PMID: 30015255.
  3. Bertoni D, Sterni LM, Pereira KD, Das G, Isaiah A*. Predicting polysomnographic severity thresholds in children using machine learning. Pediatr Res. 2020 Sep; 88(3):404-411. PMID: 32386396
  4. Greenwell AG, Isaiah A, Pereira KD. Recovery After Adenotonsillectomy-Do Steroids Help? Outcomes from a Randomized Controlled Trial. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2021 Jul;165(1):83-88. PMID: 33228459

Investigating SDB outcomes using data science techniques: From 2017 onwards, I have continuously collaborated with Dr Gautam Das, a database expert at University of Texas Arlington to further our understanding of pediatric SDB. Assisted by a Cooperative Travel Research Grant from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund to visit his Database Exploration Laboratory at University of Texas Arlington (UTA), I gained skills in data wrangling, manipulation, and organization, (ii) path analysis, structural equation and mediation models, and (iii) machine learning. We successfully translated this collaboration into five manuscripts.

  1. Isaiah A, Pereira KD, and Das G. Polysomnography and Treatment-Related Outcomes of Childhood Sleep Apnea. Pediatrics. 2019;144(4):e20191097, PMID: 31533972
  2. Isaiah A, Spanier AJ, Grattan LM, Wang Y, Pereira KD. Predictors of Behavioral Changes After Adenotonsillectomy in Pediatric Obstructive Sleep Apnea. JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery. Oct 2020; 146(10):900-908, PMID: 322880655; PMCID: PMC7489416
  3. Isaiah A, Bertoni D, Pereira KD, Diaz-Abad M, Mitchell RB, and Das G. Treatment-related changes in heart rate variability in children with sleep apnea. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2020 May;162(5):737-745. PMID: 32122243
  4. Isaiah A, Shikara M, Pereira KD, and Das G. Refining screening questionnaires for prediction of sleep apnea severity in children. Sleep Breath. 2020 Dec; 24(4):1349-1356. PMID: 31776897

Brain development in the ABCD dataset: Since September 2019, I have been a co-investigator in the ABCD study. I am familiar with the recruitment and retention protocols associated with the study, the organization and analysis of the dataset. I have published two first-author high-impact papers over the course of one year and co-authored numerous others. Given my expertise that spans biostatistical and machine learning methods, I have provided guidance to graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the analysis of the dataset, especially rigor and reproducibility of the findings. Although my own work has focused on sleep-related outcomes, I have worked on or contributed to the analysis of other exposures.

  1. Isaiah A, Ernst T, Cloak CC, Clark DB, Chang L. Associations between frontal lobe structure, parent-reported obstructive sleep disordered breathing and childhood behavior in the ABCD dataset. Nature Commun. 2021 Apr;12(1):2205. PMID: 33850154
  2. Isaiah A, Ernst T, Cloak CC, Clark DB, Chang L. Association Between Habitual Snoring and Cognitive Performance Among a Large Sample of Preadolescent Children. JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery. 2021 May;147(5):426-433.PMID: 33630070; PMCID: PMC7907984
  3. Yi Li,…Reeves G…Cloak C…Isaiah A, Chang L, Edwards S, Ernst T,…and the ABCD Consortium. Rates of Incidental Findings on Brain MRI in Children. JAMA Neurology 2021 May;78(5):578-87 PMID: 33749724; PMCID: PMC7985817
  4. Chaarani B,…Reeves G…Cloak C…Isaiah A, Chang L, Edwards S, Ernst T,…and the ABCD Consortium. (2021). Brain function in the preadolescents of the ABCD study. Nature Neuroscience. 2021 Aug;24(8):1176-1186; PMID: 34099922

Complete bibliography:

Additional Publication Citations

Dr. Isaiah has developed 5 technologies related to sleep apnea and upper airway obstruction. 

Research Interests

My research pertains to brain outcomes in children who snore. My work is funded by a recent $3 million R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health (R01HL167012). I collaborate with Heather Bortfeld, PhD (Cognitive Sciences, UC Merced), Ron Mitchell, MD (Pediatric Otolaryngology, UT Southwestern), and Gautam Das, PhD (Computer Science, UT Arlington).

My primary interest is applying advanced machine learning and statistical modeling tools to predict outcomes related to pediatric sleep disordered breathing. In addition, I have developed technologies for the precise localization of upper airway obstruction. 

I am a member of the Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study Team at University of Maryland, Baltimore. The ABCD Study is the largest long-term study of brain development and child health in the United States. 

Clinical Specialty Details

My interest spans the breadth of ear, nose and throat problems in infants and children, with an emphasis on management of pediatric sleep apnea.

Awards and Affiliations

  • Rhodes Scholarship
  • Duane Sewell, MD Resident Research Award 
  • Maryland Society of Otolaryngology Resident Research Award
  • Delegate, International Achievement Summit
  • Gerber Foundation Early Career Award
  • Bactroban Dermatology Prize
  • Cadila Health Care Prize in General Surgery
  • Dept of Biotechnology Award, Government of India


Grants and Contracts


Role: PI

“A mechanistic understanding of treatment-related outcomes of sleep disordered breathing using functional near-infrared spectroscopy”

NIH/NHLBI 1R01HL167012



Role: Co-investigator 

“Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Prospective Research in Studies of Maturation (PRISM) Consortium”



In the News

  1. The story of Noah Schultz, an infant who underwent excision of a rare saccular cyst, a tracheostomy and laryngotracheal reconstruction with subsequent decannulation: watch the video here.
  2. Our collaborative work on the relationship between sleep study parameters and sleep apnea outcomes in children: read here.
  3. Seeing less helps the brain hear more: National Public Radio (NPR) Broadcast Feb 05 2014 
  4. I was featured in The Why files, a University of Wisconsin publication
  5. For the publication in Neuron, I received an Altmetric score of 356 (#2 in all journal submissions to Cell Press, 35 newspapers, 13 blogs, 20 tweets, 99th percentile in all research submissions worldwide in media attention compared to other articles of same age (article reported in BBC, Washington Post, NY Times, Scientific American, Nature etc.)

Professional Activity

  • Member of the American Academy of Otolaryngology--Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS), the American Society of Pediatric Otolaryngology (ASPO), the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, and the Sleep Research Society.
  • Faculty member in the Program in Neuroscience (PIN) at University of Maryland.
  • As the Director of Resident Research in the Department of Otorhinolaryngology, I oversee research efforts by residents.