Sleep and Biological Rhythms

Leader: Nicolas Cermakian, PhD

The Douglas Group for Sleep and Biological Rhythms is formed of internationally leading experts in the fields of sleep and chronobiology, working both in human and basic research to conduct translational studies on the regulation of sleep and other biological rhythms. In particular, group members study the implications of biological rhythm/sleep disruption in various diseases including mental disorders. The work includes studies on patients with primary circadian rhythm disorders or psychiatric disorders characterized by a high prevalence of disrupted sleep or eating patterns. Team members also aim to understand the clinical implications of living on atypical schedules such as occurs in shift work, as well as elucidating the interplay between youth sleep, health and cognition, and to develop innovative strategies using sleep improvement to enhance youth physical and mental health and daytime functioning. Finally, approaches also involve epidemiology and clinical trials to correct sleep and rhythm disruptions.

Research Program

Most psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases are associated with disturbed sleep and circadian rhythms, including mood disorders, ADHD, eating disorders, autism, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease. Similarly, work on atypical schedules increases the risk of various medical and psychiatric conditions. Therefore, sleep and circadian disruption are increasingly considered as significant risk factors for the development or aggravation of mental disorders. In turn, current research starts to address how improving sleep and rhythms could prevent onset of disease, help treat these conditions, or promote cognitive and mental health. Thus, disruption of sleep and biological rhythms are core aspects of most mental disorders, they impact cognitive, emotional and behavioural functioning, and they are involved in their pathophysiology.

Based on this, the general objective of the Douglas Group for Sleep and Biological Rhythms is to consider sleep and biological rhythms in the prevention and treatment of mental disorders, and ultimately to enhance physical and mental wellbeing, cognition, and daytime functioning of different target populations.

More specifically, the aims of the group are:

1) To foster collaborations aiming at elucidating mechanistic links between mental health and illness and sleep/biological rhythms, at the molecular, cellular, physiological, behavioural and clinical levels throughout development and adulthood.

2) To design innovative approaches to promote sleep health and to study and treat sleep and rhythm disruption in vulnerable populations.

3) To create a strong translational training environment for students interested in sleep and biological rhythms.

Primary researchers

Diane Boivin Diane B. Boivin

Study and treatment of human circadian rhythms

Nicolas Cermakian, PhD Nicolas Cermakian

Molecular chronobiology

Reut Gruber Reut Gruber

Attention, behaviour and sleep

Kai-Florian Storch Kai-Florian Storch

Biological rhythms and psychopathology

Associated researchers

Serge Beaulieu Serge Beaulieu

Bipolar Disorders Program

Alain Brunet Alain Brunet

Impact of traumatic stress on mental health

J. Bruno Debruille, MD, PhD J. Bruno Debruille

Cognitive and social neuroscience

Serge Gauthier, MD Serge Gauthier

Alzheimer's disease research

Mimi Israel, MD, MSc Mimi Israel

Eating disorders

Ridha Joober, MD, PhD Ridha Joober

Genetics and pharmacogenetics of psychiatric disorders, Youth mental health and early intervention in psychotic disorders

Lalit Srivastava

Etiopathology of schizophrenia and autism

Howard Steiger

Eating Disorders Program

Dominique Walker, PhD Claire-Dominique Walker

Early stress, maternal regulation and neuroendocrine development

Sylvain Williams, PhD Sylvain Williams

Williams Hippocampal Rhythm Lab



The Fonds de recherche du Québec - Santé has announced the recipients of salary and research awards.



On the occasion of their biennial conference, held May 14-18, 2022, the Society for Research on Biological Rhythms recognized Dr. Nicolas Cermakian for his long-standing service by awarding him the SRBR Director's Award for Service.

Congratulations Dr. Cermakian!


Congratulations to Drs. Nicolas Cermakian and Patricia Pelufo Silveira for recently obtaining a Ludmer-MI4 Seed Funding Grant! This grant aimed at supporting a new health research project focusing on the role of infection, immunity and/or the microbiome in the development, prevention or treatment of mental health disorders. The funded project is entitled, Maternal immune activation and circadian disruption as risk factors for mental disorders – using transcriptomics to identify individual differences in susceptibility. 

We wish Dr. Cermakian, Dr. Silveira, and their collaborators, Dr. Lalit Srivastava and Dr. Tie Yuan Zhang, success in their endeavours.

Project summary



With adolescents returning to classes after mostly remote learning for the 2020-2021 school year, there has been renewed attention on the effects of school schedules on sleeping patterns and stress levels among teens.


Dr. Reut Gruber has been calling for revised class times for teens, and her recent study, published in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, shows that teens have a naturally delayed sleep schedule, and that later start times, resulted in more adequate sleep and overall lower stress levels among teens. 



CIHR results for the last project grant competition have been announced. Congratulations to Nicolas Cermakian, Marie-Josée Fleury, and Outi Linnaranta for their successful applications!



The funded projects are: 

Nicolas Cermakian - Circadian regulation of host-pathogen interactions in vector-borne parasitic infections

Marie-Josée Fleury -  Grands utilisateurs de l'urgence en santé mentale et recommandations pour l'amélioration des services

Outi Linnaranta - Growth and empowerment measure adapted for the Indigenous in Quebec - utility evaluation for psychiatric measurement and intervention

Dr. Nicolas Cermakian

A group of researchers led by Nicolas Cermakian (McGill University, Douglas Research Centre) and Nathalie Labrecque (Université de Montréal, Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont Research Centre) has just identified the mechanisms that control the function of specific immune cells, CD8 T lymphocytes, according to the time of day. This study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, will help to develop more efficient vaccination tools and should lead to new applications in immunotherapy against cancer.