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.

Research Groups

Attention, Behaviour and Sleep (ABS) Laboratory

Centre for Study and Treatment of Circadian Rhythms

Primary Researchers

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

Programme des troubles bipolaires
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