It was on his return from a postdoctoral training at Stanford University that Dr. Jacques Montplaisir founded the Sleep Disorders Center at the Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montreal. The Center had only one sleep recording room for patients and research project volunteers. The staff included only one coordinator, Mireille Charron, who held this position until her retirement in 2018. The Center's main research themes were narcolepsy and epilepsy.
Marie Laverdière was the first student to obtain her doctorate under Dr. Jacques Montplaisir’s supervision. In the following years, Marie Dumont and Roger Godbout carried out their doctoral studies. At the same time, Gaétan Poirier completed his master's degree in neuroscience and began working as a research assistant and software programmer in the Center. He played a major role in technological developments until his retirement in 2020. The sleep recording room was initially dedicated to sleep research however, on occasion, Dr. Montplaisir received patients with various sleep pathologies. Over the years, consultation requests increased and the laboratory gradually acquired a dual vocation of research and clinical services. Le laboratoire était initialement dédié à la recherche sur le sommeil. Toutefois, à l’occasion, le Dr Montplaisir recevait en consultation des patients présentant diverses pathologies du sommeil. Au fil des années, les demandes de consultation ont augmenté et le laboratoire a acquis progressivement une double vocation de recherche et de clinique.
Upon returning from postdoctoral training at Harvard University, Marie Dumont founded the Chronobiology Laboratory. Roger Godbout pursued postdoctoral studies at McGill University and the Collège de France and, on his return, developed a research program on sleep and psychiatric diseases. At the same time, two postdoctoral fellows, Tore Nielsen and Dominique Lorrain, and a doctoral student, Dominique Petit, joined the team. Tore Nielsen soon founded the Dream and Nightmare Laboratory. Gilles Lavigne, returning from an internship at the National Institute of Health, joined the Center where he developed a research program on bruxism, sleep and pain.
Our researchers obtained a large group grant from the Medical Research Council which has played a vital role in stabilizing and growing our infrastructure. In the following years, it was renewed and enhanced by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research until the program ended in 2010.
The center's facilities rapidly became insufficient for the growing team. Julie Carrier returned from a postdoctoral training at the University of Pittsburgh and established a research program on sleep and aging. Antonio Zadra, a dream and sleepwalking researcher, also joined the group. The Center took possession of new, completely renovated laboratories at the Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal including recording rooms for sleep disorders (5 rooms), chronobiology (3 temporal isolation rooms) and dreams and nightmares (2 rooms). These laboratories are still operational today.
In the 2000s, the Center recruited a cardiologist, Paola Lanfranchi, who developed a research program on cardiovascular function in normal and pathological sleep, as well as Jean-François Gagnon and Ronald Postuma who study REM sleep behavior disorder and Parkinson's disease.
The group received a $ 5 million grant from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation which allowed the construction of a new wing at the Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal. This new construction, completed in 2010, is devoted among other functions, to the study of brain function following traumatic brain injury. It also houses an olfactory laboratory, a transcranial magnetic stimulation laboratory, and a laboratory dedicated to sleep-pain interactions.
The group welcomed two new researchers, Valérie Mongrain, who established a laboratory to study molecular sleep regulation, and Nadia Gosselin, who specialized in the neuropsychology of sleep disorders, degenerative diseases and traumatic brain injury. Dr. Alex Desautels, neurologist, also joined the group and became the Center’s Clinical Director. Dr. Paola Lanfranchi’s significant contributions to cardiovascular function and sleep science unfortunately ended when she left the CARSM in 2012.
Today the CARSM continues to grow with the arrival of Marie-Hélène Pennestri (infant sleep), Jonathan Brouillette (sleep, memory and aging), Steve Gibbs (neurology of sleep and epilepsy), and Jean-Marc Lina (EEG signal analysis). The recruitment of Simon Warby enabled creation of the Canadian Sleep Disorders Biobank which is managed and hosted in the Center. The CARSM also brings together some forty master's, doctoral and postdoctoral students. New researchers Guido Simonelli and Catherine Duclos, have joined the group to develop research programs on the socio-cultural aspects of sleep and on states of consciousness. Evelyne Touchette has also joined the Center to study sleep in children and teenagers.
The recruitment of specialists in priority and emerging sub-disciplines of sleep research continue today as the Center continues to grow and to thrive as one of the few world centers of excellence in sleep medicine.