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URMC / Psychiatry / Research / Sleep Research Lab / Lab History


Lab History

The lab was founded in 1996 by Donna E. Giles, Ph.D. Dr. Giles focused broadly on risk factors for major depression (MDD), and specifically on physiological sleep abnormalities as risk factors for the familial transmission of MDD. Her work includes seminal papers on REM sleep disturbances in MDD and the mediators of sleep and mood disturbances in a three-generation cohort of families at risk for major depression. Dr. Giles actively mentors new investigators in the Department of Psychiatry.

Drs. Michael Perlis and Wilfred Pigeon
In a Yoked-Control Experiment, Perlis & Pigeon Demonstrate the Differential Response to 10,600 mg of caffeine (APSS 2004).

Michael Perlis, who arrived in Rochester with Dr. Giles, became the lab's director in 2001. Dr. Perlis's work has included the characterization of insomnia as a prodromal symptom of depressive episodes, the assessment of high frequency EEG activity in patients with primary insomnia, and the nature of partial-reinforcement paradigms in the hypnotic management of insomnia. The lab continues to collaborate with Dr. Perlis, who is now at the University of Pennsylvania.

Wilfred Pigeon, who arrived in Rochester in 2004 to train with Dr. Perlis, became lab director in 2008. Dr. Pigeon served as the chair of the American of Academy of Sleep Medicine's (AASM) Behavioral Sleep Medicine Committee from 2005-2008 and currently sits on the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Exam Task Force. Current work in the lab includes a focus on the cognitive-behavioral treatment of insomnia across a number of co-morbid conditions such as depression, chronic pain and post-traumatic stress-disorder; the investigation of novel hypnotics; the exploration of sleep homeostasis dysregulation as a mechanism of insomnia; and the assessment of neuro-endocrine and neuro-immune alterations in primary and co-morbid insomnias.

The Fall of 2008 represented the beginning of a particularly exciting time for sleep research in Rochester:

  • Our lab was re-capitalized by the Department of Psychiatry to upgrade equipment.
  • We received funding from the newly formed Veterans Administration (VA) Center of Excellence in Canandaigua to conduct a study of insomnia and nightmares in veterans with combat trauma.
  • The lab hosted a VA Expert Panel on Trauma and Sleep Disturbances.
  • The URMC Sleep Disorders Center received accreditation for a Sleep Medicine fellowship for which our faculty serve as training faculty
  • Kathy Parker, a long-time sleep researcher, became the Dean of the URMC School of Nursing.

Combined with our lab's existing collaborations with the Psychoneuroimmunology Lab, the Rochester Center for Mind-Body Research, the Anesthesiology Department, and several individual collaborating investigators, these events are further elevating the presence of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research at URMC.