Investigators at the Mass General Division of Sleep Medicine seek to advance our understanding of sleep and circadian disorders through multidisciplinary, collaborative, clinical, and translational research that will ultimately lead to the development of novel treatments of sleep and circadian disorders. Further, our research aims to position sleep and circadian rhythms as novel therapeutic targets for reducing the burden of disease and improving overall health outcomes.

Program on Sleep, Circadian Biology and Neurodegeneration

Program Director: Aleksandar Videnovic, MD

This research program centers on the interface of sleep, circadian biology and neurodegeneration. Dysfunction of sleep and alertness are prevalent symptoms in neurodegenerative disorders. Treatment options remain limited. Disruption of circadian rhythms has emerged as an important mechanism for disruption of sleep and alertness in neurodegeneration. Our research aims to position sleep and circadian systems as novel diagnostic and therapeutic targets for neurodegenerative disorders.

Ongoing Projects:

  • Bright Light Modulation of Non-Motor Symptoms in Parkinson’s Disease
  • Circadian rhythms in pre-manifest synucleinopathies
  • A dose selection trial of light therapy for impaired sleep in Parkinson’s disease

REM Sleep Behavior Disorder Research Program

Program Director: Aleksandar Videnovic, MD

REM Sleep Behavior Disorder is parasomnia, characterized by “dream enactment” on a background of loss of physiological muscle atonia during REM sleep. Individuals affected by RBD are at increased risk for development of neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies and multiple system atrophy. RBD is therefore considered a prodromal stage of these disorders, also known as synucleinopathies. Our research centers on:

  1. Advancing the understanding of the pathophysiology of RBD
  2. Biomarker discovery that will allow better risk assessment for the development of a synucleinopathy
  3. Clinical trials centered on neuroprotection/disease modification of these neurodegenerative disorders

Mass General is a research site for the North American Prodromal Synucleinopathy (NAPS) Consortium, with the shared purpose of planning for clinical trials that will test treatments to combat against neurodegenerative diseases in RBD. For more information please visit www.naps-rbd.org.

Ongoing Projects:

  • Circadian rhythms in pre-manifest synucleinopathies
  • Neuroprotective treatment trial planning in REM sleep behavior disorder
  • Brainstem mechanisms of REM sleep behavior disorder in humans
  • Brainstem-based imaging biomarkers of premanifest synucleinopathy

National RLS Opioid Registry

Program Director: John Winkelman, MD, PhD

Massachusetts General Hospital has created a national registry to study the use of opioid medications to treat restless legs syndrome (RLS).

About the registry

Program on Circadian Regulation and Sleep in Women Across the Lifespan

Program Director: Elizabeth B. Klerman, MD, PhD

Ongoing Projects:

  • Effects of daytime versus nighttime induction of labor on maternal and fetal health (S Rahman, PI)
    Goal: to test the effects of the timing of induction of labor on the duration of labor, medications used, and maternal and fetal health outcomes.
  • Menopausal Sleep Fragmentation: Impact on Body Fat Gain Biomarkers in Women (H Joffe, PI)
    Goal: to test the effects of sleep fragmentation on women with experimentally induced acute hormonal changes similar to menopause withdrawal on metabolic parameters.
  • Center for Stress and Neural Regulation of Reproductive Aging Health Outcomes (H Joffe, PI)
    Goal: to establish an interdisciplinary and translational research program in women’s health by examining stress exposures and neural regulation of reproductive aging health outcomes using animal and human models.
  • Effects of Light and Melatonin on Contractions in Pregnant Women (E Klerman, PI)
    Goal: to test the effects on ocular light exposure and melatonin concentrations on the number of uterine contracts in late-term pregnant women.

Program on Sleep and Circadian Regulation in Adolescents/College Students

Program Director: Elizabeth B. Klerman, MD, PhD

Current projects:

  • Early adolescent social technology use and parental monitoring: implications for psychosocial and behavioral health. (L Chamaraman, PI)
    Goal: to document the effects of early adolescent social technology use on sleep, mood, and behavioral health
  • Circadian, Light, Adolescence, Sleep, and School (CLASS) (M Rajaratnam, PI)
    Goal: the test the interactions of circadian rhythms, light, and sleep on school performance
  • Multi-scale modeling of sleep behaviors in social networks
    Goal: to document  sleep timing, mobile phone use, school and extracurricular event timing, mood, and scholastic performance in college students.

Program on Sleep and Skin Disorders

Program Director: Elizabeth B. Klerman, MD, PhD

Current project: Quantifying the relationship between severity of psoriatic arthritis and sleep duration and sleep quality (J Merola, PI)

Goal: to document the relationships between sleep timing and quality and dermatologic symptoms in patients with psoriatic arthritis.

Outpatient Sleep, Circadian and Activity Rhythms (OSCAR) Core

Program Director: Elizabeth B. Klerman, MD, PhD

The OSCAR Core provides the scientific expertise and technical support to facilitate the rigorous collection, processing, and analysis of outpatient sleep, actigraphy, and circadian rhythms data for human studies. Dr. Klerman is also available to provide expert consulting on study design and interpretation related to incorporating sleep and circadian assessments into ongoing and planned human clinical research studies. The Core is housed within the Division of Sleep Medicine and serves as a nucleus for collaborative interdisciplinary sleep research at MGH and broader MGB community.

Learn more about OSCAR (requires login).

Pediatric Sleep Research Program

We work closely with teams at MassGeneral Hospital for Children to conduct research into pediatric sleep disorders.

Pediatric Sleep Disorders Program

Sleep Disorders Clinical Research Program

The Department of Psychiatry's Sleep Disorders Clinical Research Program, led by John Winkleman, MD, PhD, conducts research into sleep disorders including RLS, insomnia, and sleep-related eating disorders.

Learn more