Ongoing projects

De-Stress for success, a program on stress for adolescents

Common project of Dr. Sonia Lupien's Laboratory

During the transition from elementary school to high school every child experiences an increase in their stress hormone levels, regardless of their socio-economic status. At the Centre for Studies on Human Stress, we created a program aimed at providing children with the tools to recognize and cope with their daily stressors. The program “De-Stress for Success” was administered to 500 children in Montreal. Psychological, cognitive and physiological measures were collected before and after the administration of the program. The impacts of this program are currently being analyzed.

Secretion of cortisol in people suffering from Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

Geneviève Arsenault-Lapierre, M.Sc.
Ph. D. Candidate

My project is based on the secretion of cortisol in individuals with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), who are at an increased risk of progressing to Alzheimer’s disease (AD). People with MCI show subtle cognitive deficits but do not meet the diagnostic criteria for AD. Among this group, only a certain number will develop AD. It becomes interesting to predict who will progress and who will be better able to deal with the contingencies. Can cortisol be a helpful predictor of the disease?

Psychoneuroendocrinology study of stress and sexual orientation

Robert-Paul Juste, M.Sc.
Ph. D. Candidate

Chronic stress changes our biological functioning that can be detected using the allostatic load index derived from multiple systems (e.g., neuroendocrine, immune/inflammatory, metabolic, cardiovascular, reproductive). As part of my Ph.D., we are currently exploring allostatic load across the entire spectrum of sexual orientation in a unique multi-disciplinary study. In a second study, we will investigate allostatic load more broadly in a large sample of workers recruited from the Louis-H. Lafontaine Hospital’s network. Taken together, these studies aim to decipher the interactions among sex, gender-roles, sex hormone levels, and sexual orientation as they relate to allostatic load and stress-related diseases.

Modulation of the amplitude and the nature of neutral and emotional memory consolidation: Role of stress and stress hormones.

Marie-France Marin, M.Sc.
Ph. D. Candidate

Stress and stress hormones have an impact on the creation of new memories. During memory recall, the trace of memory is very unstable and becomes susceptible to modifications. The current research project aims at understanding how the modulation of stress hormones, at the moment of recall, can change the amplitude and the nature of neutral and emotional memory.

Environmental toxins and perturbation on the behavior of Inuit children

Pierrich Plusquellec, Ph. D.
Co-director of the Centre for Studies on Human Stress

In Québec, lead and PCB’s have contaminated the food chain and are now found in blood samples of the people of Nunavik, at levels 2 to 3 times higher then in South Quebec. We have shown that the exposure to lead during pregnancy, and this, even below the level recommended by Health Canada, was associated with a diminution of the attention in one-year old children. Recently, the follow-up of this cohort allowed us to show that lead associated with attention as well as  impulsivity, and that prenatal exposure to PCB’s was linked to a mild expression of emotions in five-year old children. The current analyses carried out are on the cohort of Nunavik children, aged 10.

Environmental toxins and perturbation of the stress system

Pierrich Plusquellec, Ph. D.
Co-director of the Centre for Studies on Human Stress

We are all exposed to environmental toxins. The most common ones are lead, PBC and mercury. Most of the chemical substances are endocrine disrupting chemicals .We are conducting a study examining the link between a person’s exposure to these substances during their life and their stress system functioning.

Social dominance and cortisol in young children

Pierrich Plusquellec, Ph. D.
Co-director of the Centre for Studies on Human Stress

Very early in development, we need to interact with others. This interaction often takes the form of a competition for a toy or any other objet coveted. In scientific literature, the control of resources and stress hormones are often associated with two opposite hypotheses. First, the dominant stress seems to exist primarily with species that have unstable hierarchies. In this case, those in power have to keep a constant state of vigilance to be able to respond to any threats affecting their social position. Second, the dominated persons’ stress is characterized by increased stress hormones in people lowest in the hierarchy, the latter being the most frequently “oppressed”. Our study is therefore directed towards possible associations between levels of stress hormones and control of resources in young children.

Stress, Memory and Hippocampal Volume in Young and Older adults

Shireen Sindi, M.Sc.
Ph. D. Candidate

The goal of this research study is to assess whether the negative effects of stress hormones on human memory performance are associated with the size of the hippocampus, a small region of the brain involved in learning and memory. Recent evidence shows that the volume of the hippocampus differs from one person to another, and it is suggested that differences in hippocampal volume may explain how stress hormones have an impact on learning and memory performance.

This research study aims to measure hippocampal volume using an image of the brain obtained by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and to associate hippocampal volume to levels of stress hormones and memory performance on different memory test. This study may help us to better understand the problems of learning and memory in humans.

Stress, age at menarche and depressive symptomatology

Lyane Trépanier, B.A.
M.Sc. Candidate

Previous scientific literature has shown that chronic stress experienced in childhood leads to higher stress hormone levels in adulthood. Higher stress hormone levels for a prolonged period of time are also believed to significantly increase the likelihood of depression. I am currently researching the association between stress hormone levels (salivary cortisol), psychological vulnerabilities (depressive symptomatology), and their relationship to the age at menarche. This study is part of a larger research project called DeStress for Success.

Silent Victims: Stigma Surrounding the Mentally Ill and Stress Effects on Spouse and Their Children

Nathalie Wan, M.A.
Research Coordinator 

The main goal of this study is to determine whether the stigma associated with mental health disorders is a significant contributor in inducing chronic stress in caregiving spouses and their children.  As well, this study aims to look at the unique and shared contribution of stigma and family environment on physiological and psychological markers of chronic stress in caregivers and children of individuals with a mental health disorder.