Marc Hébert, Ph.D.
Department of Ophthalmology and otorhinolaryngology
Faculty of Medicine, Université Laval
Director of the Visual electrophysiology and photobiology laboratory Director of the Clinical and cognitive neuroscience research axis, CERVO Brain Research Centre.
Promising discoveries on the effects of light on the brain, and the use of light to improve the health of night workers and to help diagnose psychiatric illnesses.
Marc Hébert is a specialist in the study of the biological clock, or chronobiology, and photobiology, which is the study of the effects of light on the brain. His research has shown that light has important effects on mood, and, specifically, that blue light affects the biological clock. These discoveries have led to the development of technologies that directly affect people's health, using light to reduce the intensity of seasonal affective disorder and to help night workers stay alert at work, and to sleep better after work.
Improving the safety of night workers with light
The technologies developed through Dr. Hébert's research have been tested in night workers and have had a positive impact, leading the researcher to commercialize them to make them accessible to a larger number of people and businesses. The Chronophotonix company, founded by Marc Hébert, is one of the first ten companies to receive significant funding from the InnovExport Fund. This fund, set up by the Québec government and public and private investors, aims to support innovative companies targeting international markets.
The retina as a mirror of the brain: helping to diagnose psychiatric diseases
Professor Hébert is also particularly interested in the response of the sensitive part of the eye, the retina, which is an extension of the brain whose electrical activity can be measured non-invasively, by a technique called electroretinography. The retina acts as a mirror of the brain to inform researchers about its functionning. In collaboration with researchers Michel Maziade and Chantal Mérette, also from the CERVO Research Center, these studies have led to the demonstration that patients suffering from major depression, schizophrenia, and other psychiatric illnesses have patterns of response to electroretinogram that distinguish them from the profiles of healthy people. These specific responses could be used as biomarkers to help in the early diagnosis of psychiatric illnesses, thus allowing a personalized intervention to slow down their progression, or to prevent them. The company diaMentis has been launched to facilitate the development, distribution and commercialization of this new diagnostic technology, which is one of the first steps towards personalized medicine in mental health.
Dr Hébert’s interests are multifaceted and also include light in architecture, and its impacts on people.
The laboratory of visual electrophysiology and photobiology (LEVP) operates in many research areas. However, all projects have one thing in common: either the retina of the eye. Indeed, whether the studies are in investigating chronobiology in night workers or using the technical electroretinography (ERG) in the field of psychiatry, the retina is always playing a key role.
The various research on night work or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) use and studying the effect of light both in the retina and the brain. In other situations, we study the reaction of the retina in various psychiatric illnesses. Indeed, as an extension of the brain, it can give us an overview of the central nervous system neurochemistry. It is one of the best equipped in visual electrophysiology laboratories in Canada with 7 platforms in human or animal electrophysiology. In addition, several publications are produced each year and the research done by Dr. Marc Hébert and his laboratory received extensive media coverage [i] (eg. BBC Daily Planet.)
[i] non exhaustive list for example
Anne-Marie Gagné PhD; Research coordinator
Kimberley Francis: Research Assistant
Jeanne-Sophie Martin, Doctorate candidate
Claudine Bellerive, Doctorate candidate
Marc-André Dubois, Stagiaire
Sasseville A, Martin JS, Houle J, Hébert M. Investigating the contribution of short wavelengths in the alerting effect of bright light. Physiol Behav. 2015 Jun 27;151:81-87.
Gagné AM, Lavoie J, Hébert M, Maziade M. Revisiting visual dysfunctions in schizophrenia from the retina to the cortical cells: A manifestation of aberrant neurodevelopment. Prog
Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2015 Oct 1;62, 29-34.
Martin, JS, Laberge, L, Sasseville A, Bérubé M, Alain S, Houle J, Hébert M. Day and night shift schedules are associated with lower sleep quality in Evening-Types” Chronobiol Int. 2015 Jun;32(5):627-36.
Hébert M, Mérette C, Paccalet T, Émond C, Gagné AM, Sasseville A, Maziade M. Light evoked potentials measured by electroretinogram may tap into the neurodevelopmental roots of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Res. 162(2015) 294-295.
Lavoie J, Hébert M, Beaulieu J-M. Looking Beyond the Role of Glycogen Synthase Kinase-3 Genetic Expression on Electroretinogram Response: What About Lithium? Biol Psychiatr.,2015 Feb 1: 77(3) e15-e17.
Lavoie J, Maziade M, Hébert M. The Brain through the Retina: The Flash Electroretinogram as a Tool to Investigate Psychiatric Disorders. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2014 Jan 3;48:129-34.
Lavoie J, Hébert M, Beaulieu JM. Glycogen Synthase Kinase-3 overexpression replicates electroretinogram anomalies of offspring at high genetic risk for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Biological Psychiatry – Priority Communication 2014 Jul 15;76(2):93-100.
Lavoie J, Illiano P, Sotnikova TD, Gainetdinov RR, Beaulieu JM, Hébert M. The Electroretinogram as a Biomarker of Central Dopamine and Serotonin: Potential Relevance to Psychiatric Disorders. Biological Psychiatry 2014 Mar 15;75(6):479-86.
Daneault , Hébert M, Albouy G, Doyon J, Dumont M, Carrier J, Vandewalle G. Aging reduces the Stimulating effect of Blue Light on Cognitive Brain Functions. Sleep 2014 Jan 1;37(1):85-96.
Lavoie J, Hébert M, Beaulieu JM. Glycogen Synthase Kinase-3β Haploinsufficiency Lengthens the Circadian Locomotor Activity Period in Mice. Behavioral Brain Research. 2013, 253:262-265
Lavoie J, Rosolen SG, Chalier C, Hébert M. Negative Impact of Melatonin Ingestion on the Photopic System of Dogs, Neuroscience Letters. 2013 (543):78-83.
Daneault V, Vandewalle G, Hébert M, Teikari P, Mure LS, Doyon J, Gronfier C, Cooper
HM, Dumont M, Carrier J. Does Pupil Constriction under Blue and Green Monochromatic Light Exposure Change with Age? Journal of Biological Rhythms . 2012 Jun;27(3):257-64
Martin J-S, Hébert M, Ledoux E,Gaudreault M, Laberge L.The Relationship of Chronotype to Sleep, Light Exposure, and Work Related Fatigue in Student Workers. Chronobiol Int. 2012 Apr;29(3):295-304.
Bellerive C, Cinq-Mars B, Lalonde G, Malenfant M, Tourville E, Tardif Y, Giasson M, Hébert M. Bevacizumab and ranibizumab for neovascular age-related macular degeneration: a treatment approach based on individual patient needs. Can J Ophthalmol. 2012 Apr;47(2):165-9.
Vandewalle G, Hébert M, Beaulieu C, Richard L, Daneault V, Garon ML, Leblanc J, Grandjean D, Maquet P, Schwartz S, Dumont M, Doyon J, Carrier J. Abnormal hypothalamic response to light in seasonal affective disorder. Biol Psychiatry. 2011 Nov 15;70(10):954-61.
Danilenko KV, Plisov IL, Cooper HM, Wirz-Justice, Hébert M. Human cone light sensitivity and melatonin rhythms following 240h continuous illumination. Chronobiol Int. 2011 May;28(5):407-14.
Gagné AM, Lévesque F, Gagné P, Hébert M. Impact of blue vs red light on retinal response of patients with seasonal affective disorder and healthy controls. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2011 15;35(1):227-31.
Hebert M, Maziade M. Important Differences in Methodology and Reliability of the
Electrooculogram and the Electroretinogram in Psychiatric Research, Biol Psychiatry, 2010 Jan
15, 67 (2) p.194
Gagné, AM & Hébert M. Atypical Pattern of Rod Electroretinogram Modulation by Recent Light History: a Possible Biomarker of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Psychiatry Research, 2010 Sep 10. [Epub ahead of print]. IRSC MOP-82707
Gagné AM, Lavoie J, Sasseville A, Lavoie M-P, Charron M-C & Hébert M. Assessing the impact of non-dilating the eye on full-field electroretinogram and standard flash response. Documenta Ophthalmologica, 2010 Dec;121(3):167-75. IRSC MOP-82707
Sasseville A, Hébert M. Using blue-green light exposure combined with the use of blue-blockers seems to improve circadian adaptation to night work: a pilot study. Neurophychopharmacology and Biological Pyschiatry. 34 (2010) 1236–1242.
Dr. Hébert is a full professor of ophthalmology at Laval University in Quebec City. He began his research career after earning a bachelor degree in Psychology from University of Ottawa, and a PhD in Neurobiology from University of Montreal, followed by four years of postdoctoral training in chronobiology and visual electrophysiology first at Rush Presbyterian St-Luke’s medical centre in Chicago and then, at University of Alberta. He is currently the director of the Clinical and Cognitive Neurorosciences Axis at the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Québec and co-director of the Neuroscience Thematic Research Centre at University Laval.
Dr. Hébert research’s focus is on light and the eye. In some research is has investigated the impact of light sensitivity in patients affected with seasonal affective disorders and in others, used light to improve vigilance in night workers. He was President of the Society for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms from 2010 and 2013 in his currently Editor-in-chief of ChronoPhysiology and Therapy journal. He is also currently the scientific director of the Eye disease foundation and Honorary Lieutenant Colonel of the 5 Field Ambulance at Valcartier. In 2008 he was selected as one of the 19 most fascinating personality of Quebec City by Scope Magazine. He is the founder of two spin-off companies, Chronophotonix which goal is to improve vigilance of night drivers and workers with light and more recently diaMentis that is using retinal response to light to detect psychiatric disorders. An accomplish public speaker, Dr. Hébert has made numerous media appearances over the years to talk about light either to improve mood in people affected with winter depression of for night shift workers.
2010/6 - 2014/6 Senior research scholar career award FRSQ
2009/6 - 2012/6 President - Society for Light Treatments and Biological Rhythms
2008/12 Scientific Director - Eye Disease Foundation
2008/12 Personnalités fascinantes du Québec - Scope Magazine Québec
2601 Chemin de la Canardière Québec (Québec) G1J 2G3 Canada