Announcing $7.3 million donated to Faculty of Education!

Marie-Hélène Pennestri

Academic title(s): 

Assistant Professor

  • Regular Researcher, Hôpital en santé mentale Rivière-des-Prairies (CIUSSS du Nord-de-l'Île-de-Montréal)
  • Adjunct Professor, Department of Psychology, Université de Montréal
  • Adjunct Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Université de Montréal
Marie-Hélène Pennestri
Contact Information

Education building, Room 546

Email address: 
marie-helene.pennestri [at]
Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology

Dr. Pennestri investigates the development of the sleep-wake cycle in healthy infants and preschoolers. Her research program also focuses on more vulnerable populations (such as social pediatric, foster children and premature birth). Dr. Pennestri completed a Ph.D. in Psychology at the Université de Montréal and was trained at the Center for Advanced Research in Sleep Medicine, where she specialized in sleep, sleep disorders and cardiovascular function. She pursued a postdoctoral fellowship at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, where she worked on multiple developmental psychology projects (CIHR and FRQS scholarships). In addition Dr. Pennestri is a clinical psychologist working with children, adolescents and adults (clinical license: Ordre des Psychologues du Québec). She has a multidisciplinary approach and her projects integrate physiological and psychological measures.


Postdoctorate Fellowship, Douglas Research Centre / McGill University
Ph.D., Université de Montréal: Research/Clinical Psychology
M.Ps., Université de Montréal: Clinical Psychology

Areas of expertise: 

Development and consolidation of the sleep-wake cycle in infants and children, parental expectations related to sleep, sleep disorders (children and adults), child development, attachment, polysomnography, autonomic nervous system, heart rate variability, mental health, premature birth.

Awards, honours, and fellowships: 

(2019-2022) Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)-Co-Investigator - $173,150

(2018-2023) Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR-Project Grant) - $353,203   

(2018-2022) Fonds de recherche du Québec-Santé (FRQS) - Salary Award - $80,000

(2018) Fondation du Barreau du Québec - $4,000

(2017-2022) Fonds québécois de recherche société et culture (FQRSC) - Co-investigator - $592,000

(2017-2018) Association québécoise pour la santé mentale des nourrissons - $2,500

(2017) McGill Internal Social Sciences and Humanities Emerging Scholars Accelerator - $10,000

(2016-2018) Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)-Insight Development Grant - $63,619

(2014-2015) Fonds de recherche du Québec-Santé (FRQS)- Postdoctoral training Award - $ 34,000

(2011-2014) Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)-Fellowship - $160,000

(2011) International Restless Legs Syndrome Study Group-Wayne Hening Young Investigator Award - $1,000

(2008-2010) Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)- Frederick Banting and Charles Best Award - $105,000

Graduate supervision: 

Counselling Psychology

Dr. Pennestri welcomes inquiries from students who are interested in her research program (see area of expertise). Please send a CV and a cover letter.

Selected publications: 

Journal Articles

Dubois-Comtois, K., Pennestri, M. H., Bernier, A., Cyr, C., et Godbout, R. (2019). Family Environment and Preschoolers' Sleep: The Complementary Role of Both Parents. Sleep Medicine, Jun;58:114-122. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2019.03.002. Epub 2019 Mar 19.

Laganière, C., Gaudreau, H., Pokhvisneva, I., Atkinson, L., Meaney, M., et Pennestri, M. H. (2019). Maternal characteristics and behavioral/emotional problems in preschoolers: how they relate to sleep rhythmic movements. Journal of Sleep Research. Jun;28(3):e12707. doi: 10.1111/jsr.

Pennestri, M. H., Laganière, C., Bouvette-Turcot, A.A., Pokhvisneva, I., Steiner, M., Meaney, M., et Gaudreau, H. (2018). Uninterrupted infant sleep, development, and maternal mood. Pediatrics. 142(6). pii: e20174330. doi: 10.1542/peds.2017-4330. Epub 2018 Nov 12.

Tessier, M.P., Pennestri, M. H., et Godbout, R. Heart rate variability of typically developing and autistic children and adults before, during and after sleep. (2018). International Journal of Psychophysiology, 134, 15-21. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2018.10.004.

Dubois-Comtois, K., Cyr, C., Pennestri, M. H., & Godbout, R. (2016). Poor quality of sleep in foster children relates to maltreatment and placement conditions. SAGE Open, 1-7. doi:10.1177/2158244016669551

Pennestri, M. H., Moss, E., O'Donnell, K., Lecompte, V., Bouvette-Turcot, A. A., Atkinson, L., MAVAN Team, M. R. (2015). Establishment and consolidation of the sleep-wake cycle as a function of attachment pattern. Attach Hum Dev, 17(1), 23-42. doi:10.1080/14616734.2014.953963

Pennestri, M. H., Gaudreau, H., Bouvette-Turcot, A. A., Moss, E., Lecompte, V., Atkinson, L.,  Mavan Research Team. (2015). Attachment disorganization among children in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit: Preliminary results. Early Hum Dev, 91(10), 601-606. doi:10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2015.07.005

Petit, D., Pennestri, M. H., Paquet, J., Desautels, A., Zadra, A., Vitaro, F., Montplaisir,J. (2015). Childhood Sleepwalking and Sleep Terrors: A Longitudinal Study of Prevalence and Familial Aggregation. JAMA Pediatr, 169(7), 653-658. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.127

Bouvette-Turcot, A. A., Pluess, M., Bernier, A., Pennestri, M. H., Levitan, R., Sokolowski, M. B., MAVAN team. (2015). Effects of Genotype and Sleep on Temperament. Pediatrics, 136(4), e914-921. doi:10.1542/peds.2015-0080

Pennestri, M. H., Montplaisir, J., Fradette, L., Lavigne, G., Colombo, R., & Lanfranchi, P. A. (2013). Blood pressure changes associated with periodic leg movements during sleep in healthy subjects. Sleep Med, 14(6), 555-561. doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2013.02.005

Dauvilliers, Y., Pennestri, M. H., Whittom, S., Lanfranchi, P. A., & Montplaisir, J. Y. (2011). Autonomic response to periodic leg movements during sleep in narcolepsy-cataplexy. Sleep, 34(2), 219-223. 

Dauvilliers, Y., Pennestri, M. H., & Montplaisir, J. Y. (2011). Comments on the Letter to the Editor by Ferri et al. on Autonomic Response to Periodic Leg Movements in Sleep in Narcolepsy-Cataplexy (Letter to the Editor). Sleep, 34(4), 411-412.

Lanfranchi, P. A., Pennestri, M. H., Fradette, L., Dumont, M., Morin, C. M., & Montplaisir, J. (2009). Nighttime blood pressure in normotensive subjects with chronic insomnia: implications for cardiovascular risk. Sleep, 32(6), 760-766. 

Pennestri, M. H., Montplaisir, J., Colombo, R., Lavigne, G., & Lanfranchi, P. A. (2007). Nocturnal blood pressure changes in patients with restless legs syndrome. Neurology, 68(15), 1213-1218. doi:10.1212/01.wnl.0000259036.89411.52

Dauvilliers, Y., Pennestri, M. H., Petit, D., Dang-Vu, T., Lavigne, G., & Montplaisir, J. (2007). Periodic leg movements during sleep and wakefulness in narcolepsy. J Sleep Res, 16(3), 333-339. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2869.2007.00601.x

Richard, M., LeBlanc, A. R., Pennestri, M. H., Montplaisir, J., Carrier, J., Lavigne, G., & Lanfranchi, P. A. (2007). The effect of gender on autonomic and respiratory responses during sleep among both young and middle-aged subjects. Sleep Med, 8(7-8), 760-767. doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2006.12.004

Whittom, S., Dauvilliers, Y., Pennestri, M. H., Vercauteren, F., Molinari, N., Petit, D.,& Montplaisir, J. (2007). Age-at-onset in restless legs syndrome: a clinical and polysomnographic study. Sleep Med, 9(1), 54-59. doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2007.01.017

Pennestri, M. H., Whittom, S., Adam, B., Petit, D., Carrier, J., & Montplaisir, J. (2006). PLMS and PLMW in healthy subjects as a function of age: prevalence and interval distribution. Sleep, 29(9), 1183-1187. 

Book chapters

Pennestri, M.H. (2015), « Lorsque la vie arrive trop tôt : répercussions psychosociales de la naissance prématurée sur l’enfant et ses parents » In Y. Tremblay, A.M. Gagné & M.H. Pennestri. Réflexions sur la réanimation du bébé grand prématuré : une approche transdisciplinaire. Quebec, Canada : Centre de recherche du CHU de Québec.

Pennestri, M.H., Kaczmarczyk, M., & Bouhaddioui, W. (2015) » Réflexion transdisciplinaire sur la réanimation du bébé prématuré ». In Y. Tremblay, A.M. Gagné & M.H. Pennestri. Réflexions sur la réanimation du bébé grand prématuré : une approche transdisciplinaire. Quebec, Canada : Centre de recherche du CHU de Québec.

Lanfranchi, P.A., Pennestri, M.H., Postuma, R., & Montplaisir, J. (2013). « Autonomic evaluation in sleep-related movement disorders”. In S, Chokroverty., R.P. Allen. A.S. Walters & P. Montagna. Sleep and Movement Disorders, Second Edition. New York: Oxford University Press.

Montplaisir, J., Michaud, M., Pennestri, M.H., & Lanfranchi, P. (2009). « Sleep Laboratory Diagnosis of Restless Legs Syndrome”  In W.A. Hening, R.P. Allen, S. Chokroverty & C.J. Early. Restless Legs Syndrome. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.

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