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Canada Excellence Research Chair in Neurophotonics

Pierre Marquet develops new neuroimaging techniques to better understand diseases like Alzheimer’s, ALS, and epilepsy.


Psychiatric disorders are not easy to treat. Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and severe depression are among the illnesses that have a neurodevelopmental component, meaning they begin during childhood and are associated with discrete but progressive changes in the brain. It is increasingly clear that some children present a series of discrete abnormalities that gradually escalate and lead to the onset of mental illness, along with its attendant series of debilitating symptoms.
Treatment for psychiatric illnesses has improved considerably in recent years as a result of the discovery of antipsychotic and antidepressant medications. But the situation is far from ideal. Currently, these disorders are treated late and palliatively due to the lack of biological measures for documenting neurodevelopmental changes. Having such measures available could lead to earlier diagnosis and more effective early management.


The mission of the Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Neurophotonics is to better understand the pathogenesis of major psychiatric disorders in order to detect and treat them early on. To do so, researchers will develop new high-resolution multimodal optical techniques to explore the nanoscale structure and dynamics of neural cells.

These new techniques will complement and enhance the high-performance arsenal of neuroimaging techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging. Such approaches may also help improve our understanding of brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, and epilepsy.

Pierre Marquet


Both a psychiatrist and an engineering physicist, Pierre Marquet is internationally renowned for his research in the field of digital holographic microscopy. Before being named CERC in Neurophotonics he headed up a research unit at the Center for Psychiatric Neurosciences at Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV) in Lausanne, Switzerland. He was also the head physician at a clinic that specialized in inpatient and outpatient management of anxiety, mood, and personality disorders at the CHUV Department of Psychiatry. Since being named CERC in Neurophotonics, he has been a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at Université Laval's Faculty of Medicine and a researcher at the CERVO Brain Research Centre.

Pierre Marquet holds a master’s degree in physics from École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, a federal medical degree from Université de Lausanne, and an M.D./Ph.D. in medicine and sciences under the supervision of Professor Magistretti in the field of neurophotonics. This specialist in psychiatry and psychotherapy has authored or co-authored some 130 scientific publications and several patents and has co-founded 3 startups. Pierre Marquet has developed and conducted interdisciplinary research projects involving mathematicians, physicists, engineers, biologists, and physicians.


The work of Pierre Marquet and his team focuses on developing new optical technologies designed to identify biomarkers of vulnerability to major psychological disorders. Their objective: to better understand the pathogenesis of these disorders and establish early interventions, before the illnesses become debilitating.


This new CERC is a prestigious organization that will help consolidate Université Laval and Québec City’s leadership in photonics and neuroscience. Led by a team of accomplished scientists, the Chair’s interdisciplinary research will pave the way for early detection and management of mental illness and destigmatization of psychiatric patients. The CERC team will undoubtedly make significant strides in understanding brain function and drive innovative discoveries in biomedical technology, neuroimaging, and neurosurgery.


It is no coincidence that the CERC in Neurophotonics is located at Université Laval. The university already has 3 other Canada Excellence Chairs and is a world leader in optics and photonics research.

The CERVO Brain Research Centre, affiliated with Université Laval and the Faculty of Medicine, will collaborate closely with Pierre Marquet. This chair further confirms Université Laval’s reputation as an international leader in neurophotonics.

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