About Sickkids
About SickKids

Russell Schachar, MD, FRCP(C)

The Hospital for Sick Children
Senior Scientist

Research Institute
Senior Scientist
Neurosciences & Mental Health

University of Toronto

Chair Positions

The TD Bank Financial Group
Chair in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Phone: 416-813-6564
Fax: 416-813-6565
e-mail: russell.schachar@sickkids.ca

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Brief Biography

Dr. Russell Schachar trained in medicine at the University of Toronto and in psychiatry at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. Following this, he completed post-doctoral training during a fellowship at the Institute of Psychiatry, University of London, England under the supervision of Professor Sir Michael Rutter. Motivated by a desire to advance the understanding of mental illness in youth, Schachar returned to The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) where he initiated an acclaimed clinical-research program in Neuropsychiatry and set up a productive research laboratory. During an active career spanning 30 years, his contributions towards Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism have had significant and far reaching international impact. He remains a leader in the field of child psychopathology, advancing our understanding of brain structure and brain function in mental disorders, traumatic brain injury and individuals treated for cancer.

In 1983, Schachar developed the first fully integrated clinical-research team for ADHD and related disorders at SickKids; for 30 years his team has provided clinical research assessments for thousands of patients and has followed hundreds of patients into adulthood resulting in relevant policy-changing data. To further the momentum, Schachar established the first ADHD genetics program in Canada and one of the first globally in the late 1990’s. This initiative oversaw several multidisciplinary research programs including studies designed to investigate children who developed mental health problems as a result of traumatic brain injury or the adverse brain effects of treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Schachar’s international role is evident in the contributions that he has made to leading texts in Child Psychiatry (Child Psychiatry, Modern Approaches. 4th Edition; Oxford Textbook of Child Psychiatry. Oxford University Press), in invitations to present at major international meetings (over 300 lectures) and his membership on international grant review panels (National Institutes of Health, Ontario Mental Health Foundation, Canadian Psychiatric Research Foundation, Health and Welfare Canada and Medical Research Council of Great Britain). His national role is evident in positions such as the Editorship of the Special Issue on Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Canadian Journal of Psychiatry (1998-2000) and his selection by The Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development (CEECD) for one of 10 best scientific papers, published in 2002 by Canadian researchers, on early childhood development.

Schachar has been an invited program reviewer at the British Columbia Women & Children’s Hospital, University (1999) and the Behavioral Research Unit, Alberta Children’s Hospital (2004). In 1995, he won the Elaine Schlosser Lewis Award, American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Most recently, he was inducted into the Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement in ADHD research (2012).  A true advocate, Schachar has been interviewed and widely quoted in the press and media on issues relating to children’s mental health. His research has been consistently funded for over 25 years by such granting agencies as Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Ontario Mental Health Foundation. Schachar has an exemplary publication record, having authored more than 175 articles in top peer-reviewed journals (Lancet, Nature Genetics, American Journal of Psychiatry, Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Human Brain Mapping, and the Journal of Child Psychiatry and Psychology). He continues to make significant contributions to the study of psychopathology, using cognitive markers of genetic risk and developing novel research methods.
His plan to lead a national network dedicated to better outcomes in mental illness is the logical next step in his career path given his demonstrated leadership in steering clinical research programs with stakeholders in research, practice and policy from across Canada.

Research Interests

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity 
  • DisorderCognitive deficits and cognitive markers of genetic risk in neuropsychiatric disorders
  • Psychopathology of traumatic brain injury and cancer

Research Mission
Using the integration of various scientific methodologies, including phenomics (the study of neuropsychiatric phenotypes on a genome-wide scale), cognitive neuroscience, neuroimaging, and genetics the Schachar laboratory will work towards a more effective, evidence-based, treatment and prevention of mental illness.

Research Activities

Schachar is a leader in cognitive and genetic studies of child psychopathology in particular Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). His widely cited research in response inhibition stimulated the development of new models of inhibitory control, of ADHD and of the mechanism by which genetic and neural risk factors such as brain injury lead to behavioural disorders such as ADHD. These discoveries carry wide and significant implications for normal and atypical development, gene discovery, diagnosis and, ultimately, therapeutic breakthroughs.

ADHD is a common, persistent, and impairing psychiatric disorder that is characterized by developmentally abnormal inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. It begins in early childhood and affects three to nine per cent of school age children, 50 per cent of individuals referred to children’s mental health facilities, and four per cent of adults. Over two million children in North America take stimulant medication to treat ADHD on a daily basis. For these reasons, ADHD poses a substantial burden on health care, educational, and judicial services. But perhaps most importantly, ADHD is a source of considerable distress and impairment for affected children, for their families, and for their offspring.

As an early supporter of international efforts in ADHD genetics, Schachar partnered with the Psychiatric Genetics Consortium (PGC, a confederation of leaders in the genetics of psychiatric diseases) and recently published the largest, cross-disorder genome-wide study in psychiatric genetics (Lancet, 2013; Nature Genetics, 2013). Along with SickKids genetics collaborators, he published the first study of copy number variation showing that ADHD and autism share substantial genetic risk (Am J Psychiatry, 2011). Schachar is now playing a leading role in the PGC efforts to collate cognitive phenotypes in PGC ADHD cases. Genetic discovery in ADHD will promote the identification of novel targets for drug intervention as well as the determination of environmental risks for ADHD.

Schachar’s research continues to result in the development of reliable and valid assessment tools, which are invaluable for genetic research and serve as “markers” of genetic risk or atypical brain structure and function. Schachar was among the first to study “response inhibition” (the ability to stop a speeded action) in child psychopathology, using a measure he called the “stop task”. This measure has become the “gold standard” in the study of typical and atypical development. There are now hundreds of publications investigating this process in dozens of psychiatric disorders, with numbers growing each year. Schachar and his team are currently using measures identified and validated in his lab to study brain function and genetics in normal and atypical populations. Ongoing studies in this area resulted in the collection of cognitive, behavioral and genetic data from 17,000 children and adolescents for norming, validating and genetic studies. Upon analysis, this data has enormous potential, conclusively linking behavioral and genetic traits to mental illness.

Schachar and his collaborators continue to lead Canadian and international efforts in mental illness research. Their discoveries have given impetus to further establish a Canada-wide consortium, termed PEGASYS (Phenomic, environmental and genomic approaches to psychopathology), which will accelerate the pace of genetic discovery in neuropsychiatric disorders. As one of only ten applications chosen to go forward in the forthcoming 2015 Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) competition, PEGASYS brings together a dedicated team of scientific leaders, committed to progressing the field.  PEGASYS collaborators aim to quickly and affordably amass some of the world’s largest and most comprehensive data sets for genetic discovery of risks contributing to several traits that underlie neuropsychiatric disorders; culminating in clinical guidelines and recommendations to assist the health care community, ultimately facilitating earlier diagnosis, better medical management and personalized approaches to mental illness.


McAuley, T, Schachar, R.  (2013). The persistence of cognitive deficits in remitted and unremitted ADHD: A case for the state-independence of response inhibition. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. Nov 22. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12160. [Epub ahead of print] PMID:24261515 [PubMed]

Max JE, Pardo D, Hanten G, Schachar RJ, Saunders AE, Ewing-Cobbs L, Chapman SB, Dennis M, Wilde EA, Bigler ED, Thompson WK, Yang TT, Levin HS. (2013). Psychiatric Disorders in Children and Adolescents Six-to-Twelve Months After Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci. Oct 1:25(4):272-82.

Cross-Disorder Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (Schachar RJ contributor). (2013) Genetic relationship between five psychiatric disorders estimated from genome-wide SNPs. Nat Genet. Sep;45(9):984-94. doi: 10.1038/ng.2711. Epub 2013 Aug 11.

Ameis SH, Ducharme S, Albaugh MD, Hudziak JJ, Botteron KN, Lepage C, Zhao L, Khundrakpam B, Collins DL, Lerch JP, Wheeler A, Schachar R, Evans AC, Karama S. (2013) Cortical Thickness, Cortico-Amygdalar Networks, and Externalizing Behaviors in Healthy Children. Biol Psychiatry. Jul 25. doi:pii: S0006-3223(13)00579-9.

Yang L et al. (Schachar RJ contributor). (2013). Polygenic transmission and complex neuro developmental network for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: genome-wide association study of both common and rare variants. Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr. Genet. Jul;162B(5):419-30.

Ornstein TJ, Max JE, Schachar R, Dennis M, Barnes M, Ewing-Cobbs L, Levin HS. (2013). Response inhibition in children with and without ADHD after traumatic brain injury. J Neuropsychol. Mar;7(1):1-11.

Cross-Disorder Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium; Genetic Risk Outcome of Psychosis (GROUP) Consortium (Schachar RJ contributor). (2013). Identification of risk loci with shared effects on five major psychiatric disorders: a genome-wide analysis. Lancet. Apr 20;381(9875):1371-9.

Crosbie J, Arnold P, Paterson A, Swanson J, Dupuis A, Li X, Shan J, Goodale T, Tam C, Strug LJ, Schachar RJ (2013). Response inhibition and ADHD traits: correlates and heritability in a community sample. Abnorm Child Psychol. Apr;41(3):497-507.

Bohbot VD, McKenzie S, Konishi K, Fouquet C, Kurdi V, Schachar R, Boivin M, Robaey P. (2012). Virtual navigation strategies from childhood to senescence: evidence for changes across the life span. Front Aging Neurosci.4:28.

Williams NM et al. (Schachar RJ contributor). (2012) Genome-wide analysis of copy number variants in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: The role of rare variants and duplications at 15q13.3. Am J Psychiatry. Feb;169(2):195-204.

Lionel AC, Crosbie J, Barbosa N, Goodale T, Thiruvahindrapuram B, Rickaby J, Gazzellone M, Carson AR, Howe JL, Wang Z, Wei J, Stewart AF, Roberts R, McPherson R, Fiebig A, Franke A, Schreiber S, Zwaigenbaum L, Fernandez BA, Roberts W, Arnold PD, Szatmari P, Marshall CR, Schachar R, Scherer SW. (2011) Rare copy number variation discovery and cross-disorder comparisons identify risk genes for ADHD. Sci Transl Med. Aug 10;3(95):95ra75