In Memoriam: Mario Giovanni Terzano, MD (1944-2020)

Dr. Terzano; Front Row Right

November 13, 2020: The field of sleep medicine & research has lost another of its pioneers. On November 12, 2020, Mario Giovanni Terzano passed away. Affectionately known as ‘Prof’ and ‘Nanni,’ Dr. Terzano is credited with discovering and measuring Cyclic Alternating Patterns in Sleep (CAPs).

Dr. Terzano was an Italian medical educator, neurologist and researcher. His achievements include the discovery of cyclic alternating patter and other research in sleep physiology and medicine. Dr. Terzano was a member of the Italian Association Sleep Medicine, acting as President of the organization from 1997—2000. Dr. Terzano earned his Doctor of Medicine with honors from University Parma, Italy, specializing in neuropsychiatry and pediatrics neuropsychiatry.

Tributes from the Sleep Medicine Community

He was a very generous, intelligent, heart-felt man; a fantastic mentor who was patient and had all the fine-grinded skills of a tutor. He loved life, eating and drinking, but most of all, he loved his family, colleagues (everybody from the Parma Clinic) and friends. I can still hear him laughing as he was walking into the lab and still remembered the day I sat with him to give him my first report of my work in my shaky Italian: I dati and not data… He made me believe in myself more than any other mentor has done. He deeply touched my life…

Célyne Bastien, Ph.D.
École de psychologie
Université Laval


When a friend is as close to you as “Nanni” was to me, it is hard to remember when your friendship began because you feel as though you have been friends forever. However, I can definitely affirm that our friendship was strengthened through arguments and discussions on sleep and on CAP and, being both a bit exuberant when defending our own ideas, these discussions where sometimes very close to fights. Even so, without a winner or a loser, we became friends, very close friends, besides being colleagues and collaborators. This does not mean that discussions did not occur again, notwithstanding the unsuccessful attempts of Oliviero Bruni to calm us down, but continued to be deep, interesting and thought provoking, because Nanni loved to provoke. This led us on a three-decade long collaboration that can be easily seen in the many papers we have coauthored and do not need to be remembered here. Here I want just to say that I will miss you Nanni, I will miss your temper and your brilliant brain but, above all, I will miss your true, profound friendship.

Raffaele Ferri, MD
Scientific Director, Oasi Research Institute IRCCS, Troina (Italy)

It was at the meeting of the Italian Association of Sleep Medicine in 1994 in Parma that I first met Giovanni Mario Terzano. I was interested in pediatric sleep neurophysiology and I was fascinated by the new way to look at sleep called “sleep microstructure” or, better, cyclic alternating pattern (CAP). This led to a collaboration between Raffaele Ferri and myself, and with Nanni, to assess this particular approach in the pediatric population. Since that time I have had many meetings and discussions with Nanni, often over dinner with a good glass of wine (red Primitivo brought by Raffaele). He was always a guide for me when I was puzzled by the interpretation of our analysis and I always received a huge support and stimulation to continue the research in this field. I remember that the best moments with Nanni were the informal ones at meetings or at lunch or dinner, when he used to say that Raffaele and I were “his sons” and inspired us to continue our research in the field. It is also nice to remember the times when I had to act as “peacemaker” between Nanni and Raffaele fighting to support their own ideas. Beside this, the funniest moments were when he recalled his past experiences as a “guru”.

Oliviero Bruni

From both Raffaele and Oliviero: We will always be extremely grateful to Nanni not only for his inspiration and for his enormous contribution to our scientific career but also for opening our mind to a new way of looking at sleep pathophysiology. We really hope that Nanni will be remembered for his inspiration to new generations of researchers and for opening new horizons in sleep research.
We thank Nanni not only for having been a sincere friend and mentor but also because he gave us “new eyes” to see our world.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes”. –Marcel Proust