Dr. Frederic Laberge
Office: SCIE 3474
Lab: SCIE 3409/10
I grew up in and around Quebec City fascinated about life in all its forms, particularly in the aquatic environment. My disposition led me to study biology at the local University, where I experienced scientific research for the first time during a project on fish thermoregulation in the laboratory of Michel Cabanac. That experience got me hooked and excited my curiosity about the mechanistic aspects of biology. I went on to study metabolic physiology in the rat during my Master's degree. Allergy against the laboratory rodent forced a change of animal model for my Ph.D. I went to the laboratory of Toshiaki Hara in Winnipeg to study the neurobiology of fish olfaction. This degree offered not only the opportunity to go back to my early love of aquatic life, but also the possibility to investigate behaviour, anatomy and physiology at the same time, something I now value greatly. My postdoctoral research has focused on comparative aspects of brain anatomy and physiology based on work in amphibians. It sharpened my interest in the evolution of the nervous system. My future research will target the sensory pathways of amphibians and fish in general, and how sensory information is integrated in the brain regions that control behaviour.
B.Sc. Laval 1996
M.Sc. Laval 1998
Ph.D. Manitoba 2002
The ultimate goal of my research is to highlight similarities and differences in the brain pathways that organize behaviour in different vertebrates in order to create a basic model of the behavioural brain (also called 'limbic system'). Investigations in my laboratory relate to the structure and function of brain regions that control behaviour in amphibians and fish, with an emphasis on the regions that integrate sensory input. The approach is threefold: 1) anatomical methods to describe the architecture of brain pathways relevant to behaviour; 2) measure of brain activity elicited by behaviourally relevant stimuli using direct recording of brain electrical activity or labelling of indirect markers of neuronal activation; 3) behavioural experiments.
Behavioural brain in vertebrates
In mammals, it is thought that brain regions organized as paired longitudinal columns in the preoptic area, hypothalamus and ventral brainstem exert control over the motor aspects of motivated behaviour, with distinct regions dedicated to ingestive/reproductive/defensive and exploratory/foraging behaviours. These regions receive diverse inputs, notably from many parts of the telencephalon. However, the complexity of connections is such that a synthesis is difficult. Anamniote vertebrates (fish and amphibians) possess simpler brains, but little is known about the functional organization of the behavioural brain in these animals. Comparison of the amphibian and fish brains with the better known but highly complex mammalian brain could help elucidate the basic pathways and mechanisms mediating behaviour. Work in my laboratory will attempt to establish the anatomical and functional subdivisions of the preoptic area/hypothalamus and ventral brainstem in selected fish and amphibian species.
Learning behaviour in amphibians
Neuroethologists have mostly focused on the mesencephalic tectum as the structure mediating sensory perception and behavioural control in amphibians. However, sensory information is clearly processed in parallel in the amphibian brain, with four major pathways targeting 1) the tectum, 2) the lateral telencephalon, 3) the medial telencephalon and pallium, 4) the olfactory telencephalon. What are the contributions of these distinct pathways to behaviour? Recent studies have implicated the pallium in behavioural flexibility in amphibians. Important similarities have also been noted between the organization of the amphibian telencephalon and the mammalian limbic pathways involved in the regulation of motivated behaviour. I hope to study the brain substrate of behavioural flexibility in amphibians. For that purpose, the effect of appetitive and aversive reinforcers on learning and memory in behaviourally relevant situations will be studied as well as the effect of surprising omission or devaluation of reward in combination with methods measuring brain activity.
The vomeronasal system of salamanders
Olfaction plays a major role in the behaviour of anamniote vertebrates. Most amphibians possess both a vomeronasal (accessory olfactory) and a main olfactory system. The vomeronasal pathway in salamander displays uniquely direct connections to the behavioural brain and mediates the detection of a variety of biologically relevant chemical cues. Thus, it appears a good model pathway to study how the nervous system processes sensory information from molecules to behaviour. I suspect that different neural pathways within the vomeronasal system are involved in different behaviours. Using electrophysiology, work in my laboratory will investigate vomeronasal responses to behaviourally relevant olfactory cues, and how these bioelectrical signals are processed from the sensory neurons to the behavioural brain.
J. Zeyl and F. Laberge. Multisensory signals trigger approach behaviour in the fire-bellied toad Bombina orientalis: sex differences and call specificity. Zoology (2011) 114: 369-377.
F.C. Roth and F. Laberge. High convergence of olfactory and vomeronasal influence in the telencephalon of the terrestrial salamander Plethodon shermani. Neuroscience (2011) 177: 148-58.
S.E.M. Jenkin and F. Laberge. Visual discrimination learning in the fire-bellied toad (Bombina orientalis). Learning & Behavior (2010) 38: 418-25.
F. Laberge, R.C. Feldhoff, P.W. Feldhoff and L.D. Houck. Courtship pheromone-induced c-Fos-like immunolabeling in the female salamander brain. Neuroscience (2008) 151: 329-339.
F. Laberge and G. Roth. Organization of the Sensory Input to the Telencephalon in the Fire-Bellied Toad, Bombina orientalis. Journal of Comparative Neurology (2007) 502: 55-74.
F. Laberge, S. Mühlenbrock-Lenter, W. Grunwald and G. Roth. Evolution of the amygdala: new insights from studies in amphibians. Brain, Behavior and Evolution (2006) 67: 177-187.
F. Laberge and G. Roth. Connectivity and cytoarchitecture of the ventral telencephalon in the salamander Plethodon shermani. Journal of Comparative Neurology (2005) 482: 176-200.
F. Laberge and T.J.Hara. Non-oscillatory discharges of a F-prostaglandin responsive neuron population in the olfactory bulb-telencephalon transition area in lake whitefish. Neuroscience (2003) 116: 1089-1095.
F. Laberge and T.J. Hara. Behavioural and electrophysiological responses to F-prostaglandins, putative spawning pheromones, in three salmonid fishes. Journal of Fish Biology (2003) 62: 206-221.
ZOO*2090 Vertebrate Structure and Function (2011- )
ZOO*3000 Comparative Histology (2011- )
-- Currently recruiting --