Frédéric Laberge

Fred Laberge
Associate Professor
Phone number: 
519-824-4120 x56238
SSC 1465
SSC 1407/1408

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 current research covers neurobiology, behaviour, and ecophysiology of anamniote vertebrates (amphibians and fish).

  • B.Sc.   Laval  1996
  • M.Sc.  Laval   1998
  • Ph.D.  Manitoba 2002

1) Animal cognition and its neural correlates

We want to understand how variation in brain structure and size influences organismic function, and identify the factors that drive evolution and plasticity of the nervous system. To this aim, we study variation in structure and size of vertebrate brains, the proximate mechanisms generating this variation, and the functional consequences of this variation. Investigations focus on amphibians and fishes in both laboratory and field settings. Our integrative lab-based approach involves behavioural assays, anatomy and histology work, and molecular methods. Field sampling in collaboration with ecologists allows to combine our lab efforts with quantitative ecological methods to explore the influence of ecology and environmental factors on the brain, a discipline sometimes referred to as ‘neuroecology’. Such investigations can inform us of the cognitive abilities needed by wild animals to thrive in their natural environment.

2) Ecophysiology

Using a highly collaborative approach, we try to develop novel indicators of performance in aquatic wildlife for improved environmental monitoring of watersheds. Current work on this topic focuses on indicators of ecological performance and chronic stress in wild fish (e.g. organ sizes, enzyme assays, gene expression, hormone content of fish scales) and neurotoxicology.

  • C. Axelrod, F. Laberge and B.W. Robinson (2020). Isolating the effects of ontogenetic niche shift on brain size development using pumpkinseed sunfish ecotypes. Evolution & Development (in press).
  • V. Lewis, F. Laberge and A. Heyland (2020). Temporal profile of brain gene expression after prey catching conditioning in an anuran amphibian. Frontiers in Neuroscience 13:1407.
  • F. Laberge, I. Yin-Liao and N.J. Bernier (2019). Temporal profiles of cortisol accumulation and clearance support scale cortisol content as an indicator of chronic stress in fish. Conservation Physiology 7:coz052.
  • I. Yin-Liao, P.A. Wright and F. Laberge (2019). Factors affecting terrestrial movement in the amphibious mangrove rivulus (Kryptolebias marmoratus). Journal of Fish Biology 95:1013-1021.
  • C. Axelrod, F. Laberge and B.W. Robinson (2018). Intraspecific brain size variation between coexisting sunfish ecotypes. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 285:20181971.
  • N. Edmunds, K.S. McCann and F. Laberge (2018). Relative heart size and fish foraging ecology in a lake food web. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 75:1477-1484.
  • F. Laberge and A. Smith (2017). Efferent axonal projections of the habenular complex in the fire-bellied toad Bombina orientalis. Brain, Behavior and Evolution 90:276-288.
  • N Edmunds, F Laberge and KS McCann (2016). A role for brain size and cognition in food webs. Ecology Letters 19:948-955.
  • To ESK and Laberge F (2014). Illness-dependent conditioned prey avoidance in an amphibian. Behavioural Processes 103:291-296.
  • Ramsay ZJ, Ikura J and Laberge F (2013). Modification of a prey catching response and the development of behavioral persistence in the fire-bellied toad (Bombina orientalis). Journal of Comparative Psychology 127:399-411.

Lab students in bold

  • ZOO*4170 Experimental Comparative Animal Physiology (2017- )
  • ZOO*3000 Comparative Histology (2011- )
  • Vern Lewis (PhD, co-supervised with A. Heyland)
  • Caleb Axelrod (PhD, co-supervised with B. Robinson)
  • Irene Yin-Liao (MSc, co-supervised with N. Bernier)
  • Pria Mahabir (PhD, co-supervised with N. Bernier)