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Integrative biology of behaviour

  • Our goal is to understand the molecular and hormonal underpinnings of behaviour
  • We study behaviour differences that result from developmental plasticity and evolutionary forces
  • We have three main axes of research:

  • Mechanisms of host behaviour manipulation. We aim to uncover the genomic and proteomic mechanisms underlying the modification of stickleback behaviour by its endoparasite, the cestode Schistocephalus solidus. We are interested to study both the fish host and its parasite at the molecular, cellular and hormonal level, as well as how they interact.
  • Physiological regulatory networks involved in the expression of behaviour. We study natural variation in ecologically-relevant behaviours such as boldness, exploration and activity, as well as social behaviours including sociability, aggressiveness and social competence. We also study male reproductive tactics and dominance behaviour. Several of our projects include the study of the physiological regulatory networks implicated in the stress response and social behaviour (glucocorticoid, adrenergic, serotonergic and dopaminergic axes) as well as behaviourally-relevant nonapeptides (vasopressin and oxytocin fish homologues). We also study if and how the environment (maternal or early post hatch) reprograms offspring behaviour and learning in oviparous fish.
  • Aquatic ecotoxicology. Our interest in the neuroendocrinological basis of behaviour variation led us to study the effects of aquatic pollutants such as personal care products and pharmaceuticals acting as neuroendocrine disruptors on fish behaviour

We favour an integrative approach that focuses on the organism

  • Our main model is the Threespine stickleback
  • We link data from the same individual: behaviour and morphology, levels of candidate neuropeptides and their receptors (RT-qPCR, in situ hybridization, HPLC) and their turnover, genome-wide expression levels (microarrays, RNA-seq), DNA modifications such as methylation (bisulfite treatment + sequencing), physiology and hormones (EIA, HPLC).
  • We also take advantage of phenotypic engineering : environmental perturbations that help us understand the connections between nodes of the system by studying its configuration in different states. These external and internal perturbations can take the form of a temporary stimulus, a change in the abiotic or social environment and/or pharmacological manipulation of hormones, their receptors, enzymes important in their synthesis, contrast of different time points during development, etc. Using this approach, we can build reaction norms for different levels of the phenotype.


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