Behaviour Genetics Laboratory

Picture of fishes

Behavioural genetics and neuroscience, animal behaviour, rodents and fish

The ultimate goal of behaviour genetics is to understand how genes influence brain function and behaviour. This exciting but rather complex problem is broken down to manageable scientific questions in Prof. Gerlai's laboratory. Using zebra fish as a model system, the laboratory will be screening for behaviourally interesting mutants generated by chemical mutagenesis, an approach called forward genetics. Once found, these mutants will allow the identification of novel genes involved in learning and memory, social behaviours, and alcohol related behaviours. Given the high sequence homology between zebra fish and human genes, these findings may lead to better understanding of the biological mechanisms of not only zebra fish behaviour but of human brain related diseases too. The first step in this quest is the establishment of reliable behavioural tests of zebra fish, an almost entirely uncharted territory. Students will have the opportunity to develop novel behavioural screening methods and to behaviourally characterize this species for the first time. They will also learn to employ chemical mutagenesis, and identify novel mutants. Ultimately, students will find the mutated genes using genetic marker aided positional cloning techniques. The laboratory at this point is seeking students who are interested, and/or have experience, in behavioural testing of fish and who will enjoy creatively designing novel behavioural paradigms (see e.g. Gerlai, R., Lahav, M., Guo, S.,Rosenthal, A. (2000). Drinks like a fish: Zebra fish (Danio rerio) as a behaviour genetic model to study alcohol effects. Pharmacol. Biochem. Behav. 67:773-782.).

Dr. Gerlai received his Ph.D. from the Hungarian Academy of Sceinces in 1989. He has held numerous academic (assistant prof Dept Behav Genet of Eotvos Univ, Budapest, visiting prof Dept Psych of U of Toronto, assoc scientist at Mt. Sinai Hosp Res Inst of Toronto, adjunct associate prof at Dept Psych of Indiana Univ Purdue Univ, Indianapolis, prof at Dept Psych of Univ Hawaii, Honolulu) and industry positions (assoc scientist at Neurosci Dept of Genentech Inc, San Francisco, senior res scientist at Neurosci Dept of Eli Lilly and Co, Indianapolis, vice president of research at Saegis Pharma, San Francisco) before coming to UTM. He is review editor of Genes Brain and Behaviour, regular referee of the grant review panel BRLE of NIH, chair of the Education and Training Committee of the International Behavioural Neuroscience Society (IBNS) and fellow, USA Councillor, and Executive Committee member of IBNS.

His main interests have been the genetic and biological mechanisms of learning and memory and social behaviours in mice and fish and he uses animal behavioural, quantitative genetic and molecular approaches in his research.

Lab Members
2004- Jacob Cawker, research associate
2004- Margarette Sison, research associate
2005- Noam Miller, graduate (Ph.D.) student
2004- Christine Buske, undergraduate thesis student (Biology Prgrm)
2005- Johnatan Mella, undergraduate thesis student (Biology Prgrm)
2005- Eugenie Volnyansky, undergrad thesis student (Psychology Prgrm)
2005- Charles Tosan, undergraduate laboratory course student
2005- Fahad Ahmad, work-study position undergrad student
2005- Sonal Prajapatti, summer student
2005- Hani Shamsi, Research Opportunity Program Student
2005- Halley Law, Research Opportunity Program Student
2005- Maleeha Ahmad, Research Opportunity Program Student
2004-05 Min Ku Kim, Research Opportunity Program Student
2004- Eva Leung, undergraduate work-study student

Robert Gerlai
Professor of Psychology
ph. 905-569-4255