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CIMeC - Center for Mind/Brain Sciences

Overview | Research directions | Members | Publications | Grants | Ongoing Collaborations


Fish Lab is a part of the ACN (Animal Cognition and Neuroscience) Lab. Our research is focused on different cognitive skills in teleost fish. The use of animal models, despite of the adaptaton niches, hoghlights a potential shared background that comes to form a common cognitive equipment among species: as ecological investigation of mind. 

Research directions

  • Brain lateralization in fish and reptiles: I found evidence in a variety of teleost fish and amphibians for a preferential use of the left visual hemi-field in response to social stimuli. The use of  right  part of the brain to codify  social stimuli is a widespraid trait among vertebrates. The survey is also extended to other classes, also considering how light stimulation in ovo can act on the neural development of the lateralized social behaviour. Recent studies also investigated eye/brain preferences in the explorative behavior of lizards.
  • Visual and extra-visual systems in spatial cognition of fish: I provided evidence that fish use geometry and integrate geometric and landmark information to reorient themselves; as in human infants, geometric information is dominant in small environments, whereas landmark information in large ones. Recent studies related to the development of a paradigm of working memory, instead of reference memory, in order to compare results obtained in the human species. I also focused my attention on spatial cognition in insects. The visual encoding of the environmental geometry and landmarks has a great ecological value for spatial orientation.  Fish have also different non-visual sensory modalities, as lateral line, an high number of neuromasts on the sides of fish, sensitive to hydrodynamic water variations. Are these mechanical cells sufficient to create a spatial representation useful for survival?
  • Perception of visual illusions in fish: The perceptual world is subject to laws of visual segregation that preside over the establishment of biologically significant units: objects. Inhabiting the same planet Earth, which poses similar demands to all living organisms, do these laws also act in non-human animals? I showed that fish are capable of amodal completion and perceive subjective contours and others perceptual illusions (Ebbinghaus, Müller-Lyer, expansion-contraction colors effect); fish also show a dominance of global-type stimulus analysis in the Navon effect.
  • Numerical skills in fish: Mathematical counting can be a shared trait among living organisms, where these skills have an high survival value. Is this also true for fish? What brain areas could be involved? (This research topic is strictly in collaboration with Giorgio Vallortigara, Davide Potrich and Andrea Messina).



For a complete list see Valeria Sovrano personal page


  • 2011-2017: I was a member as ‘Senior Staff’ of the ERC Advanced Grant ‘Predisposed mechanisms for social orienting: A comparative neuro-cognitive approach’ (PI: Giorgio Vallortigara).
  • 2017-2020: I am a member as ‘Senior Collaborator’ of the International Human Frontier Science Program Organization (HFSPO) Grant ‘Imaging the neurobiology of numerosity – the evolution of counting’ (PI: Giorgio Vallortigara).

Ongoing Collaborations

  • Prof. Cristiano Bertolucci, University of Ferrara, Italy
  • Prof. Lucia Regolin, University of Padova, Italy
  • Dr Rosa Rugani, University of Padova, Italy
  • Prof. Osvaldo Da Pos: University of Padova, Italy
  • Dr Gionata Stancher, Fondazione Museo Civico di Rovereto, Italy
  • Dr Simone Sulpizio, University Vita-Salute San Raffaele, Italy
  • Prof. Lesley J. Rogers, University of New England, USA
  • Dr Sang Ah Lee, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), South Korea