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 and other small animals. The use of animal models, despite different adaptation niches, highlights a potential shared background, a common cognitive equipment among species, which allows a comparative ecological investigation of the 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 Anna Sovrano personal page


  • 2011-2013: Principal Investigator (PI) within the project "Study of biodiversity: a contribution to understanding the specificity of Trentino's environmental heritage”, financed by the Municipality of Rovereto (TN)
  • 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 was 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).
  • 2019-2023: Collaborator in the PRIN “Number-space association: A comparative developmental and neurobiological approach” (PI: Giorgio Vallortigara).
  • 2022-2024: PI supervisor of the Caritro Grant "The effect of chemical residues in water on cognitive abilities and brain: fish as indicators of environmental quality and sustainable development" (Proposer: Dr Greta Baratti)
  • 2023-2025: Co-PI of the PRIN project: “Behavioural, molecular and neuroanatomical characterization of fmr1 in chick and zebrafish models of autism” (PI: Paola Sgadò, University of Trento).

Ongoing Collaborations

  • Prof. Liliana Albertazzi, University of Trento, Italy
  • Prof. Cristiano Bertolucci, University of Ferrara, Italy
  • Prof. Angelo Bisazza, University of Padova, Italy
  • Prof. Gisele Eva Bruch, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil
  • Dr. Gastone Dallago, Fondazione Edmund Mach, Italy
  • Prof. Osvaldo Da Pos: University of Padova, Italy
  • Dr. Filippo Faccenda, Fondazione Edmund Mach, Italy
  • Prof. Remo Job, University of Trento, Italy
  • Prof. Sang Ah Lee, Seoul National University, Korea
  • Dr. Maria Elena Miletto Petrazzini, University of Padova, Italy
  • Dr. Michela Ponticorvo, Università di Napoli Federico II, Italy
  • Dr. Michele Povinelli, Fondazione Edmund Mach, Italy
  • Prof. Lucia Regolin, University of Padova, Italy
  • Dr. Rosa Rugani, University of Padova, Italy
  • Dr. Orsola Rosa Salva, University of Trento, Italy
  • Prof. Lesley J. Rogers, University of New England, USA
  • Dr. Paola Sgadò, University of Trento, Italy
  • Dr. Gionata Stancher, Fondazione Museo Civico di Rovereto, Italy
  • Dr. Simone Sulpizio, University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy
  • Dr. Maria Santacà, University of Vienna, Austria