ABC Team Members

Principal Investigators

Giorgio Vallortigara    

Spatial cognition in the avian brain and rodent brain. I am interested in the mechanisms underlying use of geometry in spatial navigation. I use domestic chicks, mice and rats  as systems model and a combination of behavioural and neurobiological methods. Number cognition, using operant and imprinting techniques in frogs, some species of corvids, and domestic chicks. The research work involves investigation of both cardinal and ordinal aspects of number. We also plan to investigate intuitive notions of probability in animals (in chicks and non-human primates). Biological predisposition in recognition of animated objects. The research project involves investigation of phenomena such as biological motion perception and face-like stimuli recognition. We study newly-hatched chicks and human newborns using behavioural techniques and, respectively, immunohistochemistry and NIRS for investigation of the brain areas involved in the biological predispositions.  

Building 14 - Office 4, Second Floor
Phone: 0464 808676
E-Mail: giorgio.vallortigara [at]

Paola Sgadò

My research focuses on identifying the molecular mechanisms involved in the pathophysiology of neurodevelopmental disorders, making use of models (both cellular and animal models) based on genetic manipulation during embryonic development. I am currently applying my skills in transcriptional regulation and cell/circuit-specific gene expression profiling to characterize the trascritpional networks involved in chicks early social predisposition and brain lateralization and I am developing chick models of social deficits related to autism spectrum disorders.

Building 14 - Office, Second Floor
Phone: 0464 808691
E-Mail: paola.sgado [at]

Valeria Anna Sovrano      

My interests concern three research areas: 1) Cerebral and behavioral asymmetries: 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. Most recent studies investigate eye/brain preferences in the explorative behavior of lizards. 2) Spatial cognition: 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. Current studies relate to the development of a paradigm of working memory, instead of reference memory, in order to compare results obtained in the human species. Recently, I also focused my attention on spatial cognition in insects. 3) Visual perception: I showed that fish are capable of amodal completion, and perceive subjective contours and others perceptual illusions; fish also show a dominance of global-type stimulus analysis in the Navon effect. 

Building 14 - Office 5, Second Floor
Phone: 0464 808703
E-Mail: valeriaanna.sovrano [at]


Post-doctoral Fellows


Matteo Caffini   

I'm a physicist and engineer. I work at the interface between neuroscience and scientific computing. My main interests are functional Near InfraRed Spectroscopy (fNIRS) and Neuroimaging. I like Python.

Building 14 - Office 1, Second Floor
Phone: 0464 808648
E-Mail: matteo.caffini [at]

Marie Hebert  

Broadly speaking, my scientific interest is about the study of the relationships between brain and behaviour, using various tools and methods. In the past I have been running studies about behavioural lateralization in cuttlefish as well as about the molecular and cellular bases of (spatial) cognition in mice. As a postdoctoral fellow in the ABC group, I will combine behavioural experiments, neurobiology and molecular biology to examine the neuronal bases of animacy and predator detection in newborn chicks.

Building 14 - Office 3, Second Floor
Phone: 0464 808658
E-Mail: marie.hebert [at] (

hebertmaf [at]


Jasmine Loveland

I am passionate about understanding how in vertebrates, brain structure and function have evolved in parallel with the emergence of diversity in species-specific behavioral repertoires. I am a skilled molecular biologist with extensive experience in the study of animal behavior in both lab and field settings. I have expert level knowledge in teleost neuroanatomy and a strong interest in developmental biology and comparative neuroanatomy. I recently joined the lab of Dr. Vallortigara to identify neural circuits involved in filial imprinting in newly hatched chicks. I am particularly interested in studying how hormone signaling in the brain influences the ability of newly hatched chicks to imprint on social stimuli.

Building 14 - Office 1, Second Floor
Phone: 0464 808648
E-Mail: jasmine.loveland [at]

Uwe Mayer

By applying neuroanatomical, histological and histochemical methods, the focus of my current research is to develop and to perform experiments aiming to investigate brain areas that allow the domestic chicks to successfully perform in social-, spatial and numerical cognition tasks.  

Building 14 - Office 2, Second Floor
Phone: 0464 808691
E-Mail: uwe.mayer [at]

Orsola Rosa Salva

I am conducting investigations of domestic chicks’ early social predispositions for specific motion properties that characterize animate objects. The domestic chick is an optimal developmental model for the study of social predispositions, since it can be tested in the absence of any visual experience. Toghether with Dr. Uwe Mayer, I am investigating the neural substrate of the already established social-predispositions of our animal model. In order to do so we analyze brain activity by staining the transcription factor c-Fos with a immunohistochemical procedure. I am also collaborating with Dr. Elisa Di Giorgio and Dr. Elisa Frasinelli to record indexes of early visual attention for social stimuli in newborn infants at high risk for autism (NIDA network, PI Dr. Maria Luisa Scattoni).

Building 14 - Office 2, Second Floor
Phone: 0464 808691
E-Mail: orsola.rosasalva [at]

Elisabetta Versace  

I’m interested in the evolution of cognition and behaviour: we are born with some knowledge that prepares us to deal with the environment: we are attracted by other individuals, we like/dislike smells the first time we experience them, we detect regularities in the world without any explicit training... What is this knowledge exactly, does it vary between individuals and species, and which are its genetic bases and evolutionary origins? Across generations, environmental pressures have shaped both spontaneous behaviour and learning abilities. It is the combination of predisposed and learned behaviours that produces the wide range of responses we observe across individuals and species. I study this variability at the individual and genetic level in a broad comparative perspective. In chicks, I study preferences for social/animate stimuli and specific pattern, as well as syntactic-like abilities. In fruit flies, I focus on perception and social behaviour and change across generations (experimental evolution). I also study lateralized functions in insect and vertebrate species. Please contact me if you are interested in an Internship/thesis project.

Building 14 - Office 3, Second Floor
Phone: 0464 808658
E-Mail: elisabetta.versace [at]

Doctoral Candidates


Elena Lorenzi

I am focusing on early social predispositions to simple moving stimuli in newly hatched visually naïve chicks and the neuronal correlates underlying these processes. Principal procedures involved are behavioral observation of spontaneous preferences and immunohistochemical brain staining.

Building 14 - Office 3, Second Floor
Phone: 0464 808737
E-Mail: elena.lorenzi [at]

Davide Potrich

I'm interested in the cognitive aspects connected to the numerical abilities. My research provides a study on numerical competences in fish, in particular zebrafish (Danio rerio).

Building 14 - Office 3, Second Floor
Phone: 0464 808736
E-Mail: davide.potrich [at]




Alessandra Calliari

With a background in International relations, diplomacy and foreign policy, I have experience in project design and project coordination in international and regional aid. I find stimulating to work at CIMeC that links my interest in the international policies and national rules in project development and management. I currently administer the ERC grant Predisposed mechanisms for social orienting: A comparative neuro-cognitive approach (PREMESOR) and the Harvard Summer School in Cognitive/Brain Sciences.

Building 14 - Office 6, Second Floor
Phone: 0464 808712
Fax: 0464 808733
E-Mail: alessandra.calliari [at]

Ciro Petrone

I hold a degree in Medical Biotechnology with a total of nine years research experience. During those years, I gained extensive skills in molecular biology techniques while focusing on stem cells transcriptional regulation. In Italy, at the CNR, I have had the possibility to understand more about embrionyc dopaminergic neuronal differentiation, and after moving abroad I shifted my interests to the adult neurogenesis. There, as research assistant at the Helmholtz Center of Munich, I investigated the role of Dlx transcriptional factors in differentiating neural stem cells and gave my contribution to the first published scientific work that shows, in vitro, how mammalian adult neural stem cells divide asymmetrically. Coming back in Italy I joined the CIMeC in Rovereto providing technical support to the animal house facility and the research activities.

Building 14 - Ground Floor
Phone: 0464 808788
E-Mail: ciro.petrone [at]

Giampaolo Morbioli

Dr. Giampaolo Morbioli - Veterinarian in charge for the animals health status and well-being at the animal facility of CiMeC. Since 1992 I have dealt with Laboratory Animal Medicine, working at the University of Verona for a responsible management of various species used in research (monkeys, rats, mice); from 2012 my interest has extended also to “emerging” species, such as fishes and chicks. I belong to the “Organismo Preposto al Benessere degli Animali” (OPBA), an organism the University of Trento founded in order to comply with the Italian legislation on animal testing (D.L. vo 26/2014). I collaborate with CiMeC researchers for the drafting and presentation of experimental projects which make use of laboratory animals. As designed veterinarian (D.L. vo. 26/2012) I’m the spokesman of CiMeC with the competent health authorities: APPTS and the Minister of Health.

Building 14 - Ground Floor
Phone: 0464 808788
E-Mail: giampaolo.morbioli [at]

Tommaso Pecchia

I worked as a doctoral fellow at the University of Trieste focusing my research activity on spatial behaviour in avian species, particularly domestic chicks and homing pigeons, also investigating brain lateralization associated with navigation and spatial cognition. After a post-doctoral experience in the same research area, I moved here in Rovereto to set up the ACN laboratory and to provide techical and administrative support to researchers.

Building 14 - Office 6, Second Floor
Phone: 0464 808719
Fax: 0464 808733
E-Mail: tommaso.pecchia [at]

Samantha Pedrana

I am a master's degree student in Psychology (neuroscience address). I work as 150h collaborator.



Building 14 - Office 6, Second Floor
E-Mail: samantha.pedrana [at]