ABC Team Members

Principal Investigator

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: +39 0464 808676
E-Mail: giorgio.vallortigara [at]

Post-doctoral Fellows

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]

 or hebertmaf [at]


Dmitry Kobylkov

I am intersted in a broad range of animal behaviours and their underlying neuronal mechanisms. During my PhD I studied magnetoreception in migratory birds. As a postdoc in the ABC group, I focus on neuronal correlates underlying numerical abilities in domestic chicks.

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

Elena Lorenzi

Comparative developmental neuroethology is my main and broad research interest. Currently, I am focussing my work on unlearned predispositions from a behavioural and neurophysiological perspective. Ranging from molecular biology to MRI techniques, I am studying the newborn brain and behaviour of domestic chicks, with a particular emphasis on number cognition, animacy perception and lateralization.

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

Andrea Messina  

I am a Developmental Biologist with a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Physiology, Pharmacology and Toxicology. My research interests keep on focusing on nervous system development and neurodegenerative disorders using frog, fish and mouse as animal models. I am currently applying my skills on a project finalized to “Imaging the neurobiology of numerosity” in fish and to establish the ability of zebrafish (Danio rerio) to discriminate numerosity.

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


Sarah Placì

I am interested in the cognitive tools animals – including humans – evolved to deal with the uncertainty of their physical and social environment, and in how these cognitive tools help them learn and make rational decisions. As a postdoctoral fellow in the ABC group, I investigate whether newly-hatched chicks can compute basic probabilities to predict outcomes of uncertain events.

Building 14 
E-Mail: sarah.placi [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]



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 808106
E-Mail: orsola.rosasalva [at]

Mirko Zanon

I merge my physics background with an interest in neuroscience, nature and biology. I take care of the computational aspects of different research in our group, programming various tools to perform, improve and facilitate behavioural experiments or neurobiological data analysis. In particular I'm involved in studies about numerical competences in animals (chicks and fish).

Building 14 - Office 214, Second Floor
Phone: 0464 808648
E-Mail: mirko.zanon [at]

Doctoral Candidates

Maria Bortot

Previous studies have demonstrated the existence of links between space and number, space and time and number and time in humans and non-human animals. The aim of my study is to investigate whether a common mechanism of magnitude processing is observed also in invertebrates. To do so, I am investigating the abilities of honeybees (Apis mellifera) and bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) to transpose a similar relative rule in spatial, numerical and temporal dimensions.

Building 14 - Office 215, Second Floor
Phone: 0464 808745
E-Mail: maria.bortot [at]

Elena Eccher

Elena is a PhD student at CIMeC, University of Trento. She has always been interested in understanding what is innate in the human mind, for this reason she decided to focus her research interests on newborns’ and infants' mind and brain development. She learned to use different techniques (EEG, fNIRS and behavioural osservations) and specifically how to apply them with very young subjects.

Building 14 - Office 209, Second Floor
E-Mail: elena.eccher-1 [at]

Bastien Lemaire

I am a PhD student in animal cognition, investigating the mechanisms of biological predisposition to social behaviour.

Building 14 - Office 214, Second Floor
Phone: 0464 808743
E-Mail: bastien.lemaire [at]

Ilaria Schiona

The ability to encode numerosity (quantity) information is a fundamental skill of the vertebrate brain that provides several advantages in a natural environment. I am a molecular biotechnologist interested in neuroscience and animal cognition. As a PhD student, taking advantage of my experience in several fields of science, I am currently focusing on investigating the molecular bases of numerical abilities using zebrafish (Danio rerio) as animal model. I am also applying my translational skills to study the lateralization of the zebrafish brain. To reach my goals, I will apply a novel experimental paradigm combining behaviour and molecular biology assays.

Building 14 - Office 215, Second Floor
Phone: 0464 808746
E-Mail: ilaria.schiona [at]

Visiting Scientists

Elisabetta Versace

Elisabetta Versace

Queen Mary University of London, School of Biological and Chemical Sciences

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 internships/thesis project.

Building 14 - Office 3, Second Floor
Phone: 0464 808658


Administrative and Technical Staff of ACN Lab and Animal House

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 227, Second Floor
Phone: 0464 808719
Fax: 0464 808733
E-Mail: tommaso.pecchia [at]

Grazia Gambardella

A degree in Politics and the following Master in Local Development contributed to my open-minded attitude, as my studies gave me the chance to develop multi-functional skills in many different areas. I come from a long experience in a French multinational company, where I worked in administration and purchasing before been assigned to the control of the final stage of production flow. In CIMeC I am the administrative support at the ACN laboratory.

Building 14 - Office 227, Second Floor
Phone: 0464 808712
Fax: 0464 808733
E-Mail: grazia.gambardella [at]

Matilde Perrino

I’m a student at the last year of the master in Cognitive Science at CIMeC. I’m supporting the administration office of ACN-Lab, within “150 ore” framework.

Building 14, Second Floor
E-Mail: matilde.perrino [at]