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Institute of Applied Data Science


Dr Elisabetta Versace

Elisabetta Versace

Lecturer in Psychology & Turing Fellow

School of Biological and Chemical Sciences
Room 2.25, Fogg Building
+44 20 7882 8798


Artificial Intelligence, animal research, artificial intelligence and robotics


Her research focusses on foundations of knowledge and evolution of behaviour. Living beings come to this world equipped with unlearned capacities to interact with the environment. For instance, chicks do not need any training to preferentially approach animate objects, orient in space and recognize familiar individuals. Other predispositions include specialised mechanisms for learning that are used in filial imprinting and language. Her research is focussed on the evolution of the fundamental building blocks of behaviour and cognition, predisposed behaviours and specialised learning mechanisms. Her analyses span from behavioural to genomic data. Other research areas covered include: predispositions and social behaviour; artificial grammar learning; lateralisation; and experimental evolution.


Publications of specific relevance to Applied Data Science


Lemaire BS, Rucco D, Josserand M, Vallortigara G and Versace E (2021). Stability and individual variability of social attachment in imprinting. Scientific Reports  vol. 11, (1) 10.1038/s41598-021-86989-3
Rosa-Salva O, Mayer U, Versace E, Hébert M, Lemaire BS and Vallortigara G (2021). Sensitive periods for social development: Interactions between predisposed and learned mechanisms. Cognition  10.1016/j.cognition.2020.104552
Lorenzi E, Lemaire BS, Versace E, Matsushima T and Vallortigara G (2021). Resurgence of an Inborn Attraction for Animate Objects via Thyroid Hormone T3. Front Behav Neurosci  vol. 15, 10.3389/fnbeh.2021.675994


Versace E, Damini S and Stancher G (2020). Early preference for face-like stimuli in solitary species as revealed by tortoise hatchlings. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A  10.1073/pnas.2011453117
Versace E, Caffini M, Werkhoven Z and de Bivort BL (2020). Individual, but not population asymmetries, are modulated by social environment and genotype in Drosophila melanogaster. Nature Publishing Group  Scientific Reports  vol. 10, (1) 10.1038/s41598-020-61410-7
Versace E, Schloetterer C, Hsu S-K, Jaks ic AM, Nolte V, Lirakis M, Kofler R and Barghi N (2020). Rapid sex-specific adaptation to high temperature in Drosophila. Elife Sciences Publications Ltd  Elife  10.7554/eLife.53237


Versace E, Ragusa M and Vallortigara G (2019). A transient time window for early predispositions in newborn chicks. Scientific Reports  vol. 9, (1) 10.1038/s41598-019-55255-y
Hebert M, Versace E and Vallortigara G (2019). Inexperienced preys know when to flee or to freeze in front of a threat. National Academy of Sciences  Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences of Usa  10.1073/pnas.1915504116
Versace E, Rogge JR, Shelton-May N and Ravignani A (2019). Positional encoding in cotton-top tamarins (Saguinus oedipus). Animal Cognition  vol. 22, (5) 825-838. 10.1007/s10071-019-01277-y
Lorenzi E, Pross A, Rosa-Salva O, Versace E, Sgadò P and Vallortigara G (2019). Embryonic exposure to valproic acid affects social predispositions for dynamic cues of animate motion in newly-hatched chicks. Frontiers in Physiology  vol. 10, (APR) 10.3389/fphys.2019.00501


Versace E, Martinho-Truswell A, Kacelnik A and Vallortigara G (2018). Priors in Animal and Artificial Intelligence: Where Does Learning Begin? Trends in Cognitive Sciences  vol. 22, (11) 963-965. 10.1016/j.tics.2018.07.005
Belloni V, Galeazzi A, Bernini G, Mandrioli M, Versace E and Haase A (2018). Corrigendum to “Evolutionary compromises to metabolic toxins: Ammonia and urea tolerance in Drosophila suzukii and Drosophila melanogaster” [Physiol. Behav. 191, 1 July 2018, 146–154] (S0031938418301975) (10.1016/j.physbeh.2018.04.021)). Physiology and Behavior  vol. 194, 10.1016/j.physbeh.2018.05.013
rosa-salva O, Fiser J, VERSACE E, Dolci C, Chehaimi S, Santolin C and Vallortigara G (2018). Spontaneous learning of visual structures in domestic chicks. Mdpi Ag  Animals  10.3390/ani8080135
Belloni V, Galeazzi A, Bernini G, Mandrioli M, Versace E and Haase A (2018). Evolutionary compromises to metabolic toxins: Ammonia and urea tolerance in Drosophila suzukii and Drosophila melanogaster. Physiology and Behavior  vol. 191, 146-154. 10.1016/j.physbeh.2018.04.021
Sgadò P, Rosa-Salva O, VERSACE E and Vallortigara G (2018). Embryonic Exposure to Valproic Acid Impairs Social Predispositions of Newly-Hatched Chicks. Nature Publishing Group  Scientific Reports  10.1038/s41598-018-24202-8
VERSACE E, Damini S, Caffini M and Stancher G (2018). Born to be asocial: Newly-hatched tortoises avoid unfamiliar individuals. Elsevier Masson  Animal Behaviour  10.1016/j.anbehav.2018.02.012
Vallortigara G and Versace E (2018). Filial Imprinting. Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior  10.1007/978-3-319-47829-6_1989-1


Versace E, Spierings MJ, Caffini M, ten Cate C and Vallortigara G (2017). Spontaneous generalization of abstract multimodal patterns in young domestic chicks. Springer Nature  Animal Cognition  vol. 20, (3) 521-529. 10.1007/s10071-017-1079-5
Versace E, Fracasso I, Baldan G, Dalle Zotte A and Vallortigara G (2017). Newborn chicks show inherited variability in early social predispositions for hen-like stimuli. Sci Rep  vol. 7, 10.1038/srep40296


Rogers LJ, Frasnelli E and Versace E (2016). Lateralized antennal control of aggression and sex differences in red mason bees, Osmia bicornis. Sci Rep  vol. 6, 10.1038/srep29411


Versace E, Nolte V, Pandey RV, Tobler R and Schlötterer C (2014). Experimental evolution reveals habitat-specific fitness dynamics among Wolbachia clades in Drosophila melanogaster. Mol Ecol  vol. 23, (4) 802-814. 10.1111/mec.12643