The Gravity Prior: Neurocognitive mechanisms of gravitational representation from early stages of life.

Elisabetta Versace (primary)
School of Biological and Chemical Sciences
Queen Mary University of London
Elisa Ferre (secondary)
Psychology department
Royal Holloway, University of London (RHUL)


In approaching the era of commercial spaceflight and deep-space exploration to Mars we need to understand how the brain represents gravity. To clarify whether the assumptions we make on gravity are innate or built on experience, we will study early gravity representations in young domestic chicks – a model for cognitive predispositions – and humans. We will investigate terrestrial and non-terrestrial gravities. Tailoring the project on the student’s interests, our interdisciplinary approach in cognitive neuroscience, comparative and developmental psychology combines virtual reality, electrophysiology and controlled-rearing studies. The implications of this project span from fundamental neuroscience and biology to space exploration sector.


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5 Lemaire, B. S., Rucco, D., Josserand, M., Vallortigara, G., & Versace, E. (2021). Stability and individual variability of social attachment in imprinting. Sci Rep 11, 7914.

Animal disease, health and welfare
Area of Biology
Techniques & Approaches
EngineeringImage ProcessingMathematics / StatisticsMicroscopy / ElectrophysiologySimulation / Modelling