Davide Zoccolan is a professor of neurophysiology at the Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati (SISSA) of Trieste. He received his M.S. in physics at the University of Turin in 1997 and his Ph.D. in biophysics at SISSA in 2002. He worked as a postdoctoral associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with James DiCarlo and Tomaso Poggio and as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University with David Cox. In 2009, he established the SISSA Visual Neuroscience Lab, where he studies the neuronal basis of high-level visual functions using a combination of psychophysics and electrophysiology in rats, as well as computational modeling.
Zoccolan’s most recent contributions to the field of visual neuroscience include: (1) the discovery of advanced object recognition and shape-processing abilities in rats; (2) the functional characterization of the progression of rat lateral extrastriate areas as a cortical object-processing pathway; (3) the demonstration that causal adaptation to visual input dynamics governs the development of complex cells in the primary visual cortex; and (4) the discovery that rats, similarly to humans, preferentially encode local image structures that are more informative about the visual environment.
His current research interests focus on exploiting the rat as a model to test whether efficient coding principles shape the development of visual cortical tuning through unsupervised learning and, more recently, on exploring the neuronal underpinnings of visual perceptual anomalies in autism using SFARI rat genetic models of autism.