Institute for Complex Systems - Sapienza - CNR

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ISC Sapienza Massimiliano Viale
Massimiliano Viale Profile Page
Massimiliano Viale
3 years ago


About Me:

I am a researcher working on collective animal behaviour in the COBBS group                                 (Collective Behaviour in Biological Systems), coordinated by Andrea Cavagna and Irene Giardina.

I'm part of the theoretical team, working on inverse problem and data analysis for bird flocks and insect swarms and development of tracking software.

My publications ordered according to the number of citations by Google Scholar



2009: Ph.D. in Physics, University of Rome Tre, Italy, advisor Elisabetta Scoppola - Spin Glass ,Clique Problems.

2005: Degree in Physics, University of Rome La Sapienza, Italy, advisor Giorgio Parisi - Spin Glass, SAT Problems.



From bird flocks to fish schools, from insect swarms to cell colonies, collective behaviour is a very widespread phenomenon in many biological systems.
It is hard to define, but easy to recognize.
What are the mechanisms regulating collective behaviour in biological systems?

The aim of my work is to understand  the collective behaviour exhibited by flocks of starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) and swarms of non-biting midges (Chironomidae) through the analysis of synchronized high speed image sequences from three cameras.
Using stereo matching and other computer vision techniques, we are able to reconstruct, in three dimensions, the trajectories of individual animals within the aggregation.
Further analysis of the trajectories should lead to a better understanding of the fundamental interaction rules between individuals.

- Information transfer and behavioural inertia in starling flocks
Nature Physics 10 (9), 691-696

- Interaction ruling animal collective behavior
depends on topological rather than metric distance:
Evidence from a field study
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
105 (4), 1232-1237

- Collective Behaviour without Collective Order
in Wild Swarms of Midges
PloS Computational Biology 10 (7), e1003697

Experiments find coherent information transfer through biological groups on length and time scales distinctly below those on which asymptotically correct hydrodynamic theories apply.

We need a new continuum theory of collective motion coupling the velocity and density fields to the inertial spin field recently introduced to describe information propagation in natural flocks of birds.

- Silent Flocks

Which is the "recipe" that exactly reproduces
the real biological systems? Which are the hypotheses
cut by the "Occam's Razor" for which
"entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity"?

Biological data have hidden information to be gathered: we have to solve the "Inverse Problem".
We can try to take advantage of the critical aspects of biological systems because in physics this is synonymous of phase transition and scale invariance.
A deeper statistical mechanics insight allows us to "rescale" biological data from different events
and obtain more robust and meaningful answers.
It is required a complex and interdisciplinary line of research that includes:

- Deep theoretical expertise on statistical physics of complex systems ;
- Bayesian inference on biological data;
- Optimization – Simulations - Modeling  ;

- Scale-free correlations in starling flocks
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
107 (26), 11865-11870

- Statistical mechanics for natural flocks of birds
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
109 (13), 4786-4791

More informations can be found on the CoBBS group page and on the CoBBS lab page.


Contact Info

Massimiliano Viale

I am at room  n.414   of  Sapienza , 4th floor,  Enrico Fermi (NEF)  building.

Here you can find a map of our locations at and near Sapienza.


This user has no published articles.