Letizia Zullo


Research Lines



Largo Rosanna Benzi, 10, Torre D1 16132 Genova, Italy
+39 010 8610 209


I graduated in Biological Sciences in 2001 at the Federico II University, Naples, Italy working on the Central and peripheral control of “patterning” of the cromatophores in Loligo vulgaris.

I received my PhD in Applied Biology in the 2004 at the Federico II University, Naples, Italy working on the organization of the higher motor centers in Octopus vulgaris.

From 2004 to 2006 I was PostDoc in the lab of Prof. Benjamin Hochner at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem working on the electrophysiology of the Octopus CNS and arm.

From 2007 to 2012 I was PostDoc at the Department of Neuroscience and Brain Technologies, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Genova, Italy. 

Currently I'm Researcher at the Department of Neuroscience and Brain Technologies, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia working in the field of motor control of hyper-redundant limbs.


The aim of my research is to investigate the properties of the Octopus arm sensory-motor systems, the muscle mechanics, structure and molecular determinant of muscle formation with a special focus on their application in the bio-robotic field. I carry on two main research lines aiming at (i) elucidating the mechanisms of neural control and coordination of muscle cell ensembles with particular attention to their implementation in a bio-robotic environment; (ii) deciphering the molecular determinant of muscle formation and regeneration relevant to regenerative medicine.

Project link:

EU-FP7 OCTOPUS project n.:231608 http://www.octopusproject.eu/

COST 015/13 (COST Action FA1301): 

IIT Publications

  • 2020
  • Nesher N., Levy G., Zullo L.iit, Hochner B.

    Octopus motor control-an embodied solution to a complex problem

    Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Neuroscience, Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Zullo L.iit, Bozzo M., Daya A., Di Clemente A.iit, Mancini F.P., Megighian A., Nesher N., Rottinger E., Shomrat T., Tiozzo S., Zullo A., Candiani S.

    The Diversity of Muscles and Their Regenerative Potential across Animals

    Cells, vol. 9, (no. 9)
  • Gutnick T., Zullo L.iit, Hochner B., Kuba M.J.

    Use of Peripheral Sensory Information for Central Nervous Control of Arm Movement by Octopus vulgaris

    Current Biology, vol. 30, (no. 1), pp. 1-6
  • 2019
  • Nesher N., Maiole F.iit, Shomrat T., Hochner B., Zullo L.iit

    From synaptic input to muscle contraction: Arm muscle cells of Octopus vulgaris show unique neuromuscular junction and excitation-contraction coupling properties

    Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol. 286, (no. 1909)
  • Zullo L.iit, Eichenstein H., Maiole F.iit, Hochner B.

    Motor control pathways in the nervous system of Octopus vulgaris arm

    Journal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology
  • Maiole F.iit, Giachero S.iit, Fossati S.M.iit, Rocchi A.iit, Zullo L.iit

    mTOR as a marker of exercise and fatigue in octopus vulgaris arm

    Frontiers in Physiology, vol. 10
  • Maiole F.iit, Giachero S.iit, Fossati S.M.iit, Rocchi A.iit, Zullo L.iit

    mTOR as a marker of exercise and fatigue in Octopus vulgaris arm

    Frontiers in Physiology, vol. 10, pp. 1161
  • Xu P.A., Mishra A.K., Bai H., Aubin C.A., Zullo L.iit, Shepherd R.F.

    Optical lace for synthetic afferent neural networks

    Science Robotics, vol. 4, (no. 34)
  • Maiole F.iit, Tedeschi G., Candiani S., Maragliano L.iit, Benfenati F.iit, Zullo L.iit

    Synapsins are expressed at neuronal and non-neuronal locations in Octopus vulgaris

    Scientific Reports, vol. 9, (no. 1)
  • 2018
  • Nakajima R., Shigeno S., Zullo L.iit, De Sio F., Schmidt M.R.

    Cephalopods between Science, Art, and Engineering: a contemporary synthesis

    Frontiers in Communication
  • Zullo A., Simone E., Grimaldi M., Gagliardi M., Zullo L.iit, Matarazzo M.R., Mancini F.P.

    Effect of nutrient deprivation on the expression and the epigenetic signature of sirtuin genes

    Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, vol. 28, (no. 4), pp. 418-424
  • Zullo L.iit, Imperadore P.

    Regeneration and healing

    Handbook of Pathogens and diseases in european cephalopods
  • Zullo L.iit, Buschiazzo A., Massollo M., Riondato M., Democrito A., Marini C., Benfenati F.iit, Sambuceti G.

    Small-animal 18F-FDG PET for research on octopus vulgaris: Applications and future directions in invertebrate neuroscience and tissue regeneration

    Journal of Nuclear Medicine, vol. 59, (no. 8), pp. 1302-1307
  • 2017
  • Zullo L.iit, Maiole F.iit, Fossati SM.iit, Benfenati F.iit

    Biomechanics of the Octopus arm muscular hydrostat: involvement of mTOR pathway during arm exercise.

    European Journal of Translational Myology, vol. 27, (no. 1)
  • Zullo L.iit, Nödl MT.iit, Fossati SM.iit, Maragliano L.iit, Benfenati F.iit

    Mechanisms of arm regeneration in Octopus.

    Regeneration 2017, Milan, Italy.
  • Zullo L.iit, Fossati S.M.iit, Imperadore P., Nodl M.-T.iit

    Molecular determinants of cephalopod muscles and their implication in muscle regeneration

    Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology, vol. 5, (no. MAY)
  • 2016
  • Kang R.iit, Guglielmino E.iit, Zullo L.iit, Branson D.T., Godage I., Caldwell D.G.iit

    Embodiment design of soft continuum robots

    Advances in Mechanical Engineering, vol. 8, (no. 4), pp. 1-13
  • Levy G., Nesher N., Zullo L.iit, Hochner B.

    Motor control in soft bodied animals – the octopus

    The Oxford Handbook of Invertebrate Neurobiology
  • Zullo L.iit

    Otto braccia, tre cuori e un grande cervello: il Polpo tra mito e scienza

    Un Mare di Scienza, Publisher: De Ferrari Editore e Genova University Press.
  • 2015
  • Di Cosmo A., Bertapelle C., Polese G., Zullo L.iit, Palumbo A.


    Benessere ed animal care dell’animale da laboratorio
  • Fossati S.M.iit, Candiani S., Nodl M.-T.iit, Maragliano L.iit, Pennuto M.iit, Domingues P., Benfenati F.iit, Pestarino M., Zullo L.iit

    Identification and Expression of Acetylcholinesterase in Octopus vulgaris Arm Development and Regeneration: a Conserved Role for ACHE?

    Molecular Neurobiology, vol. 52, (no. 1), pp. 45-56
  • Nodl M.-T.iit, Fossati S.M.iit, Domingues P., Sanchez F.J., Zullo L.iit

    The making of an octopus arm

    EvoDevo, vol. 6, (no. 1)
  • 2014
  • Fiorito G., Affuso A., Anderson D.B., Basil J., Bonnaud L., Botta G., Cole A., D'Angelo L., De Girolamo P., Dennison N., Dickel L., Di Cosmo A., Di Cristo C., Gestal C., Fonseca R., Grasso F., Kristiansen T., Kuba M., Maffucci F., Manciocco A., Mark F.C., Melillo D., Osorio D., Palumbo A., Perkins K., Ponte G., Raspa M., Shashar N., Smith J., Smith D., Sykes A., Villanueva R., Tublitz N., Zullo L.iit, Andrews P.

    Cephalopods in neuroscience: Regulations, research and the 3Rs

    Invertebrate Neuroscience, vol. 14, (no. 1), pp. 13-36
  • 2013
  • Guglielmino E.iit, Godage I.iit, Zullo L.iit, Caldwell D.G.iit

    A pragmatic bio-inspired approach to the design of octopus-inspired arms

    IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pp. 4577-4582
  • Fossati S.M.iit, Carella F., De Vico G., Benfenati F.iit, Zullo L.iit

    Octopus arm regeneration: Role of acetylcholinesterase during morphological modification

    Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, vol. 447, pp. 93-99
  • 2012
  • Zullo L.iit, Chiappalone M.iit, Martinoia S.iit, Benfenati F.iit

    A "Spike-Based" Grammar Underlies Directional Modification in Network Connectivity: Effect on Bursting Activity and Implications for Bio-Hybrids Systems

    PLoS ONE, vol. 7, (no. 11)
  • Guglielmino E.iit, Zullo L.iit, Cianchetti M., Follador M., Branson D.iit, Caldwell D.G.iit

    The application of embodiment theory to the design and control of an octopus-like robotic arm

    Proceedings - IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pp. 5277-5282
  • 2011
  • Zullo L.iit, Hochner B.

    A new perspective on the organization of an invertebrate brain

    Communicative and Integrative Biology, vol. 4, (no. 1), pp. 26-29
  • Fossati S.iit, Benfenati F.iit, Zullo L.iit

    Morphological characterization of the Octopus vulgaris arm

    Vie et Milieu, vol. 61, (no. 4), pp. 191-195
  • Zullo L.iit, Fossati S.M.iit, Benfenati F.iit

    Transmission of sensory responses in the peripheral nervous system of the arm of Octopus vulgaris

    Vie et Milieu, vol. 61, (no. 4), pp. 197-201
  • 2009
  • Zullo L.iit, Sumbre G., Agnisola C., Flash T., Hochner B.

    Nonsomatotopic Organization of the Higher Motor Centers in Octopus

    Current Biology, vol. 19, (no. 19), pp. 1632-1636
  • 2006
  • Kuba M.J., Zullo L.iit, Byrne R.A., Hochner B.

    Visual habituation in the common octopus (Octopus vulgaris)

    Acta Universitatis Carolinae - Geologica, vol. 49, (no. 1-4), pp. 141-144

Dissemination Talks

  • 2020
  • Zullo L.iit

    Faraway, So Close! Octopus and humans

  • Zullo L.iit


  • 2014
  • Zullo L.iit

    Otto braccia, tre cuori e un grande cervello: il Polpo tra mito e scienza