Centre for Behaviour and Evolution

Staff Profile

Dr Vivek Nityananda

David Phillips Research Fellow



Ph.D., Animal Behaviour, Indian Institute of Science

M.Sc. Biological Sciences, Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences, Pilani

Previous Positions

College for Life Sciences Fellow, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, Institute for Advanced Study

Marie Curie Research Fellow, Queen Mary University of London

Human Frontiers Science Program Research Fellow, Queen Mary University of London

Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Minnesota

Grants, Fellowships and Awards

2021 Leverhulme Research Grant (as Co-I with Prof Jennifer Richards, Newcastle University)

2019 BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship

2018 Best Postdoc Paper Prize, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Newcastle University

2017 Shortlisted for Times Higher Education Research Project of the Year (STEM)

2016 Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, Institute of Advanced Study, College for Life Sciences Fellowship

2016 Wellcome Trust Small Arts Award (for a play about insect senses with Cap-A-Pie Theatre, Newcastle)

2016 EngageFMS- Creative Arts Practice Award (for a play about insect senses with Cap-A-Pie Theatre, Newcastle)

2015 Great North Museum Fellowship for Public Engagement

2014 Centre for Behaviour and Evolution Small Grant (with Dr Ronny Rosner and Dr Ghaith Tarawneh)

2012 Centre for Ecology and Evolution Research Grant (with Dr Shakti Lamba)

2011 Marie Curie Incoming International Fellowship

2010 Human Frontiers in Science Program Long Term Fellowship

2009 Shyamrao Kaikini Award for best PhD thesis in Ecology, Indian Institute of Science

External responsibilities

2020-present Member, Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility Committee, Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour

2020-present Member, Inclusion and Diversity Committee, International Scoiety for Neuroethology

2019-present Member, BAME advisory board, Newcastle University

2018- present Academic Editor, PLoS One

2015 - present Member, Executive committee, Centre for Behaviour and Evolution, Newcastle University

2014 - 2019 Member, Equality and Diversity Committee, Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle University

2014 –2019 Member, Postdoctoral committee, Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle University

2012 – 2013 Joint postdoctoral representative, Research Strategy Group, Queen Mary University of London

2012 - 2013 Joint secretary, London Evolutionary Research Network, a society for post-graduate students and postdoctoral researchers engaged in evolutionary research.

Reviewer for the following journals:

Current Biology, Methods in Ecology and Evolution, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Journal of Experimental Biology, PLoS Biology, Royal Society Interface, Behavioural Ecology, Scientific Reports, Functional Ecology, Animal Behaviour, Psychological Science, Journal of Comparative Physiology A, PLoS One, Current Opinion in Insect Science, Ecological Entomology, Ethology, Resonance, Current Science

Google ScholarClick here.

SCOPUS: Click here.


I am currently on a BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship researching attention-like processes in insects. 

My research is multidisciplinary and combines ecology, evolutionary biology, neuroscience and psychophysics to study animal behaviour. I use a variety of techniques as part of my research, including behavioural observations, experiments, neurophysiology and agent-based modelling of neural and evolutionary processes. My work combines diverse approaches to provide an integrative understanding of behaviour. 

I am a member of the Biosciences Institute and my work contributes to the Behavioural Science and Psychology research theme.

Current projects:

1. Attention-like processes in insects

Insect brains are orders of magnitude smaller than primate brains. Ye they solve several of the same visual problems that primates do - often with smart, efficient solutions. One of the most important of these problems is that of selective attention - choosing one target and ignoring the distractors, something that is vital for foraging or avoiding predators. I've been awarded a BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship to investigate how insects manage to do so by combining insights from neuroscience, psychology and ecology. The research will also investigate the role these attention-like processes play in pollination and in particular how pesticides might affect the sensory systems of pollinators. The aims are thus to further advance the rapid recent progress of research into insect visual processing and enhance our understanding of the effect of pesticides on pollinator health.

2. Stereo vision, camouflage and prey detection in the praying mantis

Praying mantises are specialized visual predators and are the only invertebrates known to have stereo vision. On collaboration with Prf Jenny Read we're investigating how they compute stereo vision and if their mechanisms of stereo vision are similar to those seen in primates or not. This will shed light on whether and how nervous systems evolve convergent solutions to similar problems. It could also lead to the development of novel mantis-inspired depth perception algorithms. You can read more about the project here: http://www.jennyreadresearch.com/research/m3/. In addition to work on stereo vision, we're also investigating other visual adaptation that help mantises detect prey, especially when they are camouflaged.

3. The evolution of self-deception and overconfidence (in collaboration with Dr. Shakti Lamba).

One explanation for the evolution of overconfidence and self-deception is that they help us deceive others about our abilities and gain social status. We are developing an empirical research programme testing this idea in humans and other species. Our first findings are published here: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0104562


MMB8047 Evolution and Human Behaviour

MMB8043 Comparative Cognition: Information Processing in Humans and Other Animals

Previous lectures: Animal Communication, Sensory Ecology, Selective Attention, An Introduction to Matlab