People working in our group.
Soili Marianne Lehto

Group Leader, MD, PhD, Docent (senior researcher)

Academic and Professional Degrees

  • Special Competence in Medical Education, Finnish Medical Association, 2013
  • Clinical Specialist in Psychiatry, University of Eastern Finland, 2012
  • PhD, University of Kuopio, 2009
  • MD, University of Kuopio, 2006

Major Positions and Appointments

  • Research Director, University of Helsinki, 2018 - present
  • Docent (senior researcher) in Biological Psychiatry, University of Helsinki, 2017 – present
  • University Researcher, University of Helsinki, 2016 - 2017
  • Professor in Psychiatry (acting), University of Eastern Finland, 2016
  • Visiting academic, University of Oxford, 2014 - 2015
  • Professor in Psychiatry (acting), University of Eastern Finland, 2013 – 2014
  • Clinical lecturer in Psychiatry, University of Eastern Finland, 2010 – 2013
  • Docent (senior researcher) in Experimental Psychiatry, University of Eastern Finland, 2010 – present

Major Positions of Trust

  • National Committee on Medical Research Ethics TUKIJA, deputy member (psychiatry), 2018 – present
  • Research ethics committee of the North Savo Hospital District, chair, 2013 - 2015
  • Several positions in committees organizing continuous medical education events and conferences (Finnish Psychiatric Association, Finnish Medical Association Duodecim, North Savo Doctors' Association), 2008 – present

Major Research Interests

  • Mechanisms underlying common mental illnesses and the efficacy of their treatments
  • Utilizing information on novel illness and treatment mechanisms to develop or optimize new treatment applications

Other Interests

  • Medical education
  • Increasing awareness of the importance of transferable research skills
  • Outside of research I love traveling, musicals, good books (try either of the two Murakamis!) and any form of strenuous physical exercise that empties one's mind after a long day's work


  • In order to achieve our goals, we are collaborating with several institutions both nationally and internationally, including the Finnish Institute of Molecular Medicine, Jyväskylä Centre for Interdisciplinary Brain Research, University of Kent, UK and the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, Germany.
  • PhD students co-supervised with collaborators:
    • Hannele Tiainen, MD
      (together with Professor Sari Lindeman, Department of Psychiatry, Jyväskylä Central Hospital).
    • Siiri-Liisi Kraav, MSc
      (together with Dr Tommi Tolmunen, Department of Adolescent Psychiatry, Kuopio University Hospital)
    • Päivi Ronkainen, MD
      (together with Professor Kirsti Kumpulainen, Department of Child Psychiatry, Kuopio University Hospital);
Liubov Hoffren

Post doctoral researcher, MD, PhD

Research Experience

  • Liubov conducted her PhD research at the Saint-Petersburg State I. Pavlov Medical University Saint-Petersburg, Russia, and completed her PhD thesis "Clinical and neurofunctional features of anxiety and depressive symptoms in temporal lobe epilepsy patients" in 2014.
  • Currently, Liubov is engaged in postdoctoral research in the OptES study. She aims to gain experience in working with transcranial electrical stimulation, and wants to deepen her skills in brain imaging as part of our collaborative study with the ‘Multidisciplinary approaches to eating behavior' group at the UEF. 

Major Research Interests

  • Affective disorders and their pathophysiology
  • Epilepsy and the role of epileptogenesis in the development of mental disorders
  • Neuroimaging

Other Interests

  • Medical teaching: I taught psychiatry, psychosomatic medicine, and child psychiatry for medical students at the I. Pavlov Medical University 2010-2015, and continue to visit my previous institution a few times a year to lecture as part of the above courses.
  • Child psychiatry, psychosomatic medicine and psychotherapy
  • Travelling, sports, books (especially poetry and historical novels), music, and nature.
Ville Airaksinen

Doctoral student, BM, MSc (Tech.), BSc (Soc.)

Major Research and Other Interests

My PhD research, a part of the Kuopio Birth Cohort (KuBiCo) Study, explores the impact of maternal nutrition during pregnancy on maternal mental health and child wellbeing. In addition to improving my understanding on how diet associates with the complex manifestations of human physiology and mind (both mature and developing), I seek to gain expertise in medical research and scientific practice in general.

I have previous degrees in information networks from Aalto University and in social and moral philosophy from the University of Helsinki. In my free time I love having a good cup of coffee, discovering the small worlds of great books and creating soundscapes with my guitar. Wandering around outdoors and swimming are also things that I couldn’t do without.

Toni Ali-Sisto

Doctoral student, MD

Major Research and Other Interests

My PhD thesis focuses on peripheral metabolic changes during active and remitted states of major depressive disorder (MDD). I seek to enhance our understanding of the etiopathogenesis of MDD. I hope my work will eventually help in the development of new diagnostic tools and more effective or better-targeted antidepressant treatments. Aside from my scientific interests, I am enthusiastic about board and video games as well as varieties of tea and coffee beverages. 

Saara Happo

Doctoral student, MSc

Major Research and Other Interests

The main aim of my PhD research (entitled ‘Risk Assessment in Clinical Trials’) is to detect and develop effective ways to help researchers better assess the risks related to clinical trials, and analyse the work of ethics committees regarding the risk assessment of clinical trials. Aside from my PhD research, I am passionate about developing better education for clinical researchers as part of my work as coordinator for the Doctoral Programme of Clinical Research at the University of Eastern Finland. During my free time, I enjoy writing fiction, lyrics and poetry. I am also a fencer and an instructor as well as a board member of 'Kuopion Miekkailijat' fencing club.

Aaron Kortteenniemi

Doctoral student, BM

Major Research and Other Interests

I am carrying out my doctoral studies in the OptES project, examining the adverse effects of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) as well as the possible effects of tDCS on peripheral metabolism. I aim to develop my skills in medical research and look forward to learning more about the human brain and the ways its functions can be modified. During my free time, I enjoy all kinds of games, including video, card and board games, as well as making handmade jewellery.

Maria Luojus

Post-doctoral researcher, PhD (Epidemiology), MSc (Public Health), MSc (Education), Physiotherapist

Major Research and Other Interests

My post-doctoral research is part of the ongoing KuBiCo study and focuses on women’s sleep duration and subjective sleep quality in mid-pregnancy. I am exploring the associations of sleep with gestational weight gain, and with pregnancy and fetal outcomes. I have graduated in 2017 as a PhD from epidemiology. In my PhD thesis, I explored the relationships between sleep and health in ageing men who participated in the Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Study. Along with research work, I work in Open University as a curriculum co-ordinator and teacher. In my free time, I enjoy doing handicrafts and hiking in the forests.

Julia Moisala

Doctoral student, MD

Major Research and Other Interests

I began my PhD research during my medical studies a few years ago, and my project is part of the Kuopio Birth Cohort (KuBiCo) study. The main focus of my PhD research is on maternal antidepressant use and its effects on the outcomes of pregnancy, delivery and child development. I am also interested in whether maternal antidepressant medication has less unfavourable effects to the well-being of the foetus than untreated maternal mental disorders. In addition, I am particularly interested in the cognitive development of children whose mothers have used medications that affect central nervous system functions.

My biggest achievements so far are a little daughter and an invaluable husband, who fill my days (and calender) with joy and everyday adventures. As a doctor, I am an enthusiastic resident in Gynaecology and Obstetrics, currently working at the Jyväskylä Central Hospital. Once in a while I might have some leisure time to gobble romantic novels and knit woolen socks.

Aleksi Ruohomäki

Doctoral student, BM, BSc (mathematics)

Major Research and Other Interests

I am conducting my PhD project as part of the KuBiCo Study, examining the relationships between gestational diabetes, postpartum depression and early childhood development. I look forward to gaining more experience in academic research, and developing a better understanding of early life events that make us what we are.

I have previously studied mathematics and philosophy at the University of Helsinki. In my spare time, I love riddles, red wine and music such as Neil Young. My most important hobby is surfing, and my favourite wave is T-land in West Timor.

Markus Varheenmaa

Doctoral student, MD

Major Research and Other Interests

I have a growing interest towards using brain stimulation to modulate the behaviour of people suffering from psychiatric conditions. Working with transcranial random noise stimulation (tRNS) as part of the OptES-iTreat project has nourished this interest and offers an excellent viewpoint to brain stimulation. As part of the second project of my doctoral studies, I am conducting research focused on another great interest of mine, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

I enjoy cross-country skiing, hiking and spending time with my family whenever I am pampered with the luxury of free time. Dinghy sailing is something I have been dreaming of getting back to since my first try a few years ago. Occasionally, I sing or play trombone.


Najma Yusuf Mohamed
Advanced studies medical student, 2016-2017
Current position: MD student, Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Eastern Finland

Hilla-Inkeri Luukkonen
Advanced studies medical student, 2016-2017
Current position: MD student, Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Eastern Finland

Hanna Pohjola
Post doctoral researcher, 2015-2016
Current position: Post doctoral reseacher, Department of Social Sciences, University of Eastern Finland, Finland / Academy of Finland

Subina Upadhyaya
MSc student 2016
Current position: PhD student, Research Centre for Child Psychiatry, University of Turku, Finland

Antti-Pekka Elomaa
Doctoral student, 2011-2016
Current positions: Post doctoral researcher and resident physician, Department of Neurosurgery, Kuopio University Hospital, Finland

Elena Toffol
Post doctoral researcher, 2014-2016
Current position: Senior researcher, University of Helsinki and Institute of Health and Welfare, Finland

Anna-Liisa Kettunen
Research assistant, 2014-2015
Research nurse, 2015-2016

Anu Ruusunen
Post doctoral researcher, 2014-2015
Current position: Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Food and Mood Centre, IMPACT Strategic Research Centre, Deakin University, Australia

Santtu Seipäjärvi
Visiting summer intern, May-June 2015
Current position: MSc student, University of Jyväskylä, Finland