We are an interdisciplinary group of people coming from the worlds of psychology and neuropsychology, cognitive science and neuroscience, neurology and geriatrics, and music education and therapy. We are joint together by a common interest in and passion for music and its neural mechanisms and power in neurorehabilitation.
Teppo Särkämö

Group leader

My background is in neuropsychology and cognitive neuroscience. I received a PhD in Psychology (2011) and a title of Docent in Psychology (2014) from University of Helsinki. I currently work as an Associate Professor of Neuropsychology at the Department of Psychology and Logopedics at University of Helsinki and lead our research team (MART). I started my research career studying the neuropsychology of musical deficits (amusia) and the rehabilitative effects of music listening after stroke. Since then my research interests have broadened to other music-based interventions for neurological rehabilitation and to the neural mechanisms of music, speech, and singing ability and how they are affected by ageing and by different neurological illnesses.

Aleksi Sihvonen

University re­searcher

I am a medical doctor currently specializing in neurology. I received a PhD in Medicine in 2018 and my dissertation aimed at uncovering the neural basis of acquired amusia and its recovery after stroke. In addition to my clinical specialization, I currently work as a post-doctoral researcher in MART. My research focuses on the neural mechanisms of music and language as well as their deficits, and the rehabilitative use of music in neurological patients.

Noelia Martínez Molina

Postdoc­toral re­searcher

I am a biologist and cognitive neuroscientist by training. I completed a MSc in Neuroscience at the Universtity of Oxford (2010) and a PhD in Psychology at the University of Barcelona (2017). My research goals gravitate towards a better understanding of brain structural and functional organization in health and disease as well as the use of music as a rehabilitation tool. My PhD contributed to unveil the neural correlates of specific musical anhedonia. I am now currently involved in the neuroimaging analysis of two randomized controlled trials with music-based interventions to rehabilitate cognitive functions and speech in traumatic brain injury and chronic stroke patients with aphasia, respectively.

Sini-Tuuli Siponkoski

Postdoc­toral re­searcher

I am a clinical neuropsychologist with a special interest in neurorehabilitation. I earned my Master’s degree in Psychology from the University of Turku (2007) and professional Licentiate’s Degree in Neuropsychology (2015) from the University of Helsinki. In 2016, I joined this research group to work full time with music intervention studies. In my current work, I enjoy particularly being able to combine my clinical and scientific interests to find tools that enhance recovery and wellbeing after brain injury. My current projects focus on music-based interventions for traumatic brain injury and stroke survivors.

Emmi Pentikäinen

Postdoc­toral re­searcher

I started my PhD studies straight after receiving my master’s degree in psychology in 2016. In my master’s thesis, I examined the effects of ageing on pre-attentive processing of auditory stimuli in the brain, and here is where my interest in ageing-related developmental changes started. Since childhood, music and musical practice in different forms have been an important part of my life, something that brings me joy and motivation. That is why I am interested in understanding more thoroughly the ways in which music shapes our brains and why music is so important to us.

Lotta Ahveninen

Doc­toral re­searcher (PhD stu­dent)

My background is in psychology and translational medicine (neuroscience and psychobiology). I became interested in ageing and brain imaging through my bachelor’s studies and thesis on amygdala volume in Huntington’s disease (Monash University, 2017). I am also interested in the effects of music on cognitive function and well-being due to a strong personal connection to music, especially singing. I was able to combine these interests at MART with my master’s thesis on the effects of ageing and choir singing on the brain (2022). I continue to explore these themes in my PhD project on the effectiveness of digital music rehabilitation in dementia.

Nella Moisseinen

Doc­toral re­searcher (PhD stu­dent)

I am a cognitive neuroscientist with a background in computing. Since Bachelor's studies, my fascination with the brains' ability to reorganize has led me towards work in research. My master's thesis on stroke rehabilitation (2018) and doctoral studies on healthy ageing (ongoing) both combined functional and structural brain imaging techniques to neuropsychological and qualitative measures. I am also interested in the ethics and philosophy of science as well as science communication.

Anni Pitkäniemi

Doc­toral re­searcher (PhD stu­dent)

I received my MA degree in Psychology in 2014. My MA thesis dealt with the neural mechanisms underlying action monitoring in music performance, which we studied by combining EEG, MIDI and motion capture techniques. I have completed a training program in pain psychology (2016-2018) and I am currently specialising in neuropsychology (2022-2025). I have worked as a clinical psychologist in the fields of e.g. neurology, geriatrics and rehabilitation. My main research interests include how music can be applied in the rehabilitation of neurological disorders (e.g. dementia, stroke) and in the treatment of pain, as well as how music could be used in end-of-life care. For my PhD, I am studying the neural architectures of spoken language production and singing as well as the effects of singing-based rehabilitation in post-stroke aphasia.

Ilja Salakka

Doctoral researcher (PhD student)

I received MA degree in Psychology from the University of Helsinki in 2020 (minor in computer science) and have also BA degree in music pedagogy. My general research interests combine neuropsychology, cognitive neuroscience, and music. Forming the basis for my doctoral research, my master’s thesis examined the relationships between computational musical features and music-evoked autobiographical memories and emotions. Continuing from that, my doctoral thesis will focus on music-evoked autobiographical memories and emotions in Alzheimer’s disease and healthy ageing.

Ella Laakso

Doctoral researcher (PhD student)

I received my master's degree in psychology in 2022. Since then, I have worked as a clinical psychologist in the fields of neurology and rehabilitation, as well as in the area of intellectual disabilities. Music has always been a significant part of my life, and I have always been interested in its various effects on individuals. In university, I had the opportunity to integrate my interests in psychology, neuroscience, and music. My master’s thesis focused on the impact of music on concentration. I am particularly interested in the rehabilitative effects of music in neurological disorders and after brain injuries and strokes. My doctoral dissertation examines the utilization of music in remote rehabilitation after a stroke.

Emma Oksanen

Doctoral researcher (PhD student)

I completed my master's degree in psychology in the beginning of 2024. Throughout my studies, I have been fascinated by the neural basis of cognition and the brain's ability to reorganize itself. As my studies have progressed, my interest has also extended towards clinical neuropsychology. For my master's thesis, I examined the effects of a multimodal choir-singing intervention on implicit auditory processes in people with aphasia. Continuing along similar themes, my upcoming PhD studies will be focused on music-based telerehabilitation for stroke.

Sari Laitinen

Mu­sic ther­ap­ist

I am a professional physiotherapist, psychotherapist and music therapist. I received my licentiate degree in music therapy from the Department of Music of University of Jyväskylä in 2008. In my licentiate thesis, I explored the experiences of nurses participating in action research where favourite music listening was implemented in patients recovering from stroke. Currently, I work as a music therapist at the neurological and psychogeriatric wards of the Espoo hospital. In my work, I actively utilize the results obtained from clinical studies of music and I have seen that the diverse opportunities afforded by music therapy and other art-based interventions can really broaden the traditional rehabilitation practices of neurological patients and be beneficial for recovery. In MART, I have been actively involved in the development and implementation of neurological music therapy interventions in stroke and brain injury rehabilitation and in dementia care in multiple research projects. The latest of these is a choir singing intervention for aphasic persons and their family caregivers, in which I also use a group-level adaptation of melodic intonation therapy to facilitate speech. I am very interested in adopting evidence-based music therapy methods to clinical work and, more broadly, in psychological well-being and in training care staff to utilize music in their work.

Essi-Reetta Särkämö

Choir con­ductor

I am a choir conductor and singing teacher. I completed a Master’s degree in music at the Department of Music Education of Sibelius Academy in 2006. I continually educate myself further on rhythmic and classical choir conducting e.g. at the Sibelius Academy. As a choir conductor, I work with many types of choirs, ranging from all-round senior choirs to choirs that specialize in groovy rhythmic music and in classical chamber choir music. At MART, since 2017 my work has focused on developing a choir singing intervention for aphasic persons and their family caregivers and implementing the choir sessions as a choir conductor, as part of a research project. I also help the team in making song and music stimuli used in experimental paradigms. As a singing teacher, I am very interested in the potential of singing in aphasia, especially as a tool to strengthen breathing and voice intensity and help in word finding. In choir singing, also group dynamics, interaction and doing together play a key role in helping aphasic persons find joy and courage, motivation and new forms of communication.

Eija Lahdensuo

Research coordinator

I am a nurse by education. I have worked as a research nurse since 1995 at KTL/THL Department of Epidemiology and Health Promotion (1995–2014) and University of Helsinki Department of Public Health (2000–2010). I have worked with drug research (blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes) and epidemiological studies. At THL, I was last involved in the Finger study (2009–2014), which aimed to prevent the deterioration of memory functions in the elderly, after which I started at the University of Helsinki as a research nurse in the Faculty of Behavioral Sciences (2014). I worked in the ITU study and, after it ended, in the Ilo Odottaa study (2021–2022). In early 2023, I joined the MART research group as a research nurse for the Music Memory Traces study.

Laboratory en­gin­eers