People working in our group.
Soili Marianne Lehto

Group Leader, MD, PhD, Professor

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

  • Professor, University of Oslo, 2020 – present
  • Senior researcher, Akershus University Hospital, 2020 – present
  • Research Director, University of Helsinki, 2018 - 2020
  • 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 – 2022
  • 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


  • In order to achieve our goals, we collaborate with several institutions both nationally and internationally, including the Finnish Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Bern, King’s College London and University of Kent.
  • PhD students co-supervised with collaborators:
    • Päivi Ronkainen, MD (together with Professor Ilona Luoma and Professor Emerita Kirsti Kumpulainen, Department of Child Psychiatry, Kuopio University Hospital, Finland)
    • Tuomas Mikola, BM (together with Dr Anu Ruusunen, Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition, University of Eastern Finland, and Professor Minna Valkonen-Korhonen, Department of Psychiatry, Kuopio University Hospital, Finland).
    • Ulla-Greta Mikkonen, MD (together with Professor Pekka Mäntyselkä and Dr Anu Ruusunen, Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition, University of Eastern Finland)
Ville Airaksinen

Doctoral student, MD, 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. 

Guro Pauck Bernhardsen

Post-doctoral researcher, PhD (Physical activity epidemiology), MSc (Physical activity and health)

Major research and other interests

In my post-doctoral research, I use data from birth cohort studies – mainly the Kuopio Birth Cohort (KuBiCo) Study and Kuopio Birth Register – to examine how maternal psychological and physiological factors during pregnancy may interact and be related to subsequent health outcomes in the developing children. This forms an interesting continuation for my PhD studies, where I examined maternal and early life factors related to subsequent cardiometabolic health and body composition in the children.

Outside of research, I enjoy spending time with family and friends, cross country skiing, mountain biking or hiking in the mountains/woods, but also sedentary activities like knitting.

Arthur Chortatos

Post-doctoral researcher, PhD (Biostatistics and Epidemiology), RDN (registered dietitian nutritionist)

Major research and other interests

In my masters and doctoral research, I was involved with The Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa) primarily looking at variables relating to maternal nutrition, nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, and pelvic girdle pain post-partum.

My present post-doctoral position is involved with the Kuopio Birth Cohort (KuBiCo) Study and Kuopio Birth Register. Here elements of the maternal and infant microbiota are being tested for potential associations with maternal mental health and development in the child.

In my free time I enjoy all aspects of music, reading, cooking and time spent outdoors with family and friends.

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.

Aleksi Ruohomäki

Doctoral student, MD, 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.

Hannele Tiainen

Doctoral student, MD

Major research and other interests

My PhD thesis investigates the impact of maternal and family morbidity on maternal psychological stress during pregnancy. This project is conducted as a part of the ongoing Kuopio Birth Cohort (KuBiCo) Study. I seek to learn more about conducting medical research and would be very happy to discover something that helps to shape maternity care and facilitate prevention of transgenerational transmission of mental health issues.

In addition to my PhD studies, I am also training to become a cognitive psychotherapist for adults. As for the remaining free time, I think my family is my most important free time ‘project’. I also feel like there is not enough time in the world to discover and do everything that I’m keen on, but I enjoy art in many different forms, swimming and skiing, doing handcrafts and decorating my home.

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.