“My dream was to become a scientist and study the brain mechanisms of human behaviour. There are not many opportunities for this outside of universities.”
In the footsteps of Freud
Who are you?
I am Mikko Sams, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at Aalto University's Department of Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering (NBE).
What do you research?
I study the neural mechanisms of human cognition. Right now, I am especially interested in how people understand each other.
How did you end up in this field?
My dream was to become a scientist and study the brain mechanisms of human behaviour. There are not many opportunities for this outside of universities. I became fascinated by human behaviour and its brain mechanisms in high school. My interest was initially piqued by the works of Sigmund Freud, whom I still admire.
What’s best about your work?
I am relatively free to do what I want. I also enjoy interacting with my talented and hard-working younger colleagues and I'm especially proud of the excellent teams I've had the privilege to work in.
What is the most difficult aspect of your work?
It is very hard to express my ideas with sufficient clarity for others to understand them as well. Actually, this often means that I myself first need to improve my understanding.
What more would you like to achieve?
For me, research has been a never-ending project. At the moment, I would like to enhance my understanding of the neurocognitive mechanisms of in-group favouritism and how the concept of social self could help in this.
Text Paula Haikarainen
Photo Jussi Särkilahti
The original article is published in October 2015 in the Aalto University Magazine issue 14. (issuu.com)
Mikko Sams’ article Understanding how brains understand each other. (issuu.com)