Associate Professor Iiro Jääskeläinen’s brain research uses movies as stimuli
Aalto University Systems Neuroscience Associate Professor Iiro Jääskeläinen uses movies to study emotional responses, social perception, and the formation of prejudices in the brain among other things.
‘My latest publications include findings of similarity in entrepreneurs love towards their own firms and in fathers’ love of their own children that was covered by the Wall Street Journal and Forbes, for example. This research, published in the journal of Human Brain Mapping, was carried out using functional magnetic resonance imaging by showing fathers and entrepreneurs pictures of their children and other children they knew, as well as pictures of their own companies and other companies familiar to them’, Professor Iiro Jääskeläinen describes.
According to Jääskeläinen, brain research is progressing increasingly rapidly. Among other areas, this will have a remarkable impact on our understanding of the effects of work, the importance of rest, and nutrition, for healthy brain. In addition, basic neuroscience opens up new possibilities for studying various neurological and psychiatric illnesses as well as developing treatments for them.
‘Aalto University was the perfect choice for me, since I want to conduct, at the highest possible international level, the type of brain research that requires both neuroimaging equipment and data-analysis algorithm development. One of the objectives of my research is to understand how different brain regions communicate with each other in various conditions’, Jääskeläinen explains.
In Jääskeläinen’s most recent collaborative studies, brain mechanisms that expose to prejudices and conflicts between people are elucidated with researchers of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, Israel.
Turning points and highlights of Jääskeläinen's career
Jääskeläinen acted as Professor Mikko Sams’ substitute at the Helsinki University of Technology between 2003 and 2007. A new approach to brain research was found at that time; showing movies to experimental subjects. Among other advantages, movies make it possible to stimulate emotional responses in the brain and help to investigate how the brain processes information over time. Jääskeläinen's research was part of the five-year aivoAALTO research project.
Before substituting Professor Sams, Jääskeläinen studied the human auditory system by utilising mathematical methods to interpret complementary information gained with different neuroimaging methods at Harvard University.
‘Boston's scientific community was remarkable. It was easy to ascend to a whole new level, as the answers to even the most detailed of questions relevant for my research could always be found nearby. The research I conducted there resulted in the first PNAS publication of my career’, Jääskeläinen recalls his years in Boston.
In his postgraduate studies, Jääskeläinen studied the acute effects of alcohol on perception using evoked response measurements and gained his doctorate in one and a half years at the age of only 22 years.
Jääskeläinen got his first in-depth mentoring in science when he worked on his master thesis in 1993. The topic of his work was the effect of opioid antagonists on alcohol addiction; a method which has been applied in the treatment of alcoholism in the recent years.
‘I was honoured to study the effect of opioid antagonists on alcohol consumption together with David Sinclair, who worked as Senior Researcher at Alko’s research laboratories. He took one student at a time to work with and offered tireless mentoring. He already had a long career and a few hundred publications, and we used to spend hours discussing science’, Jääskeläinen describes his early career.
Already during his final year in the upper secondary school, Jääskeläinen had a thirst for knowledge that could not be quenched by his school books. He completed an approbatur syllabus in social psychology at summer university along his matriculation examination, got to study psychology at the University of Helsinki, and graduated as a Master of Psychology in just two years.
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Picture: Lasse Lecklin