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Ongoing research projects

The conscious mind: Integrating subjective phenomenology with objective measurements

This project studies different states of the conscious human mind: anesthesia, sleep, dreaming, hypnosis, and meditation. The major objective methods that we will use include the pharmacological manipulation of consciousness by anesthetic agents, high-resolution imaging of brain activity, and electrophysiological measurements during anesthesia, sleep, dreaming, and hypnosis. Data concerning the subjective contents of consciousness is collected as written and verbal reports, structured diaries, interviews and questionnaires, and content analysis methods are used to quantify the contents of consciousness.

Academy of Finland Research project of the Human Mind Research Programme

Principal investigators: Antti Revonsuo (consortium leader, Revonsuo [at] utu.fi), Harry Scheinin, and Katja Valli

Cognitive and neural mechanisms of visual phenomenology

How and why certain neural activities produce consciousness remains a mystery for science. Our experiments aim to reveal the neural mechanisms of phenomenal visual consciousness and at the same time to test some of the theories of visual consciousness. We will examine the metaphysical and the empirical implications of the currently dominating but mutually conflicting theories of (visual) consciousness (Recurrent Processing Theory, Global Workspace Theory, and Information Integration Theory).

Principal investigators: Antti Revonsuo (leader: Revonsuo [at] utu.fi), Mika Koivisto, Niina Salminen-Vaparanta

Funded by the Academy of Finland.

Neurodriving: Behavioral effects and brain mechanisms of age (adolescence) and social pressure on risk taking in a computerized driving simulation

Heikki Hämäläinen, Victor Vorobyev, Myoung Soo Kwon, Riitta Parkkola, Dagfinn Moe, UTU and Dept. Transport Research, Sintef Technology and Society, Trondheim, Norway. Three papers submitted, new financing (study on intervention effects) under negotiation.

Principal investigator: Heikki Hämäläinen

EMF effects on human cognition and brain function

Heikki Hämäläinen, Myoung Soo Kwon, Victor Vorobiev et al. Consortium application with UEF to Finnish Academy pending. Well over 20 publications so far including behavioral, EEG and PET studies.

Principal investigator: Heikki Hämäläinen

Perceptual hemispatial bias

Effects of age and level of cognitive control on extinction-type bias in spatial perceptual capacity.  Heikki Hämäläinen, Faramosh Rashid Izullah et al. Funding applied from several sources.

Principal investigator: Heikki Hämäläinen

Capacity limits in conscious perception: Cognitive and neural mechanisms

Cognitive processes are known to shape the contents of conscious perception, but some have argued that they form the very core of conscious vision. In my postdoc studies I aim to elucidate the neural foundations of cognitive capacity limitations in conscious perception: What factors limit the capacity of conscious perception? Is the timing of conscious perception fixed, or subject to processing limitations?

Principal investigator: Henry Railo

Funding: Turku Institute for Advanced Studies

Prevalence, risk factors and consequences of nightmares

This joint project between University of Turku and National Institute of Health and Wellfare investigates prevalence, risk factors and consequences of frequent nightmares among Finnish adults at the population level.

Principal investigator: Nils Sandman

Funded by Doctoral program of psychology and Jenny and Antti Wihuri foundation

Neurocognitive deficits and academic difficulties in Finnish male offenders

My PhD study aims to determine the nature of the neurocognitive deficits and academic difficulties among Finnish male offenders. Also comorbid psychiatric disorders among these offenders are studied. This study is a part of the Finnish study of prisoners´ health (The Health, Working Capacity, and Health Care Needs of the Clients of the Criminal Sanctions Field).

Funding:  Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation, The Finnish Cultural Foundation and The Criminal Sanctions Agency in Finland.

Contact info: Tiina Tuominen (tituomi [at] utu.fi)

Electrophysiological and neurocognitive correlates of memory for valenced words in normal aging

The aim of this PhD project is to shed light on the psychological and neural mechanisms that underlie memory for valenced words in normal neurocognitive aging. The methods include neuropsychological testing and clinically relevant experimental memory tasks, EEG and MRI (including DTI and resting state). The thesis will encompass four publications in international peer-reviewed scientific publications, one of which has been published.

Contact information: Carina Söderholm

Supervisors: PhD Mira Karrasch (Abo Akademi University), prof. Matti Laine (Abo Akademi University), prof. emerita Christina Krause (University of Helsinki)

Funding: personal grants and grants for material from, among others, the Victoria Foundation, the Professor Jan-Magnus Jansson’s Foundation for Geriatric Research and the Päivikki and Sakari Sohlberg Foundation

The neural basis of dreaming and hypnosis

The first objective of my research is to study the neural basis of altered states of consciousness utilizing two model systems – the dreaming brain and hypnosis. The second objective is to integrate the positive psychological approach to human health and well-being with neuroscience in investigating the psychological and neural mechanisms of positive states of consciousness using a multilevel framework that integrates molecular, physiological, and psychological measures.

Principal investigator: Pilleriin Sikka (pilsik [at] utu.fi)

Delayed auditory presentation

Learning auditory and language related skills are based on brain's developmental structures, mainly determined by genetic factors. Both hemispheres are participating and interacting to auditory processing and learning languages. The lateralization of hemispheres is noted as the handedness and ear preference. Atypical or even opposite hemispheric dominance is reported in subjects with severe language learning problems or dyslexia. This might be related with many developmental factors, e.g. atypical structure of corpus callosum, disorders of while matter in neural structures, disorders of short term memory, or deficits of attention. 

Dichotic listening (DL) is a behavioral technique frequently used in the study of functional brain asymmetry and language lateralization. By studying, which of the simultaneously presented auditory stimuli the subject reports to perceive, information is gained about the laterality of auditory perception. In children, DL-experiments have shown that ear advantage and auditory attention are developmental skills and they might have predictive value for later reading skill and auditory comprehension.

The present study focused on the following research questions: 1) what are the effects of delayed auditory presentation on ERP components (obligatory waveform, MMN and P3a, 2) what is the relationship between hemispheric dominance and results of the used ERP research condition, and 3) are the behavioral research results parallel with ERP findings?

Principal investigator: Pirjo Korpilahti

ERP and deficits in lexical access; The N200 on children born preterm

Auditory event-related potentials were used to investigate lexical access and word processing. This study aims to examine different stages in lexical access, and their correlations with neuropsychological measures in children born preterm with very low birth weight.

N200 and N400 components were measured during lexical decision task (LDT) using real words and phonotactically acceptable pseudo-words as stimuli. ERP results will be compared with test results of naming, auditory attention, phonological processing, pseudo-word repetition and comprehension of instructions. Subjects were fourteen, 9-year-old children born preterm. Fourteen children born full term, matched to age and mother's educational level served as controls.

Principal investigators: Pirjo Korpilahti and Eira Jansson-Verkasalo.

Development of central auditory discrimination during the first year of life

MMN component is an index on central auditory discrimination and short-term memory. Late discriminative negativity (LDN) is commonly reported in children, but its psychological implication is uncertain. This follow-up study expands understanding of the interaction between neurobiological phenomena and the language exposure, needed in early stages of language learning.

We examine the developmental course of speaker-dependent auditory perception of verbal stimuli in 14 healthy infants, at 4½, 6 and 7½ months. ERPs were recorded in two odd-ball paradigms using naturally spoken VCV utterances as stimuli. In the first research condition, all stimuli were spoken by one female speaker. In the other condition stimuli consisted of the same VCV utterances but spoken by 10 female speakers.

Principal investigators: Eira Jansson-Verkasalo and Pirjo Korpilahti.

Family aggregation of risk factors for speech and language development

This study utilizes data collected within a Finnish cohort study entitled Steps to the Healthy Development and Well-being of Children.  A group of 226 children was randomly selected from the intensive follow-up group (N=1827). At 36 months children were invited to language assessments at the Turku University Clinic of Logopedics.

At 5 years of age a sample of children is invited to ERP recordings to examine the influence of family history and other risk factors on atypical speech and language development.

Principal investigators: Pirjo Korpilahti and Eira Jansson-Verkasalo.

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