People

 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.

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.

Read more at Teppo Särkämö's Research Portal profile.

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.

Read more at Noelia Martínez Molina's Research Portal profiles.

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Postdoctoral 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.

Read more at Aleksi Sihvonen's Research Portal and ResearchGate profiles.

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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.

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Doctoral researcher (PhD student)

My background is in cognitive (neuro-) science, computer science and psychology, in addition to which I enjoy readings in philosophy and ethics of science. Both the brains’ ability to reorganise and the related, various methodological standpoints interest me. I did my master's thesis on stroke rehabilitation with music and audiobooks (2018), and my PhD project addresses structural and functional changes in the ageing brain, especially in terms of vocal production. Before my PhD project, I worked at the Cognitive Brain Research Unit (CBRU), University of Helsinki, as a research assistant and technical analyst (2014-2019).

Read more at Nella Moisseinen's Research Portal profile.

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Doctoral researcher (PhD student)

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.

Read more at Emmi Pentikäinen's Research Portal profile.

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Doctoral researcher (PhD student)

I received my MA degree in Psychology from the University of Jyväskylä 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 worked as a clinical psychologist in the fields of e.g. neurology, neuropsychiatry, 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 preservation and neural mechanisms of music-evoked autobiographical memories and emotions in Alzheimer's disease.

Read more at Anni Pitkäniemi's Research Portal profile.

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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. Currently I am also working in Kuntoutussäätiö (The Rehabilitation Foundation) as a psychologist researcher.

Read more at Ilja Salakka's Research Portal profile.

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Doctoral researcher (PhD student)

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.

Read more at Sini-Tuuli Siponkoski's Research Portal profile.

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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.

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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.

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