The major goal of research in Airas group is to understand the pathobiology of multiple sclerosis and other neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases using minimally invasive imaging methods – particularly MRI and PET. The group develops and performs experiments with new MRI techniques and new PET ligands on state-of-the-art imaging equipment housed in the Turku PET Center, to elucidate the biological underpinnings of imaging abnormalities.

This will help understand how such abnormalities relate to clinical disability. Corollary goals of the research are to adapt new imaging and soluble biomarker techniques as biologically (and hopefully clinically) relevant outcome measures in both clinical trials and routine patient care, and to apply them to other inflammatory diseases of the central nervous system.


Key words:
Neuroscience, PET-studies, Cognition, Drug discovery, Machine learning, Clinical trials
Prior results of the research:

Multiple sclerosis research is focusing on evaluation of smoldering, diffuse innate immune system activation in progressive multiple sclerosis brain. This is evaluated using TSPO-binding radioligands, and a radioligand 11C-SMW139 binding to P2X7 molecule expressed on proinflammatory microglia and macrophages. Impact of innate immune cell activation on synaptic density is being investigated by using a combination of a TSPO-binding radioligand and 11C-UCB-J, a radioligand binding to SV2 synaptic protein. The PET studies are complemented by advanced MRI imaging and soluble biomarker analysis, and careful clinical evaluation of the patients for comprehensive understanding of the ongoing neuropathology.

Brain of an MS patient. A) T1 MRI-image showing focal MS lesions as ”black holes” B) FLAIR MRI-image showing lesions as hyperintense bright areas C) PET-image of the brain with TSPO ligand [11C]PK11195
Main results of previous studies:

We are among the first in the world to demonstrate in vivo an increase in innate immune system activation in progressive multiple sclerosis normal appearing white matter compared to RRMS and healthy controls. We have demonstrated that innate immune system activation increases with disease progression, and can be targeted therapeutically in a TSPO-PET-measurable way. We also showed that increased microglial activation predicts later disease progression in multiple sclerosis. We have developed an analysis and modelling pipeline for streamlined evaluation of TSPO-PET images, that can be applied to large cohorts of MS patients both in a cross-sectional and longitudinal way both in a real-world setting and in clinical trial context.


We have wide national and international connections and collaborations with universities and pharma companies in Finland, Europe and the United States. We are affiliated with Neurocenter Finland and the Finnish Academy flagship InFLAMES (Innovation Ecosystem based on the Immune System). The PhD students in the group belong to Turku University Clinical Doctoral Program and the Drug Development Doctoral Program.

We are happy to host postdoctoral researcher(s) who have experience with PET imaging and modelling and are interested in multiple sclerosis drug development, pathology and imaging. Strong background in PET and/or MR imaging and/or previous experience in multiple sclerosis or in neurodegenerative disease research is desirable but not a prerequisite.

Selected publications:
Laura Airas
PI Professor
Principal investigator:
Professor Laura Airas, MD, PhD
Senior investigators:
Maija Saraste, PhD
Markus Matilainen, PhD
Jussi Lehto MD, PhD
PhD students:
Marcus Sucksdorff, MD
Marjo Nylund, MSc
Amelie Möck, MD
Sini Laaksonen, MD
Imran Waggan, MSc
Olavi Misin, MD
Anna Vuorimaa, MD
Taru Nikkilä, MD
Eero Polvinen, MD
MSc students:
Matilda Kuusi
Venla Ahola
Extended medical studies:
Miika Manninen
Maija Jalava
Research coordinator:
Eveliina Honkonen, MSc
External funding
Academy of Finland
Turku University Hospital Clinical Funds (ERVA)
International Progressive MS Alliance
US National MS Society
IIS studies funded by industry
Collaborative projects with industry
Brain and whole-body insulin resistance in mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease

Turku Alzheimer imaging group at the Turku PET Centre focuses on studying the effect of genetic and metabolic risk factors on memory disorders, especially Alzheimer’s disease. The metabolic study group at the Turku PET Centre, in turn, has conducted several studies exploring brain and whole-body glucose uptake during the gold standard measurement for the assessment of insulin resistance i.e. the hyperinsulinemic euglycemic clamp, for example in morbidly obese individuals and in individuals at risk for type 2 diabetes. Our most recent project combines the expertise of both groups at the Turku PET Centre and was set out to evaluate brain insulin resistance in mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and early Alzheimer´s disease.  

We will utilize a whole-body PET/CT scanner (Vision Quadra, Siemens) to evaluate glucose metabolism simultaneously in the brain and the body both during a fasting state and during a hyperinsulinemic euglycemic clamp in early Alzheimer’s disease/MCI patients and cognitively healthy age-matched controls. The study protocol also includes brain amyloid-PET scans, MRI, comprehensive cognitive testing and analyzing blood biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease.   

18F-FDG-PET imaging during the hyperinsulinemic clamp enables evaluating insulin resistance in specific tissues of the body. Previous studies on Alzheimer’s disease animal models and on brain slices of individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease suggest that brain insulin resistance might play an important role in the neuropathological process of Alzheimer’s disease, but this phenomenon has not yet been studied in vivo in humans. 

We are happy to host a postdoctoral researcher who has experience with PET imaging and modelling and an interest in memory disorders. 

Key words:
Alzheimer’s disease, beta-amyloid, brain glucose uptake, Insulin resistance, Hyperinsulinemia, Euglycemic clamp, Type 2 diabetes, PET imaging, cognitive decline
Selected publications:
Cutting Edge Clinical Neuroscience

Turku BrainLab focuses on investigating the neurobiological mechanisms of neurological and psychiatric disorders and translating this information towards new treatments. We work with several different clinical populations, causal brain lesions, state-of-the-art neuroimaging (MRI, PET, SPECT) and neuromodulation techniques (TMS, DBS, MRgFUS).

The neural origin of many neurological and psychiatric symptoms is still largely unclear. Neuromodulation techniques, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), deep brain stimulation (DBS) and MR-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS), are increasingly used to treat brain disorders. However, use of neuromodulation is currently limited to only a minority of the brain disorders, because in most of the disorders we still don’t know where and how to modify brain function to treat the symptoms 

At Turku BrainLab, we try to solve this issue by leveraging unique clinical cohorts, causal brain lesions, state-of-the-art neuroimaging, and cutting-edge neuromodulation techniques. Our overarching aim is to develop new treatments for brain disorders, for which we are ideally positioned given our exceptional datasets, wide array of techniques and strong link to the university hospital. Our work covers a wide spectrum of brain disorders but has a special focus in movement disorders and addiction. 

Neurological and psychiatric symptoms are caused by disruption of normal brain function, but in most cases the exact localization in the brain is not known. Identification of the neural origin of the symptoms is critical for the development of new therapeutic options. With the current technology, we can target almost any part of the brain using invasive or noninvasive neuromodulation techniques. For example, DBS and MRgFUS of the basal ganglia for movement disorders and repetitive TMS of the prefrontal cortex for depression have proven highly efficacious, far exceeding the efficacy of pharmacological treatments, and highlighting the therapeutic potential of these techniques. However, the main challenge and the reason why these techniques cannot be used to treat all brain disorders is that we do not know which part(s) of the brain the symptoms originate from and should be targeted with treatment.  

Modern neuroimaging methods have allowed us to study the functions and malfunctions of the living human brain in greater detail than ever before. However, typical case-control studies are inherently limited by not being able to establish causal relationship between abnormal brain function and clinical symptoms. Thus, based on these studies, it is not possible to define which of the observed brain changes are causal and which are secondary/compensatory to the primary abnormality underlying the symptoms. 

Throughout the history of neurology, studying brain lesions has formed the foundation for establishing causal relationships between brain damage and symptoms. However, in most cases, locations of lesions causing the symptom do not overlap, leaving the localization unclear. Accordingly, brain disorders are currently conceptualized as disorders of brain networks and new neuroimaging techniques, such as lesion network mapping and disconnectome mapping, have provided tools to localize brain lesion to networks (Joutsa et al. Curr Opin Neurol 2022; Joutsa et al. Brain 2023). 

Together with our international colleagues, we have already mapped the causal brain circuits underlying, for example, parkinsonism (Joutsa et al, Brain 2018), dystonias (Corp et al., Brain 2019; Corp et al., Neurology 2022), tremor syndromes (Joutsa et al., Ann Neurol 2019; Younger et al., Neurology 2023), migraine (Burke et al. Brain 2020) and epilepsy (Schaper et al., JAMA Neurol 2023), and developed techniques to systematically identify treatment targets for neurological and psychiatric conditions (Joutsa et al., Ann Neurol 2018; Joutsa et al., Nat Med 2022). Combined with cutting-edge neuromodulation (TMS, DBS, MRgFUS) and neuroimaging (MRI, PET, SPECT) tools available at our hospital, we are ideally positioned to translate these findings towards new treatments.  

Key words:
Neurology, Psychiatry, Neuroimaging, MRI, PET, SPECT, Lesion network mapping, Neuromodulation, TMS, DBS, MRgFUS
Examples of currently available datasets:
Turku BrainLab:

In addition to the available and upcoming exceptional datasets, the unique strength of Turku BrainLab is interdisciplinary and multimodal research, combining several fields with a strong link between clinical and research work. Our 30+ person international team includes researchers with backgrounds in clinical neurology, psychiatry and radiology, human neuroscience, engineering, and nuclear medicine. The director of Turku Brainlab is Dr. Juho Joutsa who is a tenured full professor of neurology at University of Turku, chief neurologist at Turku University Hospital, and the chair of Turku Brain and Mind Center. Dr. Joutsa completed his postdoctoral training at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. He is the youngest professor of neurology in Finland, has received several awards (incl. MD thesis supervisor of the year and young investigator awards from both neurology and medicine), and has been listed among the 100 most influential people in medicine in Finland in 2022.  

We can host  postdocs with strong background in human neuroscience, neuroimaging or data analytics, to join our dynamic and young lab. We are guided by the pursuit of academic excellence and make every effort possible to provide you with a major steppingstone for your own career in academia and beyond. Dr. Joutsa will act as your primary supervisor and mentor. We would be happy to discuss with you your research idea(s) and proposal in more detail. Please, don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or are interested in joining our lab. 

Selected publications:
Juho Joutsa, MD, PhD
Professor of Neurology
Developmental neuroscience of early life exposures, genes and environment
FinnBrain Neuroimaging Lab

We study how genes and environment, especially early life exposures, shape the brain structure and function. We are interested in how these, often subtle individual differences explain later characteristics, skills and health of the children. We are part of FinnBrain birth cohort study ( that was launched at the University of Turku in 2010, and its purpose is to study the combined influence of environmental and genetic factors on child development and later health outcomes. The follow-up of the children will continue for several decades. The research is multidisciplinary and has extensive national and international collaboration. The participants are families from the city of Turku, municipalities in Turku area, and Åland Islands.

Key words:
Neuroimaging, MRI, EEG, fNIRS, early life exposures, maternal health, brain development.
Our main research activities:

We seek new investigators with interest in multidisciplinary research and multimodal neuroimaging. We especially value skills in MRI, EEG and fNIRS and experience carrying out studies with small intense follow up data and / or big data analyses. Related strong skills in statical analyses and / or machine learning, and basic programming skills are also highly valued.

PIPARI Project: Follow-up study of preterm infants

The PIPARI Study has followed a group of very preterm infants and their healthy fullterm controls up to 17 years of age. The multidisciplinary follow up will be completed in spring 2024. Then, a rich data base will be complete extending from fetal life through neonatal period and childhood into young adulthood. Extensive assessments have been performed at term equivalent age, at 2 years of corrected and at 5 years, 11 years and at 17 years of age. Brain MRI has been performed at term equivalent age and at 13 years of age (including fMRI). The study group includes over 200 very preterm infants with their sex-matched healthy full-term controls.


Our vision is to identify protective factors for good functional outcome. Sophisticated statistical analyses will be applied to find trajectories, risk factors and protective factors for multidimensional functional outcomes. Outcomes include physical health and maturation, psychological wellbeing and cognitive development including language development and health-related quality of life. 


The research is carried out at Turku University Hospital. We are a group of researchers and clinicians from different disciplines including pediatrics and neonatology, child neurology, developmental psychology and child/adolescence psychiatry, speech pathology, and radiology.  More information please find


We seek for candidates with understanding of child development and advanced skills in data analysis to be applied to data from different age points and several domains. We offer a unique data set for analyses. PhD degree in e.g. medicine, biomedicine and psychology are of high value.

Key words:
Preterm infant, development, cognition, behavior, quality of life, MRI, ultrasound
Liisa Lehtonen
Principal investigators:
Professor Liisa Lehtonen, MD, PhD
Professor Leena Haataja, MD, PhD
Docent Helena Lapinleimu, MD, PhD
Senior investigators and postdocs:
Professor Päivi Rautava, MD, PhD
Professor Riitta Parkkola, MD, PhD
Professor Riikka Korja, PhD
Associate Professor Suvi Stolt, PhD
Docent Sirkku Setänen, MD, PhD
Mira Huhtala, MD, PhD
Milla Ylijoki, MD, PhD
Anna Nyman, PhD
Petriina Munck, PhD
Virva Saunavaara, PhD
PhD students:
Tuomo Lehtonen
Susanna Salomäki
Tiina Saarinen
Linda Grönroos
Eveliina Joensuu
Minttu Helin
Laura Haveri
Eeva Mäkilä
Research coordinator and other research personnel:
Helena Ollila, statistician
Sofia Sapattinen, coordinator
Human Emotion Systems Laboratory

Human Emotion Systems Laboratory at Turku PET Centre is a leading European group in systems-level research in emotions and their disorders. Our work focuses on novel concept of imaging the brain-periphery axis using total-body positron emission tomography and state-of-the art functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging.  

We have a strong background in human emotion science, computational approaches for resolving brain basis of higher mental functions as well as state-of-the art methodology in systems-level imaging of total-body biological circuits in health and disease. We focus also on development of state-of-the art methodological solutions for large-scale medical image analyses and multi-level integrative analysis of metabolic functions in the brain and periphery.  

The studies are done in the context of affect regulation in health and disease as well as cardiometabolic health and systems neuroscience.  

In our group, we value skills in molecular and structural imaging (PET / MRI) as well as application of advanced statistical techniques and signal analysis methods for PET and MRI data. Also, we appreciate a background and PhD degree in medicine, psychology, computational science, physics, or related fields, and skills for working with complex empirical data. Programming skills (MATLAB, Python, or comparable languages) are essential.  

Key words:
Brain-periphery axis, Human Emotion Systems, Systems neurosicience, Cardiometabolism
Dr. Lauri Nummenmaa
Professor, Turku PET Centre
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