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Neuroscience researchers pool their expertise in the Tampere Brain & Mind network

Published on 16.3.2022
Tampere University
Jukka Peltola“Our main goal is to get all researchers and businesses involved in broadly understood brain research to collaborate and benefit from synergies,” says Jukka Peltola, professor and steering groups chair of the Tampere Brain & Mind network.
Tampere University and Tampere University Hospital are stepping up their collaboration in neuroscience research. They form the Tampere Brain & Mind regional network which aims to bring together researchers and companies to promote brain health. By joining forces, they also improve their chances of obtaining research funding.

“Our approach to brain research is multidisciplinary and the main goal is to get all researchers and businesses involved in this field to collaborate and find synergies in the Tampere region and across Finland,” says Jukka Peltola, professor of neurology and steering group chair of the Tampere Brain & Mind network.

“Thus far, health technology has probably been the best-known medical research field represented at Tampere University, but we also have basic and clinical research on traditional neuroscience and psychiatry,” Peltola notes.

“Our goal is to raise the profile of all these fields and to seek a translational approach, which means that we are investigating brain function from different perspectives,” Peltola adds.

This is done, for example, by combining the perspectives of clinicians working with patients, and researchers at the university.

Moreover, behavioural sciences are also considered a part of the Brain & Mind network. In recent years, especially computational sciences have advanced neuroscience research.

Brain diseases are a burden to individuals and society

Tampere Brain & Mind is part of Neurocenter Finland which consists of six regional networks working towards a joint goal. The regional networks involve seven universities and five hospital districts.

Neuroscience research is a current topic because brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases are getting more common in ageing populations. Brain diseases not only cause individual suffering, but they are also of great importance in health economics because of the burden for both the health care system and entire society.

“My field of expertise is epilepsy. If we can get a 20-year-old epilepsy patient into education and working life, it has a great impact on the individual, but it is also highly significant for society whether the patient is in or out of work for 40 years,” says Peltola.

Brain health concerns everyone

Peltola notes that brain health and brain wellness more broadly concern everyone and not just those with an actual brain disease.

“There is talk about people’s general well-being, coping at work and enjoying life in general, and the various aspects related to well-being are associated with brain health,” Peltola says.

“They are an important part of our everyday life. When we think about different things done in society, we should also consider them from the perspective of brain wellness,” he adds.

Child psychiatrist hopes for new ideas and technological solutions

According to Kaija Puura, brain research has – as the name of the new research network suggests – also brought new insights into the mind and mental health in recent years. Puura is a professor of child psychiatry.

“For some years now, I have been interested in the associations between the autonomous nervous system and children’s and adolescents’ mental well-being and mental health disorders. In collaboration with interactive technology researchers, we are carrying out a study on the use of virtual applications that activate the parasympathetic nervous system in the treatment of anxiety in children and young people,” Puura explains.

“From the Tampere Brain & Mind research network, I especially hope to get new ideas and technological solutions for the treatment of child and adolescent psychiatric disorders and for the prevention of mental disorders from early childhood education onwards,” says Puura.

Translational cooperation expedites the transfer of research results to clinical practice

Professor of Biomedical Engineering Jari Hyttinen says that collaboration between basic research in neuroscience and clinical researchers at the hospital has long-standing traditions in Tampere also in the field of biomedical technology.

“In recent years, this research has expanded and now ranges from basic research on brain cell function to tissue modelling in the test tube, the mathematical modelling of the brain, and the development of diagnostic methods,” Hyttinen says.

“Tampere Brain & Mind is a significant opening for closer collaboration in neuroscience in our area as it creates opportunities for deeper collaboration between researchers and clinicians. In my research, I see translational collaboration as an important way of transferring the development of basic research and computational methods to diagnostics and clinical practice,” Hyttinen mentions.

Seppo Parkkila, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Technology, welcomes the strengthening of research in this field.

“Neurosciences are an important part of research at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Technology. It is thus excellent that researchers in neurosciences join forces both locally and nationally, which reinforces our research and impact in this field amid stiff international competition,” Parkkila points out.

Regional network in Tampere area includes 130 researchers and doctors

Sari Karppinen, Regional Manager of the Tampere Brain & Mind network, says that the network comprises some 130 researchers and doctors locally. Researchers from four faculties at Tampere University are involved.

“As a newcomer in the Tampere area, it has been a pleasure to see the openness to multidisciplinary research that already exists between various institutions. This is reflected in every faculty I have visited to talk about the network,” says Karppinen.

“We would like to see the activities of Tampere Brain & Mind seamlessly integrated into both the hospital and the university to support the already existing support services for research and innovation. Our aim is to build a close-knit brain and mind research community with as wide multidisciplinary perspectives as possible.

Businesses are invited to partner with researchers

The network helps researchers find partners for various research projects. Neurocenter Finland has also put together a database on Finnish brain researchers. The list includes information on over a thousand researchers.

Regional networks are seeking to partner businesses with researchers. Business cooperation and services are provided by the coordination unit of the Neurocenter Finland at the University of Eastern Finland. Karppinen says that companies interested in cooperation in the Tampere region can also contact her.

Neurocenter Finland is part of the government’s Health Sector Growth Strategy for Research and Innovation and the Personalised Medicine project.

Inquiries:
Regional Manager Sari Karppinen, sari.karppinen [at] pshp.fi
 

Photo: Jonne Renvall