Neuroscientist Prof. Emerita Riitta Hari of Aalto University has been awarded the Finnish Academy of Sciences most prestigious recognition for scientific work, the Honorary Prize, for her life’s work in brain research. With the prize comes 30,000 €.
Prof. Hari originally trained as a physician with a speciality in clinical neurophysiology, and has held a number of positions at the University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Central Hospital. Her research in brain imaging using cold physics—where sensors are cooled close to absolute zero—conducted at the famous O.V. Lounasmaa Laboratory has been world-leading.
The imaging method used by Prof. Hari is called magnetocephalography (MEG). It measures the faint magnetic field originating from the neurons in the brain using powerful, superconducting sensors which must be kept extremely cold to pick up the signal. The tool is so sensitive that it can be used outside a person’s head, meaning that living brains can be studied in a minimally invasive way.
Prof. Hari’s laboratory is particularly known for applying this method simultaneously to two people so that the neuronal basis of social interaction can be studied. “Instead of studying one brain, we study the brains of two people interacting with each other at the same time. Interaction is a central part of human life, and it is not there if there is only one person present,” she said in a press release.
This is far from Prof. Hari’s first prestigious award. Among others, she won the Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine in 2003 and in 2010 she was given the lifetime title of Academian, an honour granted by the President of Finland and which is reserved for only twelve living scholars at any one time. She also holds several honorary doctorates. (© AcademiaNet)