Connecting European Neuroscience

Iiris Hovatta

Programme Committee Member FENS Forum 2020

Curriculum Vitae

Professional and Academic Career

  • 2018: Professor of Behavioral Genetics, Department of Psychology and Logopedics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki
  • 2017: Associate Professor in Neurogenomics, Department of Biosciences, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki (tenure-track)
  • 2010-2017: Research-oriented University Lecturer, Department of Biosciences, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki (leave of absence 2010-2013 and 2017)
  • 2007-2016: Senior scientist, National Institute for Health and Welfare, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (5% contribution)
  • 2008-2013: Academy Research Fellow, Academy of Finland
  • 2007-2012: Group Leader, University of Helsinki, Faculty of Medicine, Research Program of Molecular Neurology, Biomedicum Helsinki
  • 2004-2008: Senior scientist, National Public Health Institute, Department of Molecular Medicine
  • 2002-2004: Visiting scientist, Merck Research Laboratories, San Diego, USA (Carrolee Barlow’s group)
  • 2001-2002: Postdoctoral fellow, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Laboratory of Genetics, La Jolla, USA (Carrolee Barlow’s group)
  • 1999-2001: Postdoctoral fellow, Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, Department of Neurochemistry, Frankfurt, Germany (Andreas Püschel’s group)
  • 1992-1999: Undergraduate/graduate student, National Public Health Institute, Departments of Medical Genetics, and Mental Health and Alcohol Research, Helsinki (Leena Peltonen-Palotie’s / Jouko Lönnqvist’s group).

Honours and Awards

  • 1998: PhD thesis approved with distinction (among top 10% of the thesis of the Medical Faculty, University of Helsinki)
  • 2006: Genetics Award of the Finnish Society for Medical Genetics
  • 2006: L’Oreal Finland and the Finnish National Commission for UNESCO, For Women in Science Fellowship
  • 2006: 2nd prize in the Human Genome Meeting poster competition
  • 2007: Writing Award of the Finnish Medical Society Duodecim
  • 2007: Master’s thesis supervisor award, University of Helsinki, Faculty of Biosciences
  • 2008: Poster prize of the European Science Foundation Functional Genomics and Disease meeting
  • 2010: Rosalind Franklin Young Investigator Award from the Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation (given every 3 years to a female geneticist within 3 first years of their independent position)
  • 2011: Anxiety Disorder Researcher of the Year Award from the Research Foundation of Psychiatry
  • 2011: Poster prize at the Telomere Biology in Health and Disease meeting
  • 2011: ERC Starting Grant.  

General Administrative and Organisational Experience

  • 2014: World Congress on Psychiatric Genetics, Member of the Scandinavian Program Committee
  • 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018: Finnish Symposium of Biological Psychiatry, Chair of the Program Committee
  • 2016, 2017, 2018: International Behavioural and Neural Genetics Society Meeting Program Committee
  • 2017-2019: European College of Neuropsychopharmacology, Scientific Advisory Panel (evaluation of abstracts)
  • 2016: Director of the Doctoral Program Brain & Mind, University of Helsinki
  • 2012-2018: Brain Research Society of Finland, Board Member
  • 2009: Rosalind Franklin Society, Advisory Board member
  • 2013, 2015: Neuroscience Finland Meeting, Member of Organizing Committee
  • 2017-2020: International Behavioural and Neural Genetics Society, Secretary
  • 2016: Brain Research Society of Finland 40-years public event, Chair of Organizing Committee
  • 2018: Brain Awareness Week public event on “Stress”, Member of Organizing Committee.

Research Interests

I am interested in what makes some individuals susceptible and others resilient to neuropsychiatric diseases. My special interest is in anxiety disorders. My overall goal is to reveal mechanisms that trigger anxiety disorders and maintain the pathological state, and to identify novel therapeutic targets for personalized treatment. To this end, I use genomic approaches and bioinformatic analysis to generate hypotheses that we test experimentally through genetic or pharmacological manipulations. We study inbred mouse strains, a model that allows us to determine the genetic contribution to both innate and stress-induced anxiety-like behavior. We work at the nexus of neuroscience, modern genomics, and bioinformatics. We recently showed that myelin plasticity is one of the major mammalian stress responses. We are currently investigating the underlying molecular, cellular, and circuit-level mechanisms in vitro and in vivo.

Selected Publications 

1: Laine MA*, Trontti K*, Misiewicz Z*, Sokolowska E*, Kulesskaya N, Heikkinen A, Saarnio S, Balcells I, Ameslon P, Greco D, Mattila P, Ellonen P, Paulin L, Auvinen P, Jokitalo E, Hovatta I. Genetic Control of Myelin Plasticity after Chronic Psychosocial Stress. eNeuro. 2018; 5(4).

2: Trontti K*, Väänänen J*, Sipilä T, Greco D, Hovatta I. Strong conservation of inbred mouse strain microRNA loci but broad variation in brain microRNAs due to RNA editing and isomiR expression. RNA. 2018; 24:643-655.

3: Laine MA, Sokolowska E, Dudek M, Callan SA, Hyytiä P, Hovatta I. Brain activation induced by chronic psychosocial stress in mice. Sci Rep. 2017; 7:15061.

4: Rossi M, Kilpinen H, Muona M, Surakka I, Ingle C, Hennah W, Ripatti S, Hovatta I. Allele-specific regulation of DISC1 expression by miR-135b-5p. Eur J Hum Genet, 2014; 22:840-3.

5: Nieratschker V, Lahtinen J, Meier S, Strohmaier J, Frank J, Heinrich A, Breuer R, Witt SH, Nöthen MM, Rietschel M, Hovatta I. Longer telomere length in patients with schizophrenia. Schizophr Res 2013; 149:116-20.

6: Juhila J, Sipilä T, Icay K, Nicorici D, Ellonen P, Kallio A, Korpelainen E, Greco D, Hovatta I: MicroRNA expression profiling reveals miRNA families regulating specific biological pathways in mouse frontal cortex and hippocampus. PLoS one, 2011; 6:e21495.

7: Muiños Gimeno M, Espinosa-Parrilla Y, Guidi M, Kagerbauer B, Sipilä T, Maron E, Petai K, Kananen L, Martin-Santos R, Navinés R, Gratacòs M, Metspalu A, Hovatta I, Estivill X: Human microRNAs miR-22, miR-138-2, miR-148a and miR-488 are associated with panic disorder and regulate several anxiety candidate genes and related pathways. Biol Psychiatry, 2011; 69:526-33.

8: Donner J, Haapakoski R, Ezer S, Melen E, Pirkola S, Gratacos M, Zucchelli M, Anedda F, Söderhäll C, Orsmark-Pietras C, Suvisaari J, Martin-Santos R, Torrens M, Silander K, Terwilliger JD, Wickman M, Pershagen G, Lönnqvist J, Peltonen L, Estivill X, D’Amato M, Kere J, Alenius H, Hovatta I: Assessment of the neuropeptide S system in anxiety disorders. Biol Psychiatry 2010; 68:474-83.

9: Donner J, Pirkola S, Silander K, Kananen L, Terwilliger JD, Lönnqvist J, Peltonen L, Hovatta I: An association analysis of murine anxiety genes in humans implicates novel candidate genes for anxiety disorders. Biol Psychiatry 2008; 64:672-680.

10: Hovatta I, Tennant RS, Helton R, Marr RA, Singer O, Redwine JM, Schadt EE, Ellison JA, Verma IM, Lockhart DJ, Barlow C: Glyoxalase 1 and glutathione reductase 1 regulate anxiety in mice. Nature 2005; 438:662-666.

Iiris Hovatta

Professor of Behavioral Genetics
Department of Psychology and Logopedics
University of Helsinki
Haartmaninkatu 3
00270 Helsinki