ⓘ Image info

Our Goal

... is to utilize the neural circuits of the retina to reveal fundamental principles of neural computations at quantal resolution.

Research Overview

Our ability to see in vastly varying conditions depends critically on the outstanding performance of vision. Vision begins in the neural circuits of the retina, which operates with a remarkable fidelity. We study novel signal processing mechanisms and their adaptive dynamics at the synaptic and cellular-element level across the entire neural circuit of the retina.We do so by combining a battery of techniques allowing precise manipulations of local signal and noise statistics in a well-defined retinal circuit relying on genetically modified mice, molecularly tailored artificial visual pigment molecules, and cutting-edge electrophysiological recording techniques. We seek to understand the functional implications of novel retinal signal processing mechanisms by correlating our results with the output of the entire visual system measured in mouse behavioral experiments and human psychophysics experiments.

We are looking for an excellent PhD Candidate to work in Ala-Laurila Lab in characterization of healthy and diseased mouse models from retinal circuits to visually guided behaviour.

Timeline of the call: The position will be filled as soon as a suitable candidate is found. Thus, submit your application as soon as possible. In any case we will fill the position as soon as possible in the year 2023.


  • Characterize the retinal output of different mouse models of retinal diseases
  • Correlate the retinal output to the animal behavior in the water maze

Requirements from the applicant: Highly motivated, previous experience on behavioral experiments and/or electrophysiology is a plus.

Formal requirements for eligibility for EU enTRAIN Vision project funded position: At the time of appointment, applicant must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Finland for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to their recruitment. Short stays, such as holidays, are not taken into account.

Application documents:

  • Motivation letter
  • CV
  • Recommendation letters (max. 3, please include them directly when applying)
  • Scanned copy of the degree which would formally entitle the candidate to embark on doctorate.
  • Transcript of records for both Bachelor's degree and Master's degree (or equivalents).

Applications will be reviewed as soon as they arrive so please submit your application as soon as you can.

Please apply at: https://www.aalto.fi/en/open-positions/phd-student-in-neuroscience-ala-laurila-lab-finland

For additional information, please contact Krishna Dovzhik (Ala-Laurila lab), krishna.dovzhik@aalto.fi


Kilpeläinen, M., Westö, J., Laihi, A., Takeshita, D., Rieke, F., Ala-Laurila, P. (2023). Human vision trades single photons for high-fidelity coding at its sensitivity limit.
[ BioRxiv ]

Westö, J. & Ala-Laurila, P. (2020). Seeing beyond violet: UV-cones guide high-resolution prey-capture behavior in fish. Neuron 107, 207-209.
[ PDF ]

Koskela, S., Turunen, T. & Ala-Laurila, P. (2020). Mice reach higher visual sensitivity at night by using a more efficient behavioral strategy. Current Biology 30, 1–12.

Smeds, L., Takeshita, D., Turunen, T., Tiihonen, J., Westö, J., Martyniuk, N., Seppänen A. & Ala-Laurila, P. (2019). Paradoxical Rules of Spike Train Decoding Revealed at the Sensitivity Limit of Vision. Neuron 104, 576–587.

Tikidji-Hamburyan, A., Reinhard, K., Storchi, R., Dietter, J., Seitter, H., Davis, K.E., Idrees, S., Mutter, M., Walmsley, L, Bedford, R.A., Ueffing, M, Ala-Laurila, P., Brown,T.M., Lucas, R.J. & Münch , T.A. (2017). Rods progressively escape saturation to drive visual responses in daylight conditions. Nature Communications 8.
[ PDF | FACULTY OF 1000 ]

Takeshita, D., Smeds, L. & Ala-Laurila, P. (2017). Processing of single-photon responses in the mammalian On and Off retinal pathways at the sensitivity limit of vision. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 372.
[ PDF ]

Ala-Laurila, P. (2016). Visual Neuroscience: How Do Moths See to Fly at Night? Current Biology 26, R229–R246.
[ PDF ]

Vartanian, G.V., Li, B.Y., Chervenak, A.P., Walch O.J., Pack W., Ala-Laurila, P. & Wong K.Y. (2015). Melatonin Suppression by Light in Humans Is More Sensitive Than Previously Reported. J Biol Rhythms 30, 351-354.
[ PDF ]

Ala-Laurila, P. & Rieke, F (2014). Coincidence Detection of Single-Photon Responses in the Inner Retina at the Sensitivity Limit of Vision. Current Biology 24, 2888-2898.

Ala-Laurila, P., Greschner, M., Chichilnisky & Rieke, F (2011). Cone photoreceptor contributions to noise and correlations in the retinal output. Nature Neuroscience 14, 1309-1316.
[ PDF ]

Ala-Laurila, P., Cornwall, M.C., Crouch, R.K., & Kono, M. (2009). The action of 11-cisretinol on cone opsins and intact cone photoreceptors. J Biol Chem 284, 16492-16500.
[ PDF ]

Estevez, M.E., Kolesnikov, A.V., Ala-Laurila, P., Crouch, R.K., Govardovskii, V.I., & Cornwall, M.C. (2009). The 9-methyl group of retinal is essential for rapid Meta II decay and phototransduction quenching in red cones. J Gen Physiol 134, 137-150.
[ PDF ]

Ala-Laurila, P., Donner, K., Crouch, R.K., & Cornwall, M.C. (2007). Chromophore Switch from 11-cis-dehydroretinal (A2) to 11-cis-retinal (A1) Decreases Dark Noise in Salamander Red Rods. J Physiol 585, 57-74.
[ PDF ]

Cornwall M.C., & Ala-Laurila P. (2007). A perfect marriage: molecular genetics ties the knot with electrophysiology in studies of visual transduction. J Gen Physiol 130, 7-10.
[ PDF ]

Jokela-Määttä, M., Smura, T., Aaltonen, A., Ala-Laurila, P., & Donner, K. (2006). Visual pigments of Baltic Sea fishes of marine and limnic origin. Vis Neurosci 24, 389-398.
[ PDF ]

Kolesnikov, A.V., Ala-Laurila, P., Shukolyukov, S.A., Crouch, R.K., Wiggert, B., Estevez, M.E., Govardovskii, V.I., & Cornwall, M.C. (2006). Visual cycle and its metabolic support in gecko photoreceptors. Vision Res 47, 363-374.
[ PDF ]

Estevez, M.E., Ala-Laurila, P., Crouch, R.K., & Cornwall, M.C. (2006). Turning Cones Off: The Role of the 9-Methyl Group of Retinal in Red Cones. J Gen Physiol 128, 671-685.
[ PDF ]

Pahlberg, J., Lindström, M., Ala-Laurila, P., Fyhrquist-Vanni, N., Koskelainen, A., & Donner, K. (2005). The photoactivation energy of the visual pigment in two spectrally different populations of Mysis relicta (Crustacea, Mysida). J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol 191, 837-844.
[ PDF ]

Ala-Laurila, P., Donner, K., & Koskelainen, A. (2004). Thermal activation and photoactivation of visual pigments. Biophys J 86, 3653-3662.
[ PDF ]

Ala-Laurila, P., Pahlberg, J., Koskelainen, A., & Donner, K. (2004). On the relation between the photoactivation energy and the absorbance spectrum of visual pigments. Vision Res 44, 2153-2158.
[ PDF ]

Tsina, E., Chen, C., Koutalos, Y., Ala-Laurila, P., Tsacopoulos, M., Wiggert, B., Crouch, R.K., & Cornwall, M.C. (2004). Physiological and microfluorometric studies of reduction and clearance of retinal in bleached rod photoreceptors. J Gen Physiol 124, 429-443.
[ PDF ]

Ala-Laurila, P., Albert, R.-J., Saarinen, P., Koskelainen, A., & Donner, K. (2003). The thermal contribution to photoactivation in A2 visual pigments studied by temperature effects on spectral properties. Vis Neurosci 20, 411-419.
[ PDF ]

Ala-Laurila, P., Saarinen, P., Albert, R., Koskelainen, A., & Donner, K. (2002). Temperature effects on spectral properties of red and green rods in toad retina. Vis Neurosci 19, 781-792.
[ PDF ]

Koskelainen, A., Ala-Laurila, P., Fyhrquist, N., & Donner, K. (2000): Measurement of thermal contribution to photoreceptor sensitivity. Nature 403, 220-223.

Book Chapters

Seppänen, A. & Ala-Laurila, P. (2021). Silmä aivojen osana: älykäs verkkokalvo pyydystää fotoneita ja ennustaa tulevaa. Book chapter: Hari, R. & Carlson, S. (Eds.). Aivoaakkoset. Helsinki: Aalto ARTS Books.
[ PDF ]

Ala Laurila's team


Click image for description

Petri Ala-Laurila, DSc (Tech)

Professor (Neurobiology)

I am a “kid” who loves science. I did my PhD in Finland (2000- 2003, Engineering Physics, Helsinki University of Technology) and thereafter moved to the USA, where I did two distinct postdoctoral periods: in Boston (2004-2008, laboratory of Dr. Carter Cornwall) and in Seattle (2008-2012, laboratory of Dr. Fred Rieke). The goal of my lab is to establish a new frontier in the Finnish neuroscience community focusing on signal processing in the mammalian retina.

Gabriel Peinado Allina, PhD

Research Fellow of the Research Council of Finland

I want to understand how sensory systems filter and sample information to create the reality that each of us subjects inhabits. I started my career studying how isolated photoreceptors respond to light stimuli. For my Ph.D. I then investigated how photoreceptor cells, Müller cells and the Retinal Pigment Epithelium function together to mediate vision in the living eye. I am now excited to participate in understanding how the information acquired by photoreceptors is encoded by neural circuits underlying visual perception!

I joined the Ala-Laurila laboratory as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie postdoctoral fellow (2021-2023, Grant agreement ID: 101030900). I am now starting my own research program as a Research Fellow of the Research Council of Finland.

Krishna Dovzhik, MSc

PhD Candidate

I'm a Marie-Curie fellow exploring the interface between neuroscience and physics with a deep interest in fundamental topics and their connection to new potential applications. My formative years I spent in Anton Zeilinger's group in Vienna doing research in quantum physics, from basic questions to quantum technologies and their use in diverse fields, including biology. Among my other interests, vision has a special role. Revealing the interdisciplinary links and creating new methods for vision research are my goals here.

Nataliia Martyniuk, MSc

PhD Candidate

I believe that vision is the most important human sense, because it often gives the most immediate impression of the world. Visual perceptions arise in the neural circuits of the retina, which detect and encode the visual information and transmit it to the brain, which forms the basis for our decisions. I'm highly impressed with the technical capabilities and the level of innovation in the laboratory of Professor Petri Ala-Laurila and I am looking forward to be part of such a motivated and talented team.

For more information about my PhD program please visit the website:

Juha Nuutila, MSc

PhD Candidate

I am a keen learner and a tech enthusiast with a passion for great science. I studied Biology in University of Oulu (2011-2017). During my undergraduate studies I became interested in sensory physiology and neuroethology, and joined the Neurobiophysics group of professor Matti Weckström in 2014. My behavioural research on insect dim-light vision had a promising beginning, but unfortunately, fate wasn’t kind upon our group. As a contingency plan I sought out an alternative path in Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki (2016-2022). Now, as a physiologist and a veterinarian, I am eager to join the Ala-Laurila lab in the quest of unraveling the intricate mechanisms of vision and visually guided behaviour.

”Nothing is impossible! Not if you can imagine it. That’s what being a scientist is all about.”
-Professor Farnsworth, Futurama

Jussi Tiihonen, MSc (Tech)

PhD Candidate

I'm a PhD student at University of Helsinki in Brain&Mind program. Research and scientific methods have interested me as long as I can remember. I'm glad to be able to do research while studying for the future.

Tuomas Turunen, MSc (Tech)

PhD Candidate

In 2012, I recieved my Master's degree in computer science from Aalto University. The focus of my degree was on computer vision and object recognition. Out of pure interest after graduating, I developed firmware and signal processing for an embedded ultrasound sensor. In January 2013 Petri offered me a place designing the lighting conditions and camera setup for the behavioral experiments. In addition to a little tinkering, I also have the option to investigate the different methods of tracking mice. Who could have refused?

Oskar Ikäheimo

Master's Student

I'm a master's student at Aalto University's Complex Systems program, holding a bachelor's degree in bioinformation technology from Aalto University (2020 - 2023). My passion lies in exploring the mysteries of vision, with a specific focus on the daily changes of light-driven mouse behavior and the pupillary light reflex, encompassing their dynamic features. What truly excites me is the opportunity to blend my engineering background with my love for tinkering to create custom experimental setups. I enjoy working with 3D modeling and printing, electronics, laser cutting, programming, and more. These technologies help us gain deeper insights into the underlying biological phenomena related to visual circuits. As a part of our team, we tirelessly delve into the intricate mechanisms that shape our perception of reality through vision.

Alexei Kramm

Master's Student

I'm fascinated by the brain's ability to generate our subjective experiences. My goal is to understand how biological neural networks process information, form and retrieve memories and give rise to our conscious perception of the world. I firmly believe that being a part of this laboratory is the ideal starting point for me to progress towards understanding how the brain works. My academic background includes a bachelor's degree in molecular biology, and I am currently in the process of writing my master's thesis within this very laboratory.

Aurora Lanzotti

Master's Student

I'm a student from the University of Milano-Bicocca. I applied for a traineeship for my Master's degree in this laboratory because, in the latest years, I have been more interested in neuroscience. Especially how behavioral experiments can be useful to better understand how different mechanisms of the brain work.

Former Members

Tony Azevedo, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Tony is a California native, born and raised in the Bay Area who did his B.S. at Berkeley (Engineering Physics, 2005) and PhD. at University of Washington (Physiology and Biophysics, 2011). Tony joined our lab for the summer and autumn of 2012 for a short but productive postdoc period before starting his current postdoctoral training at Harvard. Tony’s project continues as a collaboration.

Matthew Dunkerley


I am a person that is trying to get the most out of life. After graduating University in Australia with an IT degree majoring in mathematics, I worked for 2 years as a Systems Engineer at the largest Google Enterprise partner in the Asia Pacific. This enabled me to travel across Australia and Indonesia and develop great business relations. After this I was conscripted to the Finnish military and have now lived in Finland for 2 years.

Sanna Koskela, PhD

PhD Candidate

I’ve always been fascinated by vision, in all its forms. After graduating in 2012 with a major in biology (University of Eastern Finland), I came to the University of Helsinki to learn more about neuroscience. Petri’s group provided the fascinating opportunity to study the visual system from single cells to behavior and to learn several valuable techniques.

Sami Minkkinen, MSc (Tech)

Laboratory Manager

I am a techie with a strong interest in science. I have a startup attitude and I like to design, create, and build both hardware and software. I have studied Engineering Physics, Biomedical Engineering, and Computer and Information Science at Aalto University. Besides this work, I have experience in programming, R&D, running a business, and patenting.

Sathish Narayanan

Programmer & Master's Student

I am pursuing my Master's in bioinformatics at Aalto University. My research interests center in understanding the computational principles of the brain. I have a strong appetite for programming. Before my Master’s I was working as a software developer, technical evangelist in Infosys, India (2006 - 2010).

Aarni Seppänen, MSc (Tech)

PhD Candidate

My passion for neuroscience stems from one of the most fundamental questions: How does the brain work? Surprisingly, this question can be approached by studying signal processing in the retina. In my opinion, the Ala-Laurila lab is working on the most important topics in neuroscience by bridging the gap between the function of neural circuits and behavior. I am grateful for being able to work with the great people in this lab and I try to live by the wise words of Fernando Pessoa: “Put all you are into the smallest thing you do”.

Lina Smeds, PhD

PhD Candidate

I grew up in the small town of Porvoo, Finland. In 2009 I moved to Helsinki where I started to study biology with physiology and neuroscience as my major. I was happy to join the lab in June 2012 and started conducting behavioral experiments on mice. I enjoy challenges, and a need to learn and discover new things drives me to do research. My favorite motto that goes for my attitude towards both science and life in general is: "Don't be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams."

Anna Stöckl, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Throughout my scientific journey, I have been interested in how neural circuits process sensory information. During my PhD (2012-2016 at Lund University), I investigated visual neurons in the brain of hawkmoths to understand how they overcome the challenge of low signal and high noise levels their visual system faces at night. For my postdoc in Petri’s lab I will study how small populations of neurons in the mouse retina combat the noisy regimes their visual system faces in dim light, with particular focus on noise which is correlated between neurons of the population.

Daisuke Takeshita, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

I would like to understand how the brain works using a combination of experimental and computational techniques (note that the retina is an extension of the brain!).

Johan Westö, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

I'm an eager learner and a voracious reader who is interested in a lot of things. The act of learning itself is, nonetheless, something that stands out and which has fascinated me throughout my life. This is as true today as ever before, and it has fuelled my curiosity for understanding learning in brains as well as in machines. Understanding how an agent (brain or machine) learns to make sense of its surrounding is in my opinion the ultimate quest in life.


Petri Ala-Laurila

Professor of Neurobiology
Molecular and Integrative Biosciences Research Programme
Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences
P.O. Box 65 (Viikinkaari 1)
FIN-00014, University of Helsinki
Email: petri.ala-laurila@helsinki.fi

Adjunct Professor & PI (Biophysics)
Department of Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering
Aalto University School of Science
P.O. Box 12200 (Rakentajanaukio 2C)
FI-00076 AALTO
Email: petri.ala-laurila@aalto.fi

@AlaLaurilaLab @AlaLaurilaLab