Nobel Prize for the Brain's GPS


What's the most important scientific event in early December? Finding out how Santa's able to fit down chimneys?? Uh no, Norbert. We're excited about the awarding of the Nobel Prizes, and in 2014 three scientists were recognized in the Nobel for Physiology or Medicine!

The winning scientists unraveled the brain's internal GPS system. Think about how we know what is up or down? How do we recognize familiar places? This may feel like a simple task, but it's quite complex. That's why this year's prize is shared by Dr. John O'Keefe from London, and from Norway married couple Drs. May Brit Moser and Edvard I. Moser.

Together they revealed how our brains create a 'map' of the space we occupy, and how we use that information to navigate. In the early 1970s, Dr. O' Keefe found a population of nerve cells in the hippocampus were activated as the animal he studied recognized its location. They were termed 'place cells' since they created a map that corresponded to the external environment. More than thirty years later, the Mosers took this spatial rendering concept to a new level.

They discovered that a nearby area of the brain called the entorhinal cortex has nerves that were activated when rats were at known locations. These 'grid cells' form hexagonal patterns that provide the basis for positional navigation. The grid cells sense the position and directional motion of the head along with the dimensions of a room. This network of cells then tells you where you are, the direction you're moving and what to expect ahead. Once again, the Nobel Committee recognizes the profound work that impacts our understanding of human function and I look forward to it every year.

More Information

The official web site of the Nobel Prize

Nobel Prize for the Brain's GPS Discovery
The BBC reports on the Nobel Prize awarded for physiology and medicine.

Nobel Lecturers Charmed a Crowd
"Laughter, applause and rave reviews followed the Nobel lectures delivered by cheerful Norwegian researcher May-Britt Moser and her two co-winners of this year's Nobel Prize for medicine or physiology in Stockholm on Sunday. The rector of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, where the Mosers have worked for years, was proud and delighted when it was all over."