Monday, 6 October 2014

John O’Keefe, May‐Britt Moser, Edvard I Moser win Nobel prize in medicine

LONDON: The 2014 Nobel prize in physiology or medicine has been awarded to British-American researcher John O Keefe, and Norwegian couple May‐Britt Moser and Edvard I Moser, for their discoveries of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain.

Keefe is currently director of the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre in Neural Circuits and Behaviour at University College London.

This year's Nobel Laureates have discovered a positioning system, an "inner GPS" in the brain that makes it possible to orient ourselves in space, demonstrating a cellular basis for higher cognitive function. In 1971, John O'Keefe discovered the first component of this positioning system. He found that a type of nerve cell in an area of the brain called the hippocampus that was always activated when a rat was at a certain place in a room. Other nerve cells were activated when the rat was at other places. O'Keefe concluded that these "place cells" formed a map of the room.

More than three decades later, in 2005, May‐Britt and Edvard Moser discovered another key component of the brain's positioning system. They identified another type of nerve cell, which they called "grid cells", that generate a coordinate system and allow for precise positioning and pathfinding. Their subsequent research showed how place and grid cells make it possible to determine position and to navigate.