Nobel Prize in Medicine for Discovering ‘Brain GPS’
Three scientists have shared the 2014 Nobel Prize in medicine for discovery of an ‘inner GPS’ in the brain which shows that there is a cellular basis for higher cognitive function.
Nobel Committee announced names of John O’Keefe, May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser for shared Nobel for brain physiology discovery. The cells they have discovered constitute a positioning system in the brain. These cells help orientation in the space.
According to a statement of the committee, this year’s laureates have discovered an “inner GPS” in the brain that “makes it possible to orient ourselves in space, demonstrating a cellular basis for higher cognitive function”.
John O’Keefe discovered about four decades ago that certain nerve cells in the rat’s brain got activated after assuming a particular place in the environment, while other cells showed activation at other places. He proposed that these place cells build up an inner map of the environment. These nerve cells are located in hippocampus part of the brain.
In 2005, May-Britt and Edvard Moser discovered that other nerve cells in a nearby part of the brain, the entorhinal cortex, were activated when a rat passed certain locations.
Together, these locations formed a hexagonal grid, with each “grid cell” reacting in a unique spatial pattern. Collectively, these grid cells form a coordinate system that allows for spatial navigation.