Biomedical Sciences

Nobel prize for brain GPS system discovery

The Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine has been awarded to three scientists who discovered the brain's "GPS system".

Nobel prize for brain GPS system discovery

Professors Edvard and May-Britt Moser, who are husband and wife and long-term collaborators, are affiliates in the Centre for Cognitive and Neural Systems. Professor Edvard Moser is also an Honorary Professor within the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine.

From 1995 to 1997, they both worked as post-doctoral researchers with Richard Morris, Professor of Neuroscience at the Centre for Cognitive and Neural Systems. They currently have research posts at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

They share the award with Professor John O'Keefe, for recognition of their work on discoveries of spatial cells in the brain - or the brains 'GPS system'.

They discovered how the how the brain creates a map of the space around us, and how it enables us to navigate complex surroundings.

Their findings may help explain why Alzheimer's disease patients cannot recognise their surroundings.

It is wonderful news that John O’Keefe, May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser have won this year’s Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. They are deserved winners for their discovery of place cells (John) and grid cells (Edvard and May-Britt). Dedicated scientists who are passionate about their work, they are also great friends with whom it has been such a pleasure to interact over the years. John and I have co-authored a book on our favourite structure (“The Hippocampus Book”) jointly with Per Andersen, David Amaral and Tim Bliss. John also helped a lot in my early work on the water maze. Contrary to what is said in a biographical piece in Nature, Edvard and May-Britt were postdocs in Edinburgh (not in London) and many may remember them. Their then young daughters Isobel and Ailin played on a blanket in their lab in the Appleton Tower. Ah the memories!! Since then, lots of visits to trondheim to see their developing lab, now a powerhouse and a Kavli Centre. It’s a great privilege to know these three tremendous neuroscientists - and great for systems approaches to our subject as well.

Professor Richard MorrisDirector, Centre for Cognitive and Neural Systems