Connect with us

World

Nobel Prize for medicine goes to discoverers of brain’s internal GPS

Legacy Phuket Gazette

Published 

 on 

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Nobel Prize for medicine goes to discoverers of brain’s internal GPS
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Anglo-American John O’Keefe and Norwegian couple May-Britt and Edvard Moser won the 2014 Nobel Prize for medicine on Monday for discovering the brain’s internal positioning system, helping humans find their way and giving clues to how strokes and Alzheimer’s affect the brain.

The Nobel Assembly, which awarded the prize of 8 million Swedish crowns ($1.1 million) in an announcement at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, said the discovery solved a problem that
has occupied philosophers and scientists for centuries:

“How does the brain create a map of the space surrounding us
and how can we navigate our way through a complex environment?”

Ole Kiehn, a Nobel committee member and professor in the Department of Neuroscience at Karolinska Institute, said the three scientists had found “an inner GPS that makes it possible to know where we are and find our way”.

OKeefe, now director at the centre in neural circuits and behaviour at University College London, discovered the first component of the positioning system in 1971 when he found that a
type of nerve cell in a brain region called the hippocampus was always activated when a rat was in a certain place in a room.

Seeing that other nerve cells were activated when the rat was in other positions, OKeefe concluded that these “place cells” formed a map of the room.

In 1996, Edvard Moser and May-Britt Moser, who are married and now based in scientific institutes in the Norwegian town of Trondheim, worked with O’Keefe to learn how to record the activity of cells in the hippocampus.

Nearly a decade later, the Moser team discovered cells, in the entorhinal cortex region in brains of rats, which function as a navigation system. These so-called “grid cells”, they discovered, are constantly working to create a map of the outside world and are responsible for animals’ knowing where
they are, where they have been, and where they are going.

The finding, a fundamental piece of research, explains how the brain works but does not have immediate implications for new medicines, since it does not set out a mechanism of action.

But knowledge about the brain’s positioning system can also help understanding of what causes loss of spatial awareness in stroke patients or those with devastating brain diseases like dementia, of which Alzheimer’s is the most common form and which affects 44 million people worldwide.

“The discovery…revolutionised our understanding of how the brain knows where we are and is able to navigate within our surroundings,” said Andrew King, a professor of neurophysiology at Britain’s University of Oxford.

CHAMPAGNE IN THE LAB

May-Britt Moser danced and drank champagne with her colleagues in Trondheim after she was told of the award.

“This is so great, this is crazy. I am just jumping, screaming,” Moser told Reuters. “I am so proud of all the support that we have had. People have believed in us, in what we have been doing and now this is the reward.”

The scientist was discussing data with colleagues in their lab when she was called by the secretary general of the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute.

“I almost did not take the call because the discussion was so interesting,” she said.

Norwegian TV showed her co-workers singing “Happy Nobel to you” to the tune of “Happy Birthday”.

Her husband did not immediately learn that he had won the Nobel Prize as he was on a plane bound to Munich. Someone was waiting for him at Munich airport with flowers and gave him the news, he told the Norwegian news agency NTB.

The Mosers join a small club of married couples to win a Nobel Prize that includes scientific greats Pierre Curie and Marie Curie.

John Stein, an emeritus professor of physiology at Oxford said that, as with so many Nobel Prize winners, the discovery was at first ridiculed and dismissed, only later to get the recognition it warrants

“This is great news and well deserved,” Stein said. “I remember how great was the scoffing in the early 1970s when John first described ‘place cells’. ‘Bound to be an artefact’ and ‘He clearly underestimates rats’ sense of smell’ were typical reactions. Now, like so many ideas that were at first highly controversial, people say: ‘Well that’s obvious’!”

Medicine is the first of the Nobel Prizes awarded each year. Prizes for achievements in science, literature and peace were first awarded in 1901 in accordance with the will of dynamite inventor and businessman Alfred Nobel.

In his will, Nobel specified that the bulk of his fortune should be used for prizes – in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace.

Other popular medicine laureates have included Alexander Fleming for the discovery of penicillin, Ivan Pavlov for his work on the physiology of digestion, and Robert Koch for his discoveries in relation to tuberculosis.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

 

Want more Thailand news from the Thaiger family?

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS for instant updates on your mobile
📝️ Join the conversation on Thaiger Talk - discuss news & life in our Thailand forums
📧 Subscribe to our daily email newsletter
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🔔 Subscribe to or Join our YouTube channel for daily video updates

image

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Coronavirus (Covid-19)14 hours ago

AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines to be donated to Thailand from Japan

Bangkok14 hours ago

Bangkok police warn that protests planned for Thursday break the Emergency Decree

Thailand15 hours ago

Thailand News Today | Hotel occupancy, Phuket beaches hit with tar balls, doctor ‘warning’ | June 21

Phuket Sandbox July 1st

days
hours
minutes
seconds

Thaiger is getting behind local businesses for the restart of tourism in July - up to 50% discounts across all advertising packages in June!

Thailand15 hours ago

Pattaya residents complain of sinkholes in road, couple sustains injuries

Insurgency15 hours ago

2 suspected insurgents killed in gunfire exchange with police-military team

Best of15 hours ago

Top 8 Things to do in Hua Hin

Thailand16 hours ago

Army raids a house, arrests 53 as part of alleged gambling operation

Best of16 hours ago

Top 5 Insurance Companies for Expats in Thailand

Thailand16 hours ago

Thailand abstains from vote on UN resolution condemning Myanmar violence

Leisure16 hours ago

Top 5 Rooftop Bars in Bangkok

Best of16 hours ago

Top 5 Shabu-Shabu Restaurants in Bangkok

Indonesia16 hours ago

Indonesia approaches 2 million Covid cases

Thailand17 hours ago

Monday Covid Update: 3,175 new cases; infections rise in the Deep South

Pollution17 hours ago

Oil slick and ‘tar balls’ wash up on Phuket’s beaches – what caused it?

Best of17 hours ago

Top 5 Ice Cream Shops in Bangkok

Thailand4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism4 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism4 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism4 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Southern floods, Face mask fines, Thai Air Asia woes | January 8

Trending