Nobel voor GPS in ons brein

Nieuws | de redactie
6 oktober 2014 | Hoe weet u eigenlijk waar u bent? Onze hersenen kennen een soort ingebouwd GPS-systeem dat onze plek in het universum als vanzelfsprekend weet te maken voor elk individu. John O'Keefe en het echtpaar May-Britt Moser and Edvard I. Mosel winnen met hun ontdekking daarvan de Nobel Prijs.

Het Nobel-comité meldt het volgende over de verdiensten van deze Amerikaans/Britse en Noorse winnaars:

“How do we know where we are? How can we find the way from one place to another? And how can we store this information in such a way that we can immediately find the way the next time we trace the same path? 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.  

The  discovery  of  the  brain’s  positioning  system  represents  a  paradigm  shift  in  our understanding of how ensembles of specialized cells work together to execute higher cognitive  functions.  It  has  opened  new  avenues  for  understanding  other  cognitive processes, such as memory, thinking and planning.  

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.”

John O’Keefe was born in 1939 in New York City, USA, and holds both American and British citizenships. He received his doctoral degree in physiological psychology from McGill  University,  Canada  in  1967.  After  that,  he  moved  to  England  for  postdoctoral training at University College London. He has remained at University College and was appointed Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience in 1987. John O´Keefe is currently Director of the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre in Neural Circuits and Behaviour at University College London. 

May-Britt Moser was born in Fosnavåg, Norway in 1963 and is a Norwegian citizen. She studied psychology at the University of Oslo together with her future husband and co- Laureate Edvard Moser. She received her Ph.D. in neurophysiology in 1995. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Edinburgh and subsequently a visiting scientist at University College London before moving to the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim in 1996. May-Britt Moser was appointed Professor of Neuroscience in 2000 and is currently Director of the Centre for Neural Computation in Trondheim.  

Edvard I. Moser was born in born 1962 in Ålesund, Norway and has Norwegian citizenship. He obtained his Ph.D. in neurophysiology from the University of Oslo in 1995. He was a postdoctoral fellow together with his wife and co-Laureate May-Britt Moser, first  at  the  University  of  Edinburgh  and  later  a  visiting  scientist  in  John  O´Keefe´s laboratory in London. In 1996 they moved to the Norwegian University of Science and Technology  in  Trondheim,  where  Edvard  Moser  became  Professor  in  1998.  He  is currently Director of the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience in Trondheim.

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