The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly to Norwegian researchers
The 2014 Nobel prize for physiology or medicine is to be split between University College London’s John O’Keefe, and the Norwegian husband-and-wife team of Edvard and May-Britt Moser.
According to the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institute press release, the prize was awarded “for their discoveries of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain”.
British-American John O’Keefe discovered the first component of this positioning system in 1971, by measuring the brain cell activity in rats directly while they were alive. He discovered a type of nerve cell in the hippocampus who could recognize position in a room, and concluded that these “place cells” form a map that allows for navigation through complex surroundings. He was recently also lauded with the Kavli prize in neuroscience for this work.
“More than three decades later, in 2005, the Mosers discovered another key component of the brain’s positioning system,” the Nobel Assembly writes. “They discovered another type of 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.”
According to May-Britt Moser in an interview with the Norwegian national new agency NRK, O’Keefe was their supervisor in 1996, and taught them the techniques they needed in order to find these grid cells.
The prize is also great news for NTNU in Trondheim, who raised the Norwegian flag in celebration when they recieved the news. As rector Gunnar Bovim says in the university’s press release, “This is wonderful news, first for May-Britt and Edvard Moser, but also for NTNU and Norway. […] This is the first time the Nobel Prize in medicine has been awarded to Norway. It is not surprising that it has been awarded to the Moser husband-and-wife team.”
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded 105 times to 207 Nobel Laureates between 1901 and 2014. May-Britt and Edvard Moser join these ranks as the first ever Norwegian Laureates in this category, and May-Britt Moser becomes the 11th female to recieve the award.