Monday, October 6, 2014

Nobel Prize for the brain's GPS discovery

image Wikimedia

BBC News website health editor James Gallagher reports October 5, 2014:
UK-based researcher Prof John O'Keefe as well as May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser share the award. They discovered how the brain knows where we are and is able to navigate from one place to another. Their findings may help explain why Alzheimer's disease patients cannot recognise their surroundings.

Prof O'Keefe, from University College London, discovered the first part of the brain's internal positioning system in 1971. ... His work showed that a set of nerve cells became activated whenever a rat was in one location in a room. A different set of cells were active when the rat was in a different area. Prof O'Keefe argued these "place cells" - located in the hippocampus - formed a map within the brain.

In 2005, husband and wife team, May-Britt and Edvard, discovered a different part of the brain which acts more like a nautical chart. These "grid cells" are akin to lines of longitude and latitude, helping the brain to judge distance and navigate. They work at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim.
The Nobel committee said the combination of grid and place cells "constitutes a comprehensive positioning system, an inner GPS, in the brain". They added: "[This system is] affected in several brain disorders, including dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

"A better understanding of neural mechanisms underlying spatial memory is therefore important and the discoveries of place and grid cells have been a major leap forward to advance this endeavour."
Read the entire article from BBC News

Interesting, how advances in modern technology is helping scientists to define questions and use such basic concepts as grid map and GPS in their work!

As we know how devastating Alzheimer's disease is these discoveries about the amazing functionality of our brain have very practical consequences. It is also mapping major routes towards better understanding of the mapping capabilities of insects, fish, birds, land animals and humans our Creator has given to all living things in His great and deep wisdom.