In DepthNobel Prizes

Brain's GPS finds top honor

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Science  10 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6206, pp. 149
DOI: 10.1126/science.346.6206.149-a

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Research on the brain's internal GPS system won the 2014 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine this week. John O'Keefe, director of the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour at University College London, won half of the $1.1 million prize for his discovery in the 1970s of neurons called "place cells," which fire only when a rat moves to a specific spot in an enclosure. The second half of the award went to a husband-wife couple: May-Britt Moser, director of the Centre for Neural Computation in Trondheim, Norway, and Edvard Moser, director of the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience in Trondheim, for their discovery decades later of "grid cells" that fire at regularly spaced intervals as animals roam, forming a navigational grid in the brain.