Husband and wife team wins Nobel Prize in medicine

A Norwegian couple have been awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in medicine, to be shared with American-British neuroscientist John O’Keefe.

Announced today at the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, May-Britt and Edvard Moser were recognised ‘for their discoveries of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain’.

According to The Local, The Nobel institution commented after giving the award: ‘This year’s Nobel prize winners have discovered a positioning system, a kind of “inner GPS” in the human brain, making orientation possible. Their work shows how brain cells perform advanced intellectual tasks.’

John O’Keefe first discovered a component of this system back in 1971, and the couple followed on from his important work with further discoveries in 2005. Together, the conclusion is that there is a cellular basis for precise positioning and mapping of areas, allowing the brain to determine position and navigate complex spaces.

The duo have been jointly awarded one half of the prestigious prize, with O’Keefe taking the other share. They are both leading professors of psychology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU – Norges teknisk-naturvitenskapelige universitet). O’Keefe is director of the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre in Neural Circuits and Behaviour at University College London.

The Swedish Nobel Institute stated that ‘the findings of John O’Keefe, May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser have solved a problem that has puzzled philosophers and scientists for centuries, namely how the brain makes a map of our surroundings.’

Main image via Thomas Fisher at Flickrcc.

Sadie Hale