Three Scientists Share 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Three scientists shared the 2014 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, the committee announced Monday.

Three Scientists Share 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

The Nobel assembly at the Karolinska Institute has decided to award one half of the physiology or medicine prize to John O'Keefe and the other half jointly to May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser for their discovery of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain.

According to a statement of the committee, this year's laureates have discovered an "inner GPS" in the brain that "makes it possible to orient ourselves in space, demonstrating a cellular basis for higher cognitive function."

John O'Keefe discovered in 1971 that certain nerve cells in the brain were activated when a rat assumed a particular place in the environment, while other nerve cells were activated at other places, the statement said.

He proposed that these "place cells" build up an inner map of the environment. Place cells are located in a part of the brain called the hippocampus.

In 2005, May-Britt and Edvard Moser discovered that other nerve cells in a nearby part of the brain, the entorhinal cortex, were activated when a rat passed certain locations.

Together, these locations formed a hexagonal grid, with each "grid cell" reacting in a unique spatial pattern. Collectively, these grid cells form a coordinate system that allows for spatial navigation.

The statement said their discoveries "have solved a problem that has occupied philosophers and scientists for centuries -- how does the brain create a map of the space surrounding us and how can we navigate our way through a complex environment."

"The discovery of the brain's positioning system ... has opened new avenues for understanding other cognitive processes, such as memory, thinking and planning." according to the statement.

John O'Keefe, born in 1939 in New York City, and holds both American and British citizenships, is currently Director of the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre in Neural Circuits and Behaviour at University College London.

The Norwegian couple, Edvard Moser, was born in 1962 and May-Britt Moser, was born in 1963. Edvard Moser is currently Director of the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience in Trondheim. May-Britt Moser is currently Director of the Center for Neural Computation in Trondheim.

Goran K. Hansson, Secretary-General of the Nobel Committee and Nobel Assembly, told Xinhua that this year's prize of 8 million Swedish Krona (about 1.12 million U.S. dollars) will be equally shared between John O'Keef and the Moser couple.

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