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The Mosers are the fifth married couple to win a Nobel Prize. Twitter/Nobel Prize
inner gps

UCC to give honorary degree to newly-crowned Nobel prize winner

May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser have shared the award with fellow neuroscientist John O’Keefe.

THREE NEUROSCIENTISTS, INCLUDING a Norweigan husband and wife team, have been awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize for Medicine.

John O’Keefe, May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser have won this year’s top medical prize “for their discoveries that constitute a positioning system in the brain”.

May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser are the fifth married couple to be awarded a Nobel Prize.

The Nobel jury said that the work of the three new laureates discovered a system by which people understand and map their surroundings. Something described as an “inner GPS”:

How do we know where we are? How can we find the way from one place to another? And how can we store this information in such a way that we can immediately find the way the next time we trace the same path? This year’s Nobel Laureates have discovered a positioning system, an “inner GPS” in the brain that makes it possible to orient ourselves in space, demonstrating a cellular basis for higher cognitive function.

British-American researcher John O’Keefe, based in University College London since 1987, formed the first component of this positioning system, the jury said.

Following today’s award, UCC has announced that O’Keefe – whose father came from Newmarket in Co Cork – will receive an honorary doctorate from the college on 5 December.

The professor of cognitive neuroscience, who still has family in Co Cork, will be given an honorary Doctor of Science degree (DSc), UCC announced in a statement this afternoon.

When observing rats in 1971, O’Keefe discovered how a certain type of nerve cell in an area of the brain called the hippocampus was always activated when a rat was at a certain place in a room.

The Nobel jury said O’Keefe’s work was developed by May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser more than three decades later at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology:

In 2005, May-Britt and Edvard Moser discovered another key component of the brain’s positioning system. They identified another type of nerve cell, which they called “grid cells”, that generate a coordinate system and allow for precise positioning and pathfinding.

“The discoveries of John O´Keefe, May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser have solved a problem that has occupied philosophers and scientists for centuries,” the jury concluded.

Speaking directly after her win, May-Britt Moser says that she’s “still in shock” but that her husband doesn’t know yet because he’s on a flight.

“The only only sad thing on a day like this is my husband is still on a plane so he doesn’t know, it’s so frustrating because we can’t get in touch with him,” she said adding that he’s due to land in Munich later today.

The Nobel Prize / SoundCloud

Originally published: 11.51 am

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