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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.

The Mosers are the fifth married couple to win a Nobel Prize.
The Mosers are the fifth married couple to win a Nobel Prize.
Image: Twitter/Nobel Prize

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.


Source: The Nobel Prize/SoundCloud

Originally published: 11.51 am

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Rónán Duffy

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