How do we know where we are? How do we find our way around? If anyone knows the answers to these questions, it’s the Norwegian neuroscientist Edvard Moser, born on this day in 1962. Last year, he received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine – shared with his wife May-Britt Moser and John O’Keefe – for discovering an ‘inner GPS’ in the brain. Edvard and May-Britt measured the activity of a single nerve cell – called a grid cell – in the brains of rats running around a box. They found that the grid cell fired whenever the rat crossed specific locations. These points formed a hexagonal pattern, like a honeycomb. Together, the grid cells form a spatial representation of the box. Grid cells interact with the brain region called the hippocampus (pictured, with cell nuclei coloured red), affected in Alzheimer’s disease. Understanding the brain’s positioning system may help sufferers find their way.
Written by Nick Kennedy
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.