The discoverer of the GPS in the brain
May Britt Moser is a neurophysiologist and
psychologist born in Norway in 1963.
The awareness of one's own location and how to find the path from one place to another is crucial for humans and other animals. In 2005, the researcher discovered a cell type very close to the hippocampus brain region which is key for the determination of an organism's position in space.
According to May Britt, the brain creates a map of the space that surrounds us, and allows us to navigate through a complex environment. She found that a certain cell type in a rat's brain was activated when it was in a particular part of a room, and that other cells were activated when it was in another part. These “position-cells” cooperate among themselves giving the brain information to appreciate distances, and form an internal map, exact and precise, on its position in space, so that one can move around it comfortably. Currently, these findings may help to explain why Alzheimer's patients cannot recognize their surroundings.
In 2014 she was awarded the Nobel prize in Medicine, shared with her husband Edvard Moser, for their discovery of the cells that constitute the brain's positioning system or the "internal GPS of the brain", which makes our orientation in space possible. May and Edvard are the fifth marriage throughout history in which both spouses get the Nobel prize. May Britt Moser is today professor of neuroscience and director of the Centre for Neural Computation in Trondheim.