(Originally published by Norwegian University of Science and Technology )
April 19, 2011
In a ceremony held in Geneva, Switzerland, NTNU neurobiologists and researchers Edvard and May-Britt Moser were presented the 2011 Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine for their pioneering work in the discovery of “grid cells” in the brain. The award recognizes the Mosers, director and co director of NTNU’s Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience, along with a German biologist, Stefan Jentsch, a director at the Max-Planck Institute of Biochemistry.
The CHF 700 000 prize, awarded by the Louis-Jeantet Foundation to the Mosers, is intended to highlight the work of researchers whose efforts in fundamental aspects of biology are expected to be of considerable significance for medicine.
The Mosers were selected for the 2011 Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine for their 2005 discovery of “grid cells,” neurons that have a specific function in spatial representation. These cells enable mammals to know their precise spatial location and to move from one place to another.
The announcements of the awards were made earlier in the year. Upon learning of the honor in January, Edvard and May-Britt Moser expressed their gratitude for the recognition of their work. "A large team of researchers has worked with us in revealing the biological foundation of spatial mapping in the brain, and every one of them deserves a piece of this acknowledgement. We are also very grateful for the prize money, which will give us the opportunity to embark on ambitious research projects for which it is hard to find regular funding," the Mosers said. Torbjørn Digernes, NTNU's Rector, congratulated the professors and said he was very proud of the research team. "May-Britt and Edvard Moser are brilliant and dedicated scientists that repeatedly put Trondheim on the map of great science," Digernes said.
For the last ten years, the two Norwegian researchers have been studying how the brain builds a map that allows rats – and likely other mammals including humans– to know their spatial location. The discovery of the location of grid cells in the entorhinal cortex of rodents suggests that this part of the brain is a crossroads in the cerebral network that enables mammals to find their way.
The Mosers will use their prize money to continue their pursuit of the secrets of the brain’s map-making capabilities. Their specific focus will be on how grid cells interact with other cells in the entorhinal cortex and hippocampus that contribute to spatial navigation and memory.