Three Scientists Win Nobel Prize for Brain Research

06 October, 2014

From VOA Learning English, this is Science in the News.

American-born British Scientist John O'Keefe and Norwegians May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser won the Nobel Prize in medicine. They discovered how the brain knows the body's location.

The Nobel Assembly at Sweden's Karolinska Institute announced the prize on Monday. According to the assembly, the prize winners answered an important question about the brain: how does it draw a kind of map of the space we are in? This map helps us move through our environment.

Three Scientists Win Nobel Prize for Brain Research
Images of the winners of the 2014 Nobel Prize for Medicine, U.S.-British scientist John O'Keefe and Norwegian husband and wife Edvard Moser and May-Britt Moser are projected on a screen during the announcement in Stockholm Monday Oct. 6, 2014.

Professor John O'Keefe is the director of the Sainsbury Wellcome Center in Neural Circuits and Behavior at University College London. He discovered the mapping ability in 1971. He noticed that certain nerve cells started working in a rat's brain when it was in one part of a room. When the rat was in a different part of the room, other nerve cells were activated in another part of the brain.

The other winners, Edvard and May-Britt Moser, are married to each other. They have worked together since they were college students. They found another nerve cell in a rat's brain that creates a grid system. This grid connects with the mapping cells to make up the brain's positioning system.

Other research suggests that humans have the same kinds of brain cells.

The Nobel panel says the discoveries have opened new ways to understand other mental activities. The work of the award winners helps us to understand more about memory, thinking and planning.

The award comes with a $1.1 million prize. Half goes to Professor O'Keefe. May-Britt and Edvard Moser will divide the other half.

On Tuesday, the Nobel Prize in physics will be awarded, followed by the chemistry prize on Wednesday, literature on Thursday and the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.

I'm Mario Ritter.


Words in this Story

activate v. to cause (a chemical reaction or natural process) to begin

environmentn. all surrounding things, conditions and

influences that affect life

grid - n. a pattern of lines that cross each other to form squares on a piece of paper, a map, etc.

nerven. a thin piece of tissue that sends information through the body to and from the brain

positionn. a place; the way of holding the body; the way

a thing is set or placed

positioning – adj. providing information on the location of something