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Prof. Dr.

Edvard Moser

Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2014

Year of election: 2016
Section: Organismic and Evolutionary Biology
City: Trondheim
Country: Norway


Main areas of research: Neurosciences, the mechanism of spatial cognition, natural navigation systems, grid cells, speed cells

Edvard Moser investigates how mammals orient themselves in space. Together with May-Britt Moser he discovered previously unknown nerve cells in the brains of rats that act like a natural navigation system. These so-called grid cells lay out a virtual hexagonal coordinate grid over the perceived environment. Aided by this grid, the brain is able to calculate the position in space. The two researchers could thus for the first time demonstrate an abstract mental act taking place at the neural level. Further work led them to also identify so-called boundary cells, which become active when animals get close to obstacles and walls.

Edvard and May-Britt Moser’s work has illuminated key fundamentals of the orientation system found in rodents. The grid and boundary cells that they discovered are involved in an interaction with further cell types, including head direction cells and place cells that emit signals when an animal goes past known places and landmarks. Presumably the different cell types collaborate to create a kind of map of the spatial environment.

Their more recent work has led to the discovery of cells that indicate the speed an animal is travelling, the so-called speed cells. They found these by examining the brain activity of rats when they were moving at different speeds. As the speed increased, the speed cells showed greater activity.

Edvard and May-Britt Moser were awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery of grid cells. They shared the award with John O‘Keefe, who had identified the brain’s place cells. The research findings of Edvard and May-Britt Moser could lead to important advances in Alzheimer’s research because the areas of the brain dealing with orientation are the first ones impacted by Alzheimer’s disease. Patients initially lose their ability to orient themselves spatially. If scientists are able to understand on what neural basis spatial orientation occurs, new therapies based on that knowledge could be developed.

Photo credits: Ned Alley


  • since 2013 Vice director, Center for Neuronal Calculations at Kavli Institute, Trondheim, Norway
  • since 2007 Founding director, Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience, Trondheim, Norway
  • 2002-2012 Founding director, Center for the Biology of Memory, Trondheim, Norway
  • since 1998 Professor for neurosciences, Medical Faculty, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway
  • 1996-1998 Associate Professor for biological psychology, NTNU, Trondheim, Norway
  • 1994-1996 Postdoc, University of Edinburgh and University College London, UK
  • 1995 PhD in neurophysiology, University of Oslo, Norway
  • 1991-1995 Research fellow, University of Oslo, Norway
  • 1984-1990 Study of mathematics, statistics, neurobiology and psychology, University of Oslo, Norway


  • since 2015 External scientific member, Max Planck Institute for Neurobiology, Germany
  • 2013-2016 Member, scientific council, Ernst Strüngmann Forum, Frankfurt (Main), Germany
  • 2012-2016 Councilor, Society for Neuroscience
  • Committee member, Starting Grants of the European Research Council (ERC)
  • 2012-2013 Member, scientific council, Picower Center for Learning and Memory, MIT, USA
  • 2010-2014 Chief co-editor, Current Opinion in Neurobiology Member of the European Dana Alliance for Brain Research
  • 2005-2006 Chairman, program committee of the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS)
  • Member in editorial boards: Hippocampus, Faculty of 1000, Neuron, Learning and Memory, F1000 Research, BrainFacts.org (2011‐2015)


  • since 2014 European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Investigator Grant
  • since 2013 Centre of Excellence, appointed by the Norwegian Research Ministry
  • 2013-2015 Project of the European Commission „ICT Future Emerging Technologies“
  • 2009-2013 European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Investigator Grant
  • 2008-2010 Project of the European Commission „Small or medium-scale focused research project: HEALTH-2007-2.2.1-2: Coding in neuronal assemblies”
  • 2002-2012 Centre of Excellence, appointed by the Norwegian Research Ministry
  • 2000-2003 Project of the European Commission „Quality of Life and Management of Living Resources Work Program / Research and technological development activities of a generic nature”

Honours and Memberships

  • since 2016 Member, National Academy of Medicine (USA)
  • since 2016 Member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina
  • since 2015 Member, National Academy of Science (USA)
  • since 2015 Member, American Philosophical Society
  • 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, shared with May-Britt Moser and John O’Keefe
  • 2013 Fridtjof Nansen Award for Outstanding Research in Science and Medicine, Norwegian Academy of Science
  • 2014 Karl Spencer Lashley Award, American Philosophical Society
  • 2013 Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize for Biology or Biochemistry, Columbia University
  • 2013 Perl/UNC Neuroscience Prize, University of North Carolina
  • 2011 Louis Jeantet Prize for Medicine, Louis Jeantet Foundation
  • since 2011 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
  • 2011 Anders Jahre’s Great Nordic Prize for Medical Research, Universität Oslo
  • since 2011 Member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO)
  • since 2011 Member of the Academia Europaea
  • since 2010 Member of the Norwegian Academy of Technological Sciences (NTVA)
  • 2008 Eric K. Fernström’s Great Nordic Prize
  • 2006 Betty and David Koetser Award for Brain Research
  • 2006 Prix Liliane Bettencourt pour les Sciences du Vivant
  • 2005 W. Alden Spencer Award
  • since 2004 Member of the Norwegian Academy of Science
  • since 2003 Member of the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters
  • 1999 Prize for young scientists awarded by the Royal Norwegian Academy for Sciences and Letters




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06108 Halle (Saale)

Phone 0345 - 47 239 - 122
Fax 0345 - 47 239 - 139
E-Mail archiv (at)leopoldina.org

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