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Prof. Dr.

May-Britt Moser

Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2014

Year of election: 2016
Section: Organismic and Evolutionary Biology
City: Trondheim
Country: Norway
CV May-Britt Moser - Deutsch (PDF)
CV May-Britt Moser - English (PDF)

Research

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

May-Britt Moser investigates how mammals orient themselves in space. Together with Edvard Moser she 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.

May-Britt and Edvard 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.

May-Britt and Edvard 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 May-Britt and Edvard 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.

Career

  • since 2013 Founding director and chair, Center for Neuronal Calculations at Kavli Institute, Trondheim, Norway
  • since 2007 Founding member and co-director Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience, Trondheim, Norway
  • 2002-2012 Founding member and co-director, Center for the Biology of Memory, Trondheim, Norway
  • 2001-2002 Chair of the Department for Biological and Cognitive Psychology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway
  • 2000 Professor for neurosciences, NTNU
  • 1996-2000 Associate professor for biological psychology, NTNU
  • 1996 Guest fellow, University College London, UK
  • 1995-1996  Research fellow, University of Oslo, Norway, and University of Edinburgh, UK
  • 1995 PhD in neurophysiology, University of Oslo
  • 1991-1995 PhD student, University of Oslo
  • 1990 MSc in psychology, University of Oslo
  • 1982-1990 Studies of mathematics, chemistry, statistics, neurobiology and psychology at the University of Oslo

Functions

  • since 2007 Member, editorial bard, Hippocampus
  • Reviewer (among others) for Nature, Science, Nature Neuroscience, Neuron, Journal of Neuroscience, European Journal of Neuroscience, Behavioral Neuroscience, Hippocampus

Projects

  • 2015 Egil and Pauline Braathen and Fred Kavli Centre for Cortical Microcircuits
  • 2013-2022 Centre of Excellence, appointed by the Norwegian Research Ministry
  • 2011-2015 European Research Council (ERC)Advanced Investigator Grant
  • 2008-2012 Grant of the James McDonnell Foundation, shared with Fred Gage, Salk Institute, La Jolla, USA
  • 2008-2010Collaborative Project “Small or medium-scale focused research project: HEALTH-2007-2.2.1-2: Coding in neuronal assemblies”, European Commission
  • 2007-2010 Functional Genomics Programme II of the Norwegian Research Council
  • 2007-2009 Project “NevroNor” of the Norwegian Research Council
  • 2002-2012 Centre of Excellence, appointed by the Norwegian Research Ministry
  • 2001-2005 “Medicine and Health Group”, Norwegian Research Council
  • 2000-2003 Strategic University Programme, Norwegian Research Council
  • 2000-2003 Project “Quality of Life and Management of Living Resources Work Program / Research and technological development activities of a generic nature”, European Commission

Honours and Memberships

  • since 2016 Elected Foreign Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
  • since 2016 Member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina
  • since 2015 Elected International Member of the American Philosophical Society (USA)
  • since 2015 Elected International Member of the National Academy of Medicine (USA)
  • since 2014 Elected Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences (USA)
  • 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, shared with Edvard Moser and John O’Keefe
  • 2014 Karl Spencer Lashley Award of the American Philosophical Society
  • 2013 Perl/UNC Award for neurosciences, University of North Carolina, USA
  • 2013 Fridtjof Nansen Award for Outstanding Research in Science and Medicine, Norwegian Academy of Science
  • 2013 ‘Best female leader’ award from Trondheim Business Society, Madame Beyer Award
  • 2013 Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize for Biology or Biochemistry
  • since 2012 Member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO)
  • since 2011 Member of the Academia Europaea
  • 2011 Anders Jahre Award for Medicinal Research
  • 2011 Louis Jeantet Award for Medicine
  • since 2010 Member of the Norwegian Academy of Technological Sciences (NTVA)
  • 2008 Eric K. Fernström Award
  • 2006 Betty and David Koetser Award for Brain Research
  • 2006 Liliane Bettencourt Award for Life Sciences
  • 2005 W. Alden Spencer Award, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
  • since 2005 Member of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences
  • 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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