The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet has today decided to award
The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
with one half to
and the other half jointly to
May-Britt Moser and Edvard I. Moser
for their discoveries of cells that constitute a positioning
system in the brain
How do we know where we are? How can we find the way from one place to another? And how can we store this information in such a way that we can immediately find the way the next time we trace the same path? This year´s Nobel Laureates have discovered a positioning system, an “inner GPS” in the brain that makes it possible to orient ourselves in space, demonstrating a cellular basis for higher cognitive function.
In 1971, John O´Keefe discovered the first component of this positioning system. He found that a type of nerve cell in an area of the brain called the hippocampus that was always activated when a rat was at a certain place in a room. Other nerve cells were activated when the rat was at other places. O´Keefe concluded that these “place cells” formed a map of the room.
More than three decades later, in 2005, May-Britt and Edvard Moser discovered another key component of the brain’s positioning system. They identified another type of nerve cell, which they called “grid cells”, that generate a coordinate system and allow for precise positioning and pathfinding. Their subsequent research showed how place and grid cells make it possible to determine position and to navigate.
The discoveries of John O´Keefe, May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser have solved a problem that has occupied philosophers and scientists for centuries – how does the brain create a map of the space surrounding us and how can we navigate our way through a complex environment?
How do we experience our environment?
The sense of place and the ability to navigate are fundamental to our existence. The sense of place gives a perception of position in the environment. During navigation, it is interlinked with a sense of distance that is based on motion and knowledge of previous positions.
Questions about place and navigation have engaged philosophers and scientists for a long time. More than 200 years ago, the German philosopher Immanuel Kant argued that some mental abilities exist as a priori knowledge, independent of experience. He considered the concept of space as an inbuilt principle of the mind, one through which the world is and must be perceived. With the advent of behavioural psychology in the mid-20th century, these questions could be addressed experimentally. When Edward Tolman examined rats moving through labyrinths, he found that they could learn how to navigate, and proposed that a “cognitive map” formed in the brain allowed them to find their way. But questions still lingered – how would such a map be represented in the brain?
John O´Keefe and the place in space
John O´Keefe was fascinated by the problem of how the brain controls behaviour and decided, in the late 1960s, to attack this question with neurophysiological methods. When recording signals from individual nerve cells in a part of the brain called the hippocampus, in rats moving freely in a room, O’Keefe discovered that certain nerve cells were activated when the animal assumed a particular place in the environment (Figure 1). He could demonstrate that these “place cells” were not merely registering visual input, but were building up an inner map of the environment. O’Keefe concluded that the hippocampus generates numerous maps, represented by the collective activity of place cells that are activated in different environments. Therefore, the memory of an environment can be stored as a specific combination of place cell activities in the hippocampus.
May-Britt and Edvard Moser find the coordinates
May-Britt and Edvard Moser were mapping the connections to the hippocampus in rats moving in a room when they discovered an astonishing pattern of activity in a nearby part of the brain called the entorhinal cortex. Here, certain cells were activated when the rat passed multiple locations arranged in a hexagonal grid (Figure 2). Each of these cells was activated in a unique spatial pattern and collectively these “grid cells” constitute a coordinate system that allows for spatial navigation. Together with other cells of the entorhinal cortex that recognize the direction of the head and the border of the room, they form circuits with the place cells in the hippocampus. This circuitry constitutes a comprehensive positioning system, an inner GPS, in the brain (Figure 3). Continue reading
1) DEMENTIA DECLINES : Understanding of the human genome and genetic mutations leads to improved detection of, and prevention methods for, the onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.
2) SOLAR IS THE LARGEST SOURCE OF ENERGY ON THE PLANET : Methods for harvesting, storing and converting solar energy are so advanced and efficient that it becomes the primary source of energy on our planet.
3) TYPE I DIABETES IS PREVENTABLE : A versatile human genome engineering platform is a reality, paving the way for the modification of
disease-causing genes and helping to prevent certain metabolic conditions.
4) FOOD SHORTAGES AND FOOD PRICE FLUCTUATIONS ARE THINGS OF THE PAST : Advancements in lighting technologies and imaging techniques, coupled with genetic crop modification, provide an environment ripe for successful indoor crop growth and detecting diseased foods.
5) ELECTRIC AIR TRANSPORTATION TAKES OFF : Light-weight aerospace engineering coupled with new battery technologies power electric vehicle transportation – on land and in the air.
6) DIGITAL EVERYTHING…EVERYWHERE : From the smallest personal items to the largest continents, everything, everywhere will be digitally connected, and responsive to our wants and likes.
7) PETROLEUM-BASED PACKAGING IS HISTORY; CELLULOSE-DERIVED PACKAGING RULES : Bio-nanocomposites based on nanocellulose make 100% fully biodegradeable packaging pervasive. Petroleum-based packaging products will be no more.
8) CANCER TREATMENTS HAVE VERY FEW TOXIC SIDE EFFECTS : Drug development is so much more precise, binding to specific proteins and using antibodies to give exact mechanisms of action, that the debilitating effects of toxic chemicals on patients is significantly reduced.
9) DNA MAPPING AT BIRTH IS THE NORM TO MANAGE DISEASE RISK : The evolution of micro-total analysis systems (singlecell
analysis) and advancements in nanotechnology, coupled with more widespread Big Data technologies, make DNA-mapping at birth the norm, as well as part of one’s annual physician exam.
10) TELEPORTATION IS TESTED : Kinematical techniques used to understand the Higgs Boson particles generated in the Large Hadron Collider advance such that quantum teleportation is more commonplace.
For the Thomson-Reuters Report click World-2025
MAKE ME SMARTER features Dr Michael Merzenich, the pioneer of the neuroplasticity revolution, as he teaches Todd how to turbo charge his Thinking Speed, Attention and Memory. After only a few weeks of brain training Todd attempts an extreme challenge at the World Memory Championships.
REDESIGN MY BRAIN features Australian personality Todd Sampson put brain training to the test as he undergoes a radical brain makeover to showcase the revolutionary new science of brain plasticity. In a TV first, we take viewers on an inspirational journey as Todd learns how science can turn an ordinary brain into a super brain in just three months. Today, anyone can become smarter, improve their memory and reverse mental ageing. So under the guidance of the world’s top scientists, Todd trains his brain to attain improved Cognition, enhanced Creativity and a stronger connection between Mind and Body.
PN. Two (2) Greek Projects awarded
Press release, 14 January 2014
ERC Consolidator Grants: Nearly €575 million to 312 mid-career top researchers
The European Research Council (ERC) has today selected 312 top scientists in its first Consolidator Grant competition. These mid-career scientists are awarded a total of nearly €575 million. Grants are worth up to €2.75 million each, with an average of €1.84 million per grant. This new funding will enable already independent excellent researchers to consolidate their own research teams and to develop their most innovative ideas across the European Research Area.
The projects selected in this call cover a wide range of topics: using a geochemical clock to predict volcanic eruptions; exploring the effects of Dark Matter and Dark Energy on gravitational theory; checking responsibility, liability and risk in situations where tasks are delegated to intelligent systems; and investigating the role of genetic and environmental factors in embryo brain wiring. (For further information, click here)
On this occasion, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: “These researchers are doing ground-breaking work that will advance our knowledge and make a difference to society. The ERC is supporting them at a key moment where funding is often hard to come by: when they need to move forward in their career and develop their own research and teams.”
The newly appointed President of the ERC, Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon commented: “The new year starts with the conclusion of the first competition for Consolidator Grants and I am very impressed by the quality of the selected projects. Judging by the ever increasing demand for ERC grants, especially from early- and mid-career researchers, it is clear that funding of this kind is much needed. Taking a broader view, I am pleased to have embarked on a new challenge as head of this organisation, which has achieved world-class status in a very short time. It’s pivotal for Europe to create conditions for its new generation of researchers to thrive while following their scientific curiosity.”
With over 3600 proposals submitted, the demand for these grants rose by 46% this year, compared to the corresponding group of applicants in 2012. The ERC Consolidator Grant scheme targets researchers with seven to twelve years’ experience after their PhD, a period of the scientific career covered until 2012 under the Starting Grant scheme.
The share of women amongst the successful candidates in this call (24%) increased in comparison with the equivalent group of mid-career researchers in 2012 (22.5%). The average age of the selected researchers is 39. The overall success rate is 8.5%.
The ERC calls target top researchers of any nationality based in, or willing to move to,
Europe. In this call, grants are awarded to researchers of 33 different nationalities, hosted in
institutions located in 21 different countries throughout Europe, with nine of them hosting five
grantees or more. In terms of host institutions, the UK (62 grants), Germany (43) and France
(42) are in the lead. Researchers are also hosted in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain,
Italy, Israel, Belgium, Sweden, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Portugal, Greece, Hungary,
Ireland, Turkey, Cyprus, the Czech Republic and Norway. In terms of researchers’
nationality, Germans (48 grants) and Italians (46) are at the top, followed by French (33),
British (31) and Dutch (27) researchers. (See statistics here).
Around 45% of the grantees selected are in the domain ‘Physical Sciences and Engineering’,
37% in ‘Life Sciences’ and almost 19% in ‘Social Sciences and Humanities’. The grantees
were selected through peer review evaluation by 25 panels composed of renowned scientists
from around the world.
The grants in this latest competition will allow the scientists selected to engage in total an
estimated 1100 postdocs and PhD students as ERC team members. As a result the ERC
contributes to the development of a new generation of top researchers in Europe.
The 2014 ERC ‘Consolidator Grant’ call, the first one under Horizon 2020, is already open
and the deadline for all domains in this call is 20 May 2014.
Lists of selected researchers
The lists below show the proposals selected for funding.
LIST of all selected researchers by country of host institution (alphabetical order within
each country group)
Lists of selected researchers by domain (in alphabetical order):
Physical Sciences and Engineering
Social Sciences and Humanities
STATISTICS – Consolidator Grants call (indicative)
DISCOVER MORE PROJECTS in this Consolidator Grants call
Set up in 2007 by the EU, the European Research Council is the first pan-European funding organisation for frontier research. It aims to stimulate scientific excellence in Europe by encouraging competition for funding between the very best, creative researchers of any nationality and age. The ERC also strives to attract top researchers from anywhere in the world to come to Europe. It funds young, early-career top researchers (‘ERC Starting Grants’), already independent excellent scientists (‘ERC Consolidator Grants’), and senior research leaders (‘ERC Advanced Grants’). The substantial funding can amount to a maximum of €2 million for a Starting Grant, €2.75 million for a Consolidator Grant and €3.5 million for an Advanced Grant.
The ERC operates according to an “investigator-driven” (or “bottom-up”) approach, allowing researchers to identify new opportunities in any field of research, without thematic priorities. From 2007 to 2013 under the seventh EU Research Framework Programme (FP7), the ERC’s budget was €7.5 billion. Under the new Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (2014-2020), Horizon 2020, the ERC has a substantially increased budget of over €13 billion.
Since its launch, the ERC has funded some 4000 researchers and their frontier research projects and has become a “benchmark” for the competitiveness of national research systems, complementing existing funding schemes at national and European levels.
The ERC is led by the ERC Scientific Council, composed of 22 top scientists and scholars, including the ERC President Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, who took office on 1 January 2014. The ERC Executive Agency implements the ERC component of the Horizon 2020 Programme and is led by Director Pablo Amor.
Due to increasing submission numbers, since 2013 the ERC Starting Grant scheme has been split in two: the ERC Starting Grant, for researchers with at least 2 and up to 7 years’ experience after their PhD; and the new ERC Consolidator Grant for researchers with over 7 and up to 12 years’ experience after their PhD. The 2012 Starting Grant call had two sub-streams (“starters” and “consolidators”), which corresponded to the current division. Any comparative analyses made in this press release are based on the equivalent categories in previous calls (7–12 years post-PhD experience).
The ERC Consolidator Grant in brief
For top researchers of any nationality and age, with over 7 and up to 12 years of experience after PhD, and a scientific track record showing great promise.
Based on a simple approach: 1 researcher, 1 host institution, 1 project, 1 selection criterion: excellence.
Host institution should be based in the European Research Area (EU Member States plus countries associated with the EU research programme). No consortia. No co-funding is required.
Funding: up to €2.75 million per grant for up to 5 years.
Calls for proposals: published annually. See updated information on the upcoming calls here.
by Stephanie Seiler at UW Health Sciences & UW Medicine
Scientists have discovered a second code hiding within DNA. This second code contains information that changes how scientists read the instructions contained in DNA and interpret mutations to make sense of health and disease.
Genome scientist Dr. John Stamatoyannopoulos led a team that discovered a second code hidden in DNA.
A research team led by Dr. John Stamatoyannopoulos, University of Washington associate professor of genome sciences and of medicine, made the discovery. The findings are reported in the Dec. 13 issue of Science.
The work is part of the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements Project, also known as ENCODE. The National Human Genome Research Institute funded the multi-year, international effort. ENCODE aims to discover where and how the directions for biological functions are stored in the human genome.
Since the genetic code was deciphered in the 1960s, scientists have assumed that it was used exclusively to write information about proteins. UW scientists were stunned to discover that genomes use the genetic code to write two separate languages. One describes how proteins are made, and the other instructs the cell on how genes are controlled. One language is written on top of the other, which is why the second language remained hidden for so long. Continue reading