What actually made us dynamically aware about everything up to the extent of building our autobiographical memory is finally decoded now and three scientists John O’Keefe, Edvard Moser and May-Britt Moser are awarded Nobel Prize for resolving this puzzle. Popular media has called it the discovery of brain GPS like Boson was called the God Particle.
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2014 is divided, one half awarded to John O’Keefe, the other half jointly to May-Britt Moser and Edvard I. Moser “for their discoveries of cells that constitute the positioning system in the brain”.
John O’Keefe did discover in 1970s a sector of neurons that get activated upon placement of the personality somewhere generating multiple maps of surrounding, whereas Edward Moser and May-Britt Moser further discovered another set that detects positioning and facilitates coordination.
John O’Keefe has named his disovery as place cells of brain, which help to construct a mental map of environment. The hippcampus stores such multiple maps, based upon the activity of these place cells.
Three decades later Edward Moser and May-Britt Moser discovered another set of cells in a neighboring part of the brain, the entorhinal cortex, which acts more like a nautical chart akin to lines of longitude and latitude, helping the brain to judge distance and navigate by locating particular objects in the mental map.
These are the cells that most likely get affected early in disorders like Alzheimer’s disease since one of the first symptoms in Alzheimer patients is that they lose their way and become disoriented easily. Not only that but now the cognitive research has got a very clear cut starting point for furthering the artificial intelligence in upgrading the driverless cars like things to make a far better future.