For her work on the discoveries of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain, Dr. May-Britt Moser shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine with her research partner and husband Dr. Edvard Moser and Dr. John O’Keefe, a British researcher.
In high school, Moser admits she wasn’t the best student but did well enough to go to college at the University of Oslo where she reconnected with Edvard, an old high school classmate, and the pair decided to take a psychology course and try to understand how the brain works. Along with some classmates they wrote a paper for the course that was published in The International Journal of Small Group Research and their professor tried to get them to stick with the field but they were determined to study the brain. Talking their way into a neuroscience lab for their master’s thesis, the Mosers did their first real work with the brain and began building a methodology for studying the workings of the hippocampus.
After earning their doctorate degrees, she became a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Edinburgh also spending time working in the University College of London lab of Dr. O’Keefe who had discovered that the hippocampus cells of a rat’s brain created a type of internal map of a room when the rats where placed inside. Wanting to build on this work May-Britt and Edvard planned on spending more time in O’Keefe’s lab learning his techniques but that was put on hold when both Mosers were offered teaching and research positions at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim in 1996.
Since that time May-Britt has been working to try to understand how the brain processes input in order to be able to determine our location and how to find our way to other places. Discovering a type of cell that is important for determining position and navigation, the Mosers also went on to show how these cell types cooperate. This work has laid a foundation for other scientists to investigate the cognitive processes and spatial deficits associated with conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
Written by Angela Goad