How do we know where we are, where we went and how we can reach our next destination? These routine mental operations all require an internal map of our surroundings that contains all the places we experienced and the multiple paths that we took to go from one place to another.
The so-called place and grid cells are two of the major neuron types that function as elementary parts in the brain’s positioning system. A place cell becomes active only in a particular location or near a particular landmark in the environment, whereas a grid cell’s activity peaks in multiple, equidistant places to form a geometric pattern akin to that formed by the intersections of a grid on a city map. This year’s Nobel prize was shared by John O’Keefe for his discovery of place cells and jointly by May-Britt and Edvard Moser for their discovery of grid cells. By supporting the sense of space, place and grid cells also enable mental projections into the future and the past, where events take place in specific spatial contexts.
In celebration, NPG is making available a range of articles from its journal archives that capture and reflect their remarkable achievements. Due to their impact and importance the research articles in the Highlights section will be free to access for a month.
Image credit: Artwork courtesy of Tor Stensola, Moser Laboratory, NTNU, Trondheim