Prof. Edvard Ingjald Moser
Nobel Laureate for Medicine at the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience of the University for Science and Technology in Trondheim/Norway, February 2024
Professor Edvard Moser is a Norwegian neuroscientist best known for his role in the discovery of grid cells in the brain and the identification of their function in generating spatial coordinates used by humans and animals to navigate their environment. Professor Moser’s research had important implications for scientists’ understanding of spatial representation in the mammalian brain and offered insight into spatial deficits in neurological disease and the neural processes involved in memory and thinking. For his contributions in elucidating the brain’s neural system for spatial representation he received the 2014 Nobel Prize for Medicine. He shared the award with his wife at the time, Norwegian neuroscientist May-Britt Moser – they were the fifth married couple to share a Nobel Prize – and with British-American neuroscientist John O’Keefe.
Edvard Moser was raised in western coastal Norway. In the early 1980s he studied mathematics, statistics and programming at the University of Oslo. After earning degrees in psychology and neurobiology in 1990 he worked as a graduate student under the supervision of Norwegian researcher Per Oskar Andersen. Edvard Moser’s thesis research centered on understanding the role in spatial learning of neural activity in a region of the brain known as the dentate gyrus. He completed a doctorate degree in neurophysiology in 1995. The following year, after brief stints as a postdoctoral researcher with British neuroscientist Richard Morris at the University of Edinburgh and with O’Keefe at University College London, Edvard Moser joined the faculty at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). May-Britt Moser accepted another position there. The Mosers later became full professors at NTNU.
Edvard Moser’s work is centered on identifying neural networks in the part of the brain known as the hippocampus, which is involved in spatial location and spatial memory. In 1971 O’Keefe and his student Jonathan O. Dostrovsky had discovered so-called place cells in the hippocampus that played a critical role in cortical (spatial) mapping. Their work drew attention particularly to place cells in a hippocampal area designated CA1. The Mosers set out to determine whether the activities of place cells in CA1 originated in the hippocampus or in another part of the brain. Their observations led them to investigate a region called the entorhinal cortex, which connected with neurons in CA1. The Mosers recorded the activity of cells specifically in the medial entorhinal cortex (MEC) of the rat brain via electrodes that had been positioned precisely within the region. The activity of the cells in the MEC turned out to be related to the position of the rat in its enclosure, similar to O’Keefe’s finding with place cells. The activity of the MEC cells, however, was strikingly regular, unlike the activity observed in the hippocampus. When rats ran freely in their enclosures, electrode activity spiked at regular intervals, with the spikes spaced evenly across the environment and being similar in size and direction. Mathematical analyses revealed that the regular activity produced a grid of equilateral, tessellating triangles, which inspired the name “grid cell”.
Professors Edvard and May-Britt Moser later discovered other cells in the MEC known as border cells, object vector cells and speed cells that were involved in spatial representation. These cells were building blocks of spatial navigation, encoding different aspects of the environment, such as edges and boundaries, distance and direction from objects, and the animal’s speed of movement. Subsequent research uncovered interactions between the cell types, with the collective activity of the cells providing information about orientation and navigation. In the most recent work the Mosers have been able to record activity simultaneously from thousands of neurons, making it possible to decipher the mechanisms of neural coding in large brain networks. The function of the neural spatial system was likened to GPS.
The research findings of the Moser lab 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.
At NTNU Prof. Edvard Moser was a founding co-director of the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience in 2007 and the Centre for Neural Computation in 2013. In addition to the Nobel Prize he was a recipient of other prestigious awards including the 2013 Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize for Biology or Biochemistry (shared with May-Britt Moser and O’Keefe).
Topics of keynote speeches:
- The brain’s GPS: How we know where we are
- The brain’s systems for space and time
Monday, February 12, 2024:
14:00 Public keynote speech and dialogue at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok
– Further information and free seat reservation: phone 02-218-3126, email email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org (www.inter.chula.ac.th)
Tuesday, February 13, 2024:
14:00 Public keynote speech and dialogue at Mahidol University in Bangkok
– Further information and free seat reservation: phone 02-849-6231, 02-849-6235, email email@example.com (www.mahidol.ac.th)