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Image of the Week: Prof John O’Keefe receives his Nobel Prize

12 Dec, 2014

John O'Keefe

The image of the week is Professor John O’Keefe, being awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, which he shares with Edvard Moser and May-Britt Moser. The Wellcome Trust has supported O’Keefe’s work for over ten years and he is Director of the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour.

The Nobel Laureates discovered a positioning system, the ‘inner GPS’ in the brain, which makes it possible for us to orient ourselves in space. In 1971, John O’Keefe discovered the first component of the positioning system, called ‘place cells’.

He found that a type of nerve cell in an area of the brain called the hippocampus 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, laying the foundation of our understanding of how our brains form a picture of space and how we navigate.

During the Award ceremony in Stockholm on Wednesday, Professor Ole Keihn, Member of the Nobel committee for Physiology or Medicine, presented the award and said “Through brilliant experiments, you have given us new insight into one of the greatest mysteries of life: how the brain creates behaviour and provides is with fascinating mental proficiencies”. In his Nobel speech, O’Keefe had an important message: “In this era of growing xenophobia it’s important to remember that science is the quintessential international endeavour… As scientists we believe that the future great contributions to our understanding of the physical and the biological world can come from citizens of any country from any part of the world.”

On learning about the award, Director of the Wellcome Trust, Jeremy Farrar, said “I am absolutely thrilled that John O’Keefe, our close colleague at the Wellcome Trust, has won the Nobel Prize. John’s work, which the Trust is proud to have supported for over ten years, has transformed our understanding of how the brain represents space. He is also a truly exceptional scientist and it is an honour for me to have worked closely with him over the last year.

“On behalf of myself and the Wellcome Trust I am delighted to offer our very warmest congratulations to John.”

You can find out more about John O’Keefe’s discovery in this press release, read or watch his speech from the Banquet ceremony or watch the full ceremony on the Nobel Prize YouTube channel.

Image Credit: © Nobel Media AB – Alexander Mahmoud

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 12 Dec, 2014 1:56 pm

    Reblogged this on Shane O'Mara's Blog.

  2. cwronin permalink
    19 Dec, 2014 4:10 am

    Came across Prof John O’Keefe some years ago. He always has interesting insights into neuroscience.

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