These findings are soon to be published in respectively Nature and PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).
May-BrittMoser, the last to give her lecture, revealed the main findings concerning the hippocampus (not the entorhinal cortex this time), showing that the rats participating in the experiment posses an impressing ability to remember every and each environment in 11 different rooms. Even though each of the rooms looked almost similar, the animal was able to bring up the “correct map” every time it entered a specific room.
- This shows their brain is capable of operate with more than 10 different maps, each completely independent of the others, she explained.
The Mosers receive the nobel Prize for their discovery of the grid cells: Cells in entorhinal cortex which automatically map in a mathematical way every piece of physical environment where the rats move.
But grid cells are capable of more than positioning: There are also cells keeping track of speed. And there are cells utilizing smell to create short cuts to memories hidden in the past. Thus, she ended her lecture by quoting Marcel Proust "Remembrance of Things Past," where the taste of Madeleine cake abruptly propells him through his life back to his boyhood.
May-Britt followed her husband Edvard, who provided insights soon to be published in Nature.
He explained how they found a deviation in the orientation of the grid system: Grid orientation is determined by the orientation of the axis. Deviation is 7,5 degrees, “which is as asymmetric as can be”, he said.
At the same time the hexagonal grid system, normally forming a circle, is stretched to become an ellipse. The hexagonal system is the system in which most effectively enable the cells to distance themselves.
What they found is that both elliptification and axis rotation may be common end products of shearing forces from the borders of the environment.
- This means that minimizing ellipticity along one wall axis completely removed the bimodality, he explained.
The first of the laureates to enter the podium was John O’Keefe, who told about his first discoveries of the navigating capabilities hidden in hippocampus.
- These findings suggested that without them, the animal would be deprived of means to navigate from it’s own position to any given one, disregarding any specific route, O’Keefe said.
-Then there were experiments suggesting a polycoordinate system.
O’Keefe quoted the philosopher Immanuel Kant, from (Critique of Pure Reason), a scientific departing point both for him and the Mosers:
“Space is nothing but the form of all appearances of outer sense… can be given prior to all actual perceptions, and so exists in the mind a priori, and can contain, prior to all experience, principles which determine the relations of these objects.”