British scientist John O'Keefe and Norwegian couple Mary-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser, received the Nobel Prize in medicine on Monday. The trio experimented on rats to discover nerve cells that "constitute a positioning system in the brain," a.k.a. an "inner GPS," according to the Nobel Assembly.
O'Keefe first embarked upon the quest in 1971, when he discovered the same nerve cell was used when a rat was in a specific location. O'Keefe's discovery led to his finding of multiple "place cells" that rats used to create "a map of the environment," The Associated Press reports. Later, the Mosers joined O'Keefe when they discovered a "grid cell" that allowed the brain to create a "coordinate system."
The discovery of the brain GPS could "help us understand the mechanism underpinning the devastating spatial memory loss" that accompanies Alzheimer's disease, the Nobel Assembly noted.
Nobel prizes for physics, chemistry, literature, and peace will be announced this week, and the economics prize will be given next Monday. --Meghan DeMaria