The biological GPS system

May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser, professors of neurosciences at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Norway, have found that the brain makes its own maps. They have been awarded the 2011 Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine for this and similar work.

The brain of the rat – and probably human brains too – has a kind of “biological GPS” which provides individuals with a sense of spatial orientation.

Individuals have the ability to find their way when they need to go from one point to another, and they can memorize spatial environments. The neurons that contribute to this are situated in the hippocampus and the entorhinal cortex.

The entorhinal cortex is where information is processed prior to being sent to the hippocampus, and this is where the professors discovered the existence of special neurons which they called “grid cells”.

These cells fire selectively when the individual passes different locations in the environment. (What impulse or signal fires the cells – what are signals and where do they come from? Visual through the eyes?) The firing locations of each cell define a periodic triangular array that tiles the entire space visited by the subject, much like the cross points of graphics paper, but with an equilateral triangle as the unit of the grid.

The brain thus makes its own maps.

So the the entorhinal cortex turns out to be a crossroads in the network of neurons, and it allows us to find our way.

The Mosers also identified other types of neurons which play a part in navigation. They found cells in the brain system that respond selectively depending on the direction taken by the animal, and cells that tell the animal when it is approaching the physical limits of its environment. The signals emanating from these different cells are used by spatial memory circuits in the hippocampus.

Edvard and May-Britt Moser’s discoveries are quite remarkable. They have shown how the brain calculates the position of the organism in its spatial environment, completely overturning prior conventional thinking in the field.

You already have a GPS and you didn’t know? That is because it has been on “automatic” all the time.

When shall we se the end of conventional thinking?

See link: NTNU News

3 Responses to “The biological GPS system”

  1. Sean says:

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  2. jordan says:

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  3. Jared says:

    reub@lieutenant.prefectures” rel=”nofollow”>.…

    thank you!!…

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