(CNN) — The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has gone to John O’Keefe and May-Britt and Edvard Moser for work on cells that form a positioning system in the brain.
Their research helps better understand how people orient themselves, and it could prove useful in Alzheimer’s research, because of the part of the brain those cells lie in — the hippocampus.
Primarily, the scientists have helped answer the fundamental questions of how we know where we are, where we’re going and how we remember it all, so that we can repeat our trips, the Nobel Committee said in a statement.
The researchers’ answers have to do with the way special brain cells work together.
O’Keefe, a London neuroscientist, made the first discovery in 1971, when he came upon a nerve cell in the brain of a rat that was set off whenever the rat was in a particular place, the statement said.
The scientist called them “place cells.”
In 2005, the Mosers, Nowegian neuroscientists, discovered yet another component.
“They identified another type of nerve cell, which they called “grid cells,” that generate a coordinate system and allow for precise positioning and pathfinding,” the statement read.
They also later figured out how place and grid cells work together to make the brain know where it is and where it’s headed.