UCLH congratulates John O'Keefe on Nobel Prize 

07/10/2014 00:00 
UCLH congratulates UCL’s Professor John O’Keefe for the award of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Medicine.
John O'Keefe, Nobel Prize winner 
Professor John O’Keefe, Director of the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits & Behaviour and Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience in the Department of Cell & Developmental Biology, Division of Biosciences at UCL, was awarded the prize on Monday for the discovery of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain - an ‘inner GPS’ - that enables us to orient ourselves.
Sir Robert Naylor, Chief Executive of UCLH, said: “We are all delighted that John O’Keefe’s work has been recognised by the Nobel Assembly, making him the 29th Nobel Laureate from among the academics and students of UCL. This award demonstrates the importance of the collaborative approach which has for so long underpinned the successful partnership between UCL and UCLH, and augurs well for the future."
Professor O’Keefe, who won the award jointly with Professors May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, discovered the first component of this positioning system in 1971 when he found a type of nerve cell in the hippocampus that became activated whenever a rat was in one location in a room, with a different set of cells active when the rat was in a different area.
He concluded that these ‘place cells’ formed a map of the room. In 2005, the Mosers identified a nerve cell that allows for precise positioning and pathfinding. The place cells and nerve cells discovered make it possible for the brain to determine position.
Professor Michael Arthur, UCL President & Provost, said: "John O'Keefe is one of UCL's outstanding neuroscientists and I am delighted that his work on the very basic question of how the hippocampus in the brain stores spatial information and thus allows us to navigate our way through a complex world, has been recognised by the award of the Nobel Prize in Medicine.”

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