Grid cells and Place cells

Date: December 24, 2014

Grid cells and Place cells serves as Internal GPS for Navigation: The Noble Prize in Medicine-2014


Grid Cells

Since the advent of knowledge of science to mankind we have been always curious to know about the ways in which our minds perceive, visualize and further use the information collected. This remained an unsolved mystery until now. Three excellent workers of neuroscience have been awarded the most prestigious award the Nobel Prize for their contributions in the perspective fields. The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is awarded one half to John O’Keefe and other half jointly to May-Britt and Edvard I. Moser.

The capability for navigating, perceiving and sensing the plane of direction and most important of all, storing this information to oneself has been of crucial importance for any organism in pretext of its survival and existence.

Amongst the awardees John O’Keefe performed hi studies on rat model employing neurophysiological methods. He concluded that when a rat moves in a free room, signals are recorded from each individual nerve cells in hippocampus (already associated with navigating capacities). The researcher formulated that some of the nerve cells were getting activated when the rat occupies a definite place in the room, the cells were termed as “place cells”. He described through his studies that these place cells enabled the animals to make a entire map of the room. Such collective activity of place cells equipped the animal to make several such maps which gets activated in different environments. Such combinatorial activity and functioning of place cells is stored in the memory of the hippocampus part of brain of an organism.

May-Britt and Edvard Moser also focused their study on hippocampus area of brain. A specific region adjacent to it, called the entorhinal cortex was demonstrated to be extraordinarily active while performing mapping of rat brain moving in a room. While the animal passed certain specific areas of the room certain nerve cells were getting activated. Such activities of animal lead to the formation of certain unique spatial patterns and collectively these gave rise to specific spatial patterns useful in further navigation. These grid cells, entorhinal corticular cells, allow the navigation of the being. The position of the head of the organism and the margins of the room makes a circuit kind of assembly in the hippocampus.

Questions for Pre:

Q: Which part of brain is mainly responsible for Cognitive functions? 

Q: The capabilities regarding Navigation and spatial understanding enable the existence of any organism? 

Q: Which types of cells are associated with functioning of brain?