Nobel Prize Laureates

Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience

The Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience is a Kavli Foundation Institute since 2007, a Centre of Excellence since 2002, and a department under the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences NTNU. The research centre was established in 1996.

Kavli Institute is consisting of the centres Centre for Neural Computation (CoE) and Egil and Pauline Braathen and Fred Kavli Centre for Cortical Microcircuits. The staff is organized into nine work units: seven research labs with associated team of scientists, students and technicians under the leadership of eight principal investigators, as well as one support group and one technical group. The department is responsible for an international Master of Science in Neuroscience programme and is connected to the Ph.D. programme in Medicine.

Kavli faculty, selected scientific publications and historic timeline


Photo of May-Britt Moser

May-Britt Moser
Professor, Director of Centre for Neural Computation

Photo of Edvard Moser

Edvard Moser
Professor, Director of Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience

Photo of Menno Witter

Menno Witter

Photo of Cliff Kentros
Cliff Kentros
Photo of Yasser Roudi

Yasser Roudi

Photo of Jonathan Whitlock
Jonathan Whitlock

Photo of Emre Yaksi

Emre Yaksi
Associate Professor

Photo of Christian Doeller
Christian Doeller
Professor, Director of Egil and Pauline Braathen and Fred Kavli Centre for Cortical Microcircuits

Selected scientific publications

We have chosen to highlight four experimental publication and a joint theoretical paper involving all research groups present at the Centre per 2017. All work on these papers is performed at Centre for Neural Computation (CNC), with CNC funding. All authors are, or have been, members of CNC.

Experimental papers:

Shearing-induced asymmetry in entorhinal grid cells.

Stensola T, Stensola H, Moser M-B, Moser EI (2015). Nature, 518, 207-212 (Article).

This paper provides fundamental information about how grid patterns interact with geometric reference boundaries of the local environment.  We show that the axes of the grid are offset from the walls of the test environment by an angle that minimizes symmetry with the borders of the enclosure. This rotational offset is invariably accompanied by an elliptic distortion of the grid pattern. Reversing the ellipticity analytically by a shearing transformation removed the angular offset, suggesting, together with the near absence of rotation in novel environments, that rotation emerges through non-coaxial strain as a function of experience. The systematic relationship between rotation and distortion points to shear forces arising from anchoring to specific geometric reference axes as a major element of the mechanism for alignment of grid patterns to the external world.

A prefrontal-thalamo-hippocampal circuit for goal-directed spatial coding.

Ito HT, Zhang S-J, Witter MP, Moser EI, Moser M-B (2015). Nature, 522, 50-55 (Article).

Hippocampal place cells provide accurate information about the animal’s current location but it has remained unclear how the place-cell map is used to navigate from the current position to a goal location elsewhere in the environment. This study identifies a prefrontal-thalamic circuit required for hippocampal representation of routes or trajectories through the environment. Trajectory-dependent firing was observed in cells in medial prefrontal cortex, nucleus reuniens of the midline thalamus, and CA1 of the hippocampus. Silencing the nucleus reuniens substantially reduced trajectory-dependent firing in CA1, suggesting that projections from medial prefrontal cortex, via the nucleus reuniens, are crucial for representation of the future path during goal-directed behavior. The findings point to the thalamus as a key node in networks for long-range communication between cortical regions involved in navigation. Like the early work on grid cells, the study also illustrates the power of combining neuroanatomy (Witter group) with multi-site neurophysiological recordings (Moser group).

Speed cells in medial entorhinal cortex.

Kropff E, Carmichael JE, Moser M-B, Moser EI (2015).  Nature, 523, 419-424 (Article).

When animals move, activity is translated between grid cells in accordance with the animal’s displacement in the environment. For this translation to occur, grid cells must have continuous access to information about the animal’s instantaneous running speed. Until 2015, a powerful speed signal had not been identified, however. The present study reports the discovery of cells that provide this information. We shows that running speed is represented in the firing rate of a ubiquitous but functionally dedicated population of medial entorhinal neurons distinct from other cell populations of the local circuit, such as grid, head direction and border cells. These speed cells are characterized by a context-invariant positive linear response to running speed. The findings point to speed cells as a fundamental component of the dynamic representation of self-location in the medial entorhinal cortex. 

Stellate cells drive maturation of the entorhinal-hippocampal circuit.

Donato, F., Jacobsen, R.I., Moser, M.-B., Moser, E.I. (2017).  Science, (Article).

To determine how the entorhinal-hippocampal space network is set up during early postnatal development, we monitored markers of structural maturation in developing mice, both in naïve animals and after temporally restricted pharmacogenetic silencing of specific cell populations. We found that entorhinal stellate cells provide an activity-dependent instructive signal that drives postnatal maturation sequentially and unidirectionally through the intrinsic circuits of the entorhinal-hippocampal network. The findings raise the possibility that a small number of autonomously developing neuronal populations operate as intrinsic drivers of maturation across widespread regions of cortex. The study is under final revision for Science (third revision) and we expect it to be published in March-April 2017. The findings open an entirely new research field – the development of functional circuits in the non-sensory cortices. Understanding development of these circuits may put us on the track of how cortical circuits are wired in adult brains and how they give rise to neural representations.

Theoretical paper:

Grid cells and cortical representation.

Moser EI, Roudi Y, Witter MP, Kentros C, Bonhoeffer T, Moser M-B (2014).  Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 15, 466-481.

We have chosen to highlight one theoretical paper resulting from collective discussions among the five group leaders working at CNC at the time of writing (2013-2014), as well as one external member of the Centre. The study uses grid cells to comprehend principles of neural computation in the cortex. We use grid cells as a gateway to understand network computation at a stage of cortical processing in which firing patterns are shaped not primarily by incoming sensory signals but to a large extent by the intrinsic properties of the local circuit. The paper explains how grid pattern may arise out of attractor properties of entorhinal circuits, as well as competitive learning mechanisms in individual cells. Challenges of existing computational models are discussed in depth, and critical avenues for future exploration are identified. The study is a direct outcome of the interactive trans-disciplinary nature of the CNC environment.

Complete list of publications

For a complete list of publications and output from Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience please visit PubMed at and search the following names: Moser MB, Moser EI, Witter MP, Kentros CG, Roudi Y, Whitlock J, Yaksi E, and Doeller CF. It would also be possible to search in the same database for “Centre for Neural Computation” AND “Kavli”.

Historic timeline (in text)

  • 1996: Research group with two employees: May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser. Their first research lab at NTNU is built from a bomb shelter. Their research focus is navigation and memory in the brain.
  • 2002: Centre for the Biology of Memory is established as part of a new Centre of Excellence scheme by the Research Council of Norway (funding period: 2002-2012).
  • 2005: International breakthrough: the discovery of grid cells.
  • 2007: Principal investigator Menno Witter starts up new research group at Kavli.
  • 2007: The research centre becomes a Kavli institute – the fifteenth in the world, the fourth within neuroscience, the third in Europe, the first and only in Norway.
  • 2011: The Kavli Institute becomes part of NORBRAIN, with Edvard Moser as the national project leader. NORBRAIN is one of the world’s largest infrastructures for research on complex mental functions and dysfunctions, like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
  • 2012: The Kavli Institute is awarded a second Centre of Excellence, the Centre for Neural Computation is established (funding period: 2012-2022).
  • Principal investigator Jonathan Whitlock starts up new research group at Kavli.
  • Principal investigator Yasser Roudi starts up new research group at Kavli.
  • 2013: Principal investigator Clifford Kentros starts up new research group at Kavli.
  • 2014: May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser receives the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine together with John O’Keefe for their discovery of the brain’s navigation system.
  • 2014: Principal investigator Emre Yaksi starts up new research group at Kavli.
  • 2015: Creation of Egil and Pauline Braathen and Fred Kavli Centre for Cortical Microcircuits.
  • 2016: Principal investigator Christian Doeller starts up new research group at Kavli.
  • 2017: The Starmus IV festival is arranged in Trondheim
  • 2018: May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser awarded the Grand Cross of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav, in recognition of their research, their social involvement, and their commitment to animal welfare in research.
  • 2018: How your brain experiences time: Researchers at the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience discovers a network of brain cells that express our sense of time within experiences and memories.
  • 2018: The Kavli Institute is an internationally leading centre of competence for brain research. The Institute hosts seven research groups, eight principal investigators, 100+ employees and an international student environment.

Historic timeline


Scientific Advisory Board, 2013-2023

Carla Shatz, Chairman
Professor, Stanford University, USA

Erin Schulman
Professor, Max Planch Institute for Brain Research, Germany

Rainer Friedrich
Professor, Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research, Switzerland

Thomas Jessel
Professor, Colombia University, USA

Tony Movshon
Professor, New York University, USA 

Board of The Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience

Kari Melby, Chairman

Björn Gustafsson
Dean, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, NTNU

Jan Morten Dyrstad
Associate Professor, Department of Economics, NTNU

Stig Slørdahl
Managing Director, Hospital Trusts in Central Norway

Edvard Moser
Secretary, Professor, Kavli Institute, NTNU

May-Britt Moser
Secretary, Professor, Kavli Institute, NTNU

Board of The Centre for Neural Computation, 2017-2021

Björn Gustafsson

Dean, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Professor, NTNU

Tore O. Sandvik
County Council Chair, Sør-Trøndelag County

Geir Egil Øien
Dean, Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, NTNU

Marit Reitan
Dean, Fakulty of Social and Educational Sciences

Nils Kvernmo
Managing Director, St. Olav's Hospital

May-Britt Moser, Secretary 
Professor, Kavli Institute, NTNU

Board of The Egil and Pauline Braathen and Fred Kavli Centre for Cortial Microcircuits, 2017-2019

Stig Slørdahl, Chairman
Managing Director, Hospital Trusts in Central Norway

Björn Gustafsson
Dean, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Professor, NTNU

Jan Morten Dyrstad
Associate Professor, Department of Economics, NTNU

Menno Witter
Professor, Kavli Institute, NTNU

Nils Kvernmo
Managing Director, St. Olav's Hospital

Robert W. Conn
President and CEO of The Kavli Foundation

Nestor Galvez Jimenez
MD, Cleveland Clinic
Professor and Chairman, Department of Neurology, CCF-Florida, USA

Miyoung Chun
Executive Vice President of Science Programs at The Kavli Foundation, Los Angeles, USA 

Tormod Fladby
Professor, Faculty of Medicine, The University of Oslo and Akershus University Hospital 

Edvard Moser
Professor, Kavli Institute, NTNU

May-Britt Moser
Professor, Kavli Institute, NTNU

Christian Doeller, Secretary
Director Braathen-Kavli Centre, Professor, Kavli institute, NTNU

Kavli Neuroscience Institutes