NTNU researchers win medical research prize

(25.08.2011) NTNU Professors May-Britt and Edvard Moser have been selected for the 2011 Anders Jahre's Award for Medical Research. The award, which includes a NOK 1 million (€ 128,000) prize, is considered among the most prestigious of medical research awards in the Nordic countries.May-Britt and Edvard Moser

The Mosers were recognized for their groundbreaking discoveries and new insights into the brain's structure and function. In making its selection, the committee highlighted the couple's discovery of grid cells, which are neurons that store spatial information and memory, and noted that the researchers' findings have provided the international scientific community a better understanding of how the brain works.

"We see this prize as a recognition of 15 years of hard work by a large group of people," Edvard Moser said. "The work is also a product of the favourable working conditions provided by NTNU."  

New brain centre to be established
Edvard and May-Britt Moser are director and co-director respectively of NTNU's Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience/Centre for the Biology of Memory, which is a Centre of Excellence recognized by the Research Council of Norway.

The successes of the Institute and Centre over time led NTNU earlier this year to pledge NOK 42 million to build an expanded research centre for the group, to be called the Norwegian Brain Centre. Upon its completion, the new centre for brain research may become the world's largest laboratory for the measurement of electrical activity in large groups of brain cells called neural networks. The centre will continue NTNU's long-term commitment to brain research, with the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience/ Centre for the Biology of Memory at the forefront. 

In addition to conducting research, the Norwegian Brain Centre will host PhD candidates and researchers from Norway and abroad who need training in the latest technology focused on the brain.

The centre will both accommodate and develop the best technology for studying networks in the brain. One of the newest methods, which is under rapid development, involves using virus-based techniques to switch activity in specific neurons on and off, as well as new technology for measuring microscopic signals in the cells.

Other recognition
The Jahre prize is the second major research prize awarded to the Mosers in 2011. Earlier this year the Mosers were awarded the 2011 Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine. The award recognized the Mosers, along with a German biologist, Stefan Jentsch, a director at the Max-Planck Institute of Biochemistry.

The Jahre Prize is awarded by a committee of scientists selected from across the Nordic region, and is based at the University of Oslo. The prize is named for Anders Jahre (1891-1982), who made his fortune from shipping and whaling. In 1953 Jahre donated NOK 1 million to the University of Oslo, which the university used to establish the "Anders Jahre Fund to promote science."  The Jahre prize was first awarded in 1960 and is now comprised of the main award of NOK 1 million, with a second award of NOK 400000 to young scientists.

This is the second time an NTNU researcher has been selected for this award. In 2004, Professor Hans Krokan was awarded the prize for his research on DNA repair. He shared it then with Erling Seeberg at the University of Oslo.

Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience/Centre for the Biology of Memory

The scientific goal of the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience is to advance our understanding of neural circuits and systems. By focusing on spatial representation and memory, the investigators hope to uncover general principles of neural network computation in the mammalian cortex.

NTNU's Kavli Institute is the only one in the Nordic countries and is one of just four devoted to neuroscience. The other three Kavli Institutes for neuroscience are in the United States, at Yale University, the University of California San Diego and Columbia University.

NTNU's Kavli Institute coexists with the Centre for the Biology of Memory (CBM) but the scope of the Institute is broader and more long-term. CBM is part of the Centre of Excellence scheme of the  Research Council of Norway.

For more information, visit the research group's main website.