Hilary Rizzo 5/8/13
C Block Odd Biology
“A Sense of Where You Are”
Gorman, James. “A Sense of Where You Are” The New York Times. 5 May 2013. 29 April 2013.
In 1998, two physiologists, May-Britt Moser and her husband Edvard I. Moser, convinced PerOskar Andersen, an internationally famous neuroscientist, to work with them on studying the intersection of behavior and physiology. Physiology is the study of functions of living organisms and their parts. They began recording the activity of cells in the hippocampus of rats moving in a closed area because they wanted to find out how information flows to place cells, cells in the brain that register specific places. They found that the cells were not responding to external marks, but they were keeping track of how they moved. In 2005, they discovered grid cells in the brains of rats, which create a map of the world and tell them where they are, where they were before, and where they are going. The grid cells, cells that sense head direction, and cells that sense borders and boundaries work together in the brain as a navigation system that maps movement. Electrical recordings of signals emitted by grid cells show a map that is very straightforward, which was surprising to many because the brain is so complicated. The area of the brain that contains grid cells is usually damaged in early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and frequent symptoms of patients include getting lost, which suggests that grid cells may be found in humans as well as rats.
The discovery of grid cells is a huge advance in science and society because scientists believe that grid cells might be found in the human brain. Grid cells are found in rats and proven to be in primates, so they will most likely be found in all mammals. Also, if grid cells do exist in humans, research for Alzheimer’s disease can advance as more of an understanding of grid cells and how they work develops because the cells are found in the same place Alzheimer’s disease first damages. Scientists may figure out how to detect Alzheimer’s before the patients notice it by looking at electrical recordings of signals emitted by the grid cells.
Overall, I thought that this article by James Gorman was written very well. He incorporated the personalities and background of the Mosers into the article as well as the importance of their discovery. I think that the article needed to have more definitions because I was very confused on the difference between place cells and grid cells in the brain, since they both have to do with navigation. It was also difficult to comprehend how the information flows from hippocampus to the place cells, which was the original purpose for the study. However, I liked that the article ended with a quote from Dr. Edvard Moser, which compared how couples manage to cooperate on raising children, but for them, he says, “our brain project is our third child, so nothing different, really.”