Class blog for sharing and commenting on current events in biology.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Sense of Where You Are

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.”


  1. One aspect that I like from Hilary's current event is how in the beginning she gave some background information on the history of grid cells, and the way she connected it to the most recent research. By doing this Hilary let the reader understand what has been going on in the past years on this topic. Another thing that I thought Hilary did well is that she defined the word physiology. This helped me understand what was going on in her current even because without this definition it would have been very unclear of what was exactly going on in this research. The third thing that Hilary did well is that she explained why the newly founded research of grid cells can help us in our future when it comes to Alzheimer's disease. One thing that I found interesting is that scientists believe that this research that was conducted on mice will be true for all mammals. The last thing that I found to be interesting was the connection to Alzheimer's disease and the way in which it could possibly cure people with this disease. Overall this current event report was written well, but one thing that Hilary could improve on is to elaborate on her opinion.

  2. Your initial explanation of grid cells was excellent. I really understood what they are and why they are important. You did this by explaining the function of grid cells language that was easy to understand. Also, I thought you did a great job of showing why the event was so important. Everyone is aware of Alzheimer’s disease by one way or another. Saying that these grid cells could help to find a cure for the disease made your writing interesting and connectable. Finally, I liked how you ended with a quote from the article. This gave me a sense of the type of writing that the article was written in. The quote was relevant and easy to understand.
    I found it interesting that scientists had a very clear map of the human brain. They were able to relate the human brain to that of a mouse in order to attempt to locate the grid cells. I also found it interesting that the study of grid cells could lead to the earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. It is cool that scientists can tell so much just from electrical signals in our brains.
    Overall, Hilary did a great job of explaining the article. She made it clear and easy to understand. If I had to tell Hilary a way to improve her summary, it would be to cut down on some sentences in the first part of the summary. Some of the sentences were not necessary.

  3. I really enjoyed reading the analysis of your article. Your explanation of the grid cells was very informative, really teaching the reader their importance. You really analyzed why the even was important. Talking about how gird cells could potentially help find a cure makes the article seem real and relatable.
    I found this whole article interesting. But stuff like how scientists have a map of the brain and are able to locate the grid cells via mice was not something you learn about every day which I thought was pretty cool.
    I think you did a great job with this analysis, it was clear and easy to read. It was very well explained. My only suggestion would be just like Matt's, to ditch a few of those beginning sentences, they weren't really necessary