How does the brain map space and help us to navigate the world? John O’Keefe, and May-Britt and Edvard Moser were recently awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their groundbreaking discoveries of cells that constitute the brain’s SatNav. The striking quality of so-called place and grid cells in the hippocampal formation is that they signal the animal’s position in its environment, but how do they support memory and guide decision making?
By combining cutting-edge functional neuroimaging with virtual-reality techniques, we have demonstrated that similar spatial maps exist in the human brain. Our team uses proxy measures of cellular aspects of cognition in combination with the best high-resolution MRI scans. Our aim is to unravel the fine-grained, layer-specific neural mechanisms underlying successful wayfinding and its breakdown in neurodegenerative diseases and normal ageing. We are also excited by the question of how the specific structure of the brain (e.g. laminar organisation; entorhinal substructures) constrains its functional properties.