The 2014 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine has been awarded to three researchers for discovering the collection of neurones which makes up the spatial positioning of the brain, known colloquially as ‘GPS brain’. Although we are not aware of it, we are constantly using our capacity to orient ourselves. This inner compass is guided by neurones specialising in this function which are located in two interrelated regions of the brain: the hippocampus and the entorhinal cortex. A mental map of our surroundings is formed in these structures which consists of a collection of reference points for spatial movement, like a honeycomb or grid. As well as the intellectual value of the finding, the discovery of the GPS brain has clinical relevance as the regions in which it is located are the first to be damaged in Alzheimer’s disease, one of the first symptoms of which is loss of orientation.
Carlos Matute, Professor of the Department of Neurosciences at the University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU and scientific director of the Achucarro Basque Center for Neuroscience, will provide a talk and debate entitled ‘The GPS brain: how do we orient ourselves in space’ on Wednesday 12 November, at 19.00. Zientziateka is a monthly initiative organised by the Chair of Scientific Culture of the UPV/EHU and AlhóndigaBilbao to raise awareness of current scientific matters.