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Brain Research That Won Nobel Prize for Medicine May Lead to Better Understanding of Brain Injury

Research that revealed an "inner GPS in the brain” that enables virtually all creatures to navigate their surroundings is helping scientists better understand the brain and may lead to deeper understanding of brain injury and recovery, according to Shepherd Center's director of brain injury research.

The Karolinska Institute in Sweden announced earlier this week that it awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine to three scientists who discovered this "inner GPS." They are John O'Keefe, a British-American scientist, and a married couple, May-Britt Moser and Edvard I. Moser of Norway.

These scientists “have solved a problem that has occupied philosophers and scientists for centuries:  How does the brain create a map of the space surrounding us and how can we navigate our way through a complex environment?” the Institute said in a statement. The positioning system they discovered helps people know where they are, find their way from place to place and store the information for the next time, said Goran K. Hansson, secretary of the Karolinska’s Nobel Committee.

The scientists’ findings may one day lead to a better understanding of Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases. The findings also may help scientists gain more knowledge of cognitive processes like memory, thinking and planning, the Nobel committee said.

As for the implications of this research for gaining a better understanding of brain injury and recovery, Shepherd Center's director of brain injury research, Ron Seel, Ph.D., said:  "Any research that helps us better understand how the uninjured, non-diseased 'normal' brain works, how it ages normally and how it ages abnormally may provide insights that can be used to generate new research hypotheses in animal models of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and in imaging and behavioral studies of people who sustain TBI."

For more information on brain injury research at Shepherd Center, click here.


About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neurological conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 740 inpatients, nearly 280 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.