Norwegian scientists win Perl-UNC Neuroscience Prize

Professor Edvard Moser and Professor May-Britt Moser are director and co-director, respectively, of the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience and they jointly lead the Centre for the Biology of Memory at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Norway.

Norwegian scientists win Perl-UNC Neuroscience Prize
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Professor May-Britt Moser and Professor Edvard Moser. Photo credit: Ned Alley.

Media contact: Les Lang (919) 966-9366, llang@med.unc.edu

Monday, Dec. 17, 2012

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has awarded the 13th Perl-UNC Neuroscience prize jointly to Edvard and May-Britt Moser at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Norway.

Professor Edvard Moser and Professor May-Britt Moser are director and co-director, respectively, of the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience and they jointly lead the Centre for the Biology of Memory at NTNU.

The Perl prize carries a $10,000 award and is given to recognize a seminal achievement in neuroscience.  Past recipients have included four subsequent winners of the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine.

This year’s Perl Prize is being awarded to the Mosers for, “the discovery of key principles governing the internal representation of space and episodic memory,” according to Dr. William Snider, director of the UNC Neuroscience Center and chair of the selection committee.

A major goal of neuroscience has been to understand the basis of memory.  A structure called the hippocampus has long been known to be important for memory but how the hippocampus performs this function has been elusive. Using advanced neurophysiological recording techniques the Mosers demonstrated how similar spatial experiences are stored as distinct memories in large cell populations in the hippocampus.

They have further demonstrated that spatial representations first appear in a region of the brain called the entorhinal cortex that feeds into the hippocampus. This work has provided a major breakthrough in how we calculate our position in space and remember places.

Dr. Edward R. Perl is professor emeritus of Cell Biology and Physiology at the UNC School of Medicine.  Perl’s work in pain mechanisms has been highly influential.  Thirty years ago, he was the first to prove that a particular class of nerve cells (now called nociceptors) responds exclusively to stimuli that are perceived as painful.  These cells now are targets of intensive efforts to find drugs that block their function.

The Mosers will visit UNC on April 16 -17, 2013. They will receive the Prize from Dean William Roper and present the Award Lecture at 3 p.m. on April 16 in room G202 of the Medical Biomolecular Research Building on the UNC School of Medicine campus.