May-Britt and Edvard Moser shared the Nobel prize for medicine. Photo: Geir Mogen/NTNU / NTB scanpix
A Norwegian husband and wife team received this year's Nobel prize in medicine, it was announced on Monday in Stockholm.
May-Britt and Edvard Moser shared the prize with American-British John O'Keefe at the award ceremony of the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden's capital.
The Moser couple are both professors of psychology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU - Norges teknisk-naturvitenskapelige universitet), where they both lead their respective institutes.
Gunnar Bovim, NTNU principal, said: "This is not surprising. May-Britt and Edvard Moser are still early in their career for receiving this supreme scientific award."
The Nobel institution said after giving the award : “This year's Nobel prize winners have discovered a positioning system, a kind of 'inner GPS’ in the human brain, making orientation possible. Their work shows how brain cells perform advanced intellectual tasks.”
John O'Keefe discovered the first part of this system in 1971. In 2005 the Norwegian couple found yet another piece of the puzzle when they discovered that cells in the human brain make up a coordination system contributing to the brain's sense of direction and understanding of spatial orientation.
The Swedish Nobel Institute stated further: “The findings of John O'Keefe, May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser have solved a problem that has puzzled philosophers and scientists for centuries, namely how the brain makes a map of our surroundings.”
Nobel prize winner May-Britt Moser locked herself into her office and started crying when the Swedish Nobel Institute called, reported news agency TT.
At 12.30pm on Monday she hadn't yet talked with her husband and fellow prize winner Edvard Moser who was on a plane to Munich.
May-Britt said: “He will become so shocked and super-super-happy!”
When the phone call came from the Swedish Nobel Institute, Moser considered not accepting the call.
“I thought ’hmm, I don't recognise that number. Who is it?’ And then I heard that it was Göran K. Hansson (Swedish Nobel secretary) and thought ‘Help!’” she said.
Then May-Britt locked herself into her office and started to cry.
She said: “Receiving a prize like that and show the world what we are doing is fantastic. It is so great, and we are so thankful!”
Meanwhile in Germany, Edvard Moser landed to a welcome party at Munich airport.
Moser said to NTB: “It is absolutely fantastic. It is a great acknowledgement of the work we are doing.”
“I didn't know anything. When I got off the plane, a representative was standing there with a bouquet of flowers that read: 'Congratulations on the prize.'"
Nobel medicine prize facts
The Nobel Foundation was established in 1900, with total assets of more than 30 million kroner today.
Today, the foundation has more than 3 billion Swedish kroner in its reserves.
The annual return of the foundation's investments is divided in five and distributed among prize winners within physics, chemistry, medicine and literature, as well as the winner of the Peace prize.