At UA, neuroscientist honored with Ig Nobel outshines laureates
Neuroscientist Eleanor Maguire seemed surprised when she was introduced Thursday as the most famous member of a panel that included three Nobel-Prize-winning scientists.
Maguire, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at University College London, was awarded an Ig Nobel Prize in 2003 for a study that measured the brain sizes of taxicab drivers during their three-year “knowledge training” required to navigate the 25,000 streets and myriad monuments of central London.
She drew more public attention than the three scientists awarded the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine in 2014, said Carol Barnes, head of the University of Arizona’s McKnight Brain Institute, who introduced the quartet of neuroscientists to the press before a public talk here.
Maguire’s research, which measured changes in the size and composition of the hippocampus during taxi-driver training, fits in nicely with the work of her Nobel-Prize-winning colleagues, who discovered the “grid” and “place” cells that allow rats to form a mental map.
John O’Keefe, professor at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Department of Anatomy, University College London, located the “place” cells in the tiny, seahorse-shaped hippocampus.
May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser, both of the University of Oslo, found “grid” cells in the nearby entorhinal cortex….
O’Keefe said the thrill of breakthrough research and the occasional Nobel Prize were not everyday reality. “Most of it is a really hard slog. You have to be good at what you want to do.”
The four scientists were invited by Nadel, Barnes and Mary Peterson, chair of the UA’s School of Mind, Brain and Behavior, to help inaugurate the new multidisciplinary Center for Innovation in Brain Science.
BONUS (kinda-sorta related): Several other Ig Nobel Prize winners are touring Europe, in the 2015 Ig Nobel Euro Tour. Tonight they will do a show at the University of Copenhagen. Monday, they will do two shows in Stockholm, at the Karolinska Institute and then at the Boulevardteatern.