I use GPS whenever I need to head to a new place and what's even more amazing, our brains actually have a GPS built-in.
Where am I now, and how do I know where I am on Earth? If you can answer that this is a brain function, you are on the right track.
The brain does the job of keeping track of our current position, direction and movements on Earth. This allows us to find our way back home, going to work to earn our living, or simply going to nice places to relax ourselves.
Sadly, this basic function is handled so well that it's taken for granted.
So, how we know where we are? You've asked a question worth a Nobel Prize!
The 2014 edition of Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to John O'Keefe, May-Britt Moser & Edward Moser for the discovery of "inner GPS" built in our brains. Thanks to the Nobel Prize in 2014, I have the chance to learn about this important discovery that defines our identity as human beings.
I know there are more deserving recipients of the prestigious Nobel Prizes for their contribution to our state of knowledge. The fact that the trio received the Nobel Prize is a testimony of the high impact of the work.
How does the inner GPS in our brains work? Basically there are two types of cells in our brain for geospatial navigation. Using rats as models, scientists have discovered Place cells and grid cells. These two cell types forms the basis of geospatial memory, an inner map that we remember to help us move about in our surroundings.
The discovery of the 2014 Nobel Prize also tells us the cellular basis of thinking. They are telling us, the functions of the software depends on hardware! What an astonishing discovery, isn't it? But, if you've learnt about logic gates in physics, they are essentially (arrangement of) hardware to accomplish a task. We knew about creating a logic gate with electronic components before we knew about programming, so this discovery kinda make sense.
We are coming to the days where knowledge abounds. I'm sure the 2015 edition of the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine will be exciting!