“The discoveries … have solved a problem that has occupied philosophers and scientists for centuries,” the Nobel Assembly at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute said in a statement when awarding the prize of 8 million Swedish crowns ($1.1 million). “How does the brain create a map of the space surrounding us and how can we navigate our way through a complex environment?”

Knowledge about the brain’s positioning system can also help understanding of what causes loss of spatial awareness in stroke patients or those with devastating brain diseases like dementia, of which Alzheimer’s is the most common form.

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