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The Nobel Laureate Review

The Nobel Laureate Review

The Review about a Nobel Prize winner of A Pioneering Neuroscientist Who Reborn Our Understanding of the Brain

Out of many intelligent scientists, John O’Keeffe, renowned neuroscientist, is undoubtedly one of the most prominent Nobel laureates to have honored the City College of New York (CCNY) community. His impressive work in neuroscience had a great effect on our understanding of the brain and has created a variety of approaches. In this review, I will provide a brief summary of O’Keeffe’s work, the contributions he made towards society, the importance of his work, and my own thoughts on his inspiring story.

Biography: John O’Keeffe was born in Harlem, New York in November 1939. His parents are immigrants from Ireland. He grew up in the South Bronx. His parents had landed in New York on the eve of the Depression. Her mother’s departure was paid for by her uncle, who rescued her from seven years of slave labor. His father never had finished primary school in Ireland. But despite having all the problems his father studied in the evenings in New York and earned a high school diploma.
During the war his dream of becoming an aircraft mechanic was thwarted by an accident aboard a fleet. Following an academic path, O’Keefe attended CCNY, where he graduated with a degree in psychology. He was very interested in brain function and human intelligence which led him to graduate degrees from McGill University and the University of Montreal, Canada. O’Keeffe later returned to London and began a lifelong career in rheumatology, which led to an association with University College London (UCL). Together with her colleague May-Britt Moser and her husband Edward Moser, O’Keeffe made the important discoveries that would earn her the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine while a student at UCL.

Contributions:  O’Keefe’s one of the major findings focuses on “place cells” in the hippocampus which are very incredible neurons that send signals when you happen to be in a certain location within your surroundings. This discovery completely changed how we think about navigation and spatial memory. His study established the theory of the brain’s “cognitive map,” which is important to understanding how humans navigate and recall locations. The discovery of it not just for the study of neuroscience but also for psychology.

Discussion: In my opinion his work matters to not only scientists and doctors but also the general public. The effects of O’Keeffe’s contributions go beyond research organizations. This has usage in fields including robotics, psychology, and neuroscience. It is a piece in the puzzles that we are trying to solve in order to understand memory, decision-making, and spatial awareness. We can create advanced navigation techniques and enhance neurological treatments by knowing how the brain creates cognitive maps.

The discoveries and research of O’Keeffe is really impressive. It demonstrates the value of patience and curiosity in studying the sciences. His constant desire for knowledge produced achievements that not only reshaped our understanding of the brain but also held the promise of improving the lives of countless people. O’Keeffe’s journey from CCNY to the Nobel Prize had an important effect on the development of dedicated research.

O’Keefe, J.; Burgess, N. (1996). “Geometric determinants of the place fields of hippocampal neurons”. Nature.
Gruber Foundation. Retrieved November 23, 2013.
Roche, Barry, “UCC to honour Nobel Laureate”, The Irish Times, October 7, 2014