Nansen neuroscience network - unlocking mysteries of the mind

The famous Norwegian explorer, humanitarian and diplomat Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930) also pioneered routes to the mind and is the inspiration behind the new Nansen Neuroscience Network. One hundred and twenty years ago, Nansen earned the first Norwegian doctorate degree in neuroscience. It presented a revolutionary idea: that the brain consists of individual, separate nerve cells.

The Nansen Neuroscience Network is being spearheaded by the University of Oslo’s Centre for Molecular Biology and Neuroscience (CMBN) and MI Lab in Trondheim with support from Innovation Norway. It can claim particular strengths in brain physiology, in vivo neuroimaging, memory and cognitive functions, biomarkers and preventive medicine.

Understanding the intricate workings of the brain and the central nervous system (CNS) is one of the greatest challenges to modern science and medicine, key to a greater understanding of the human organism and its complex structure. The Centre for Molecular Biology and Neuroscience (CMBN), a Norwegian Centre of Excellence appointed by the Research Council of Norway, is a cooperative effort jointly located at the University of Oslo and the Oslo University Hospital (Rikshospitalet).

The Oslo-based Centre has an international outlook with a clear mission to maintain a leading role to illuminate, characterize and interpret the role of DNA repair and genome maintenance mechanisms in preventing neurological disease, CNS infections and brain ageing. The Centre will develop and apply stem cell technology and targeted repair to broaden the range of therapeutic strategies in neurological disease.

According to Professor Tone Tønjum, Director of CMBN, “Over the past few years there has been an explosive increase in knowledge about the brain and the nervous system structure and function, and about the different diseases, and Norway has played a positive role in this research.” Close cooperation between the Centre´s 11 research groups at the University of Oslo and Oslo University Hospital is an integral element of all activities undertaken. Nearly 200 researchers are involved, including a number of international guest scientists providing a highly dynamic and innovative environment at the CMBN.

Peter Agre, Nobel Prize winner for his discovery of aquaporins and President of the American Association for the Advancement for Science (AAAS) states, “I’ve interacted closely with the Oslo’s Centre for Excellence in Neuroscience CMBN and they’ve got a dynamite team. Ole Petter Ottersen, the group leader, has now been elected Rector of The University of Oslo, so his younger scientists will have to step up in increasingly prominent leadership roles. Norway should continue to invest and to look for the human consequences of water transport in the brain. And I think they are world leaders in this area.”

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