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Neurons Inspire Nobel Laureate May-Britt Moser's Dress

What do you wear to receive a Nobel Prize? Norwegian neuroscientist May-Britt Moser wore her work, in the form of a dress with glittering neurons.
Image: Moser receives Nobel
Neuroscientist May-Britt Moser, laureate of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, acknowledges applause after receiving her Nobel Prize from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden during the Nobel Prize awards ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden, on Wednesday.Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images

What do you wear to receive a Nobel Prize? Norwegian neuroscientist May-Britt Moser wore her work, in the form of an elegant dress with a glittering neuron pattern.

The dress was the brainchild of British designer Matthew Hubble, who saw Wednesday's Nobel ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden, as a fashion opportunity on a par with the Oscars. Moser looked like a million bucks — or, more precisely, 10 million Swedish kronor. That's the amount of the award she shared with her husband and research colleague, Edvard Moser, as well as with American researcher John O'Keefe, for their discovery of the brain's "inner GPS" navigation system.

The grid of beaded neurons on the satin-and-leather dress evokes the way that grid cells in our brain light up as they help us determine our position in space.

Image: Moser and Hubble
Neuroscientist May-Britt Moser and fashion designer Matthew Hubble show off the Nobel neuron dress.Geir Mogen / NTNU via

Hubble told NBC News that he wanted to change the perception that scientists have to be lab-coated nerds.

"When you actually start looking around, a lot of scientists are into fashion," he said. "They like to wear lipstick, they like to wear heels and pretty dresses. It's quite frustrating when you hear people saying, 'You shouldn't be like that if you're going to be a scientist.' It's OK to be a girlie girl and do science as well."

Hubble said the story of the Mosers' love affair with science was particularly inspiring. "It's really an impressive life she's had," he said.

The one-of-a-kind dress is impressive as well. Hubble shied away from saying what it would sell for — if it ever were to go on sale. "It's not quite a Chanel haute couture, £50,000 dress, but when you look at the red carpet, it's in that area," he said.

Although the dress is not for sale, Hubble said the design may influence his fashion collection for next season. He's also selling a grid-cell scarf for £595, which translates to $935. It's the perfect holiday gift for the Nobel laureate who has everything.

Tip o' the Log to Joanne Manaster at Scientific American. Don't miss Manaster's video interview with Hubble.