The American-British scientist John O'Keefe and Norwegian husband and wife, May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser have been awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine.

The three were given the award on Monday for their work on discovering what has been described as the brain's inner "GPS system."

"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.

"How does the brain create a map of the space surrounding us and how can we navigate our way through a complex environment?"

O'Keefe is director of the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre in Neural Circuits and Behaviour at University College London.

The Mosers are both based in scientific institutes in the Norwegian town of Trondheim.

"The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institute has today decided to award the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with one half to John O'Keefe and the other half jointly to May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser, for their discoveries of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain," Secretary of the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine Goran Hansson said during the announcement in Stockholm.

The Mosers join an exclusive club of married couples to win a Nobel Prize that includes scientific greats Pierre Curie and
Marie Curie.

Medicine, which comes with a cash award of $1.1m, is the first of the Nobel prizes awarded each year. 

Prizes for achievements in science, literature and peace were first awarded in 1901 in accordance with the will of dynamite inventor and businessman Alfred Nobel.

Source: Agencies