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Eric Kandel: biography of this neuroscientist

Eric Kandel: biography of this neuroscientist

July 18, 2024

Erik Kandel (1929-) is an Austrian neuroscientist based in the United States, whose studies have been fundamental for the molecular understanding of cognitive processes. For this same work, he received the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology in 2000, specifically after investigating learning and memory and its synaptic correlate.

In this article we will see a biography of Eric Kandel , as well as some elements of his academic career and his main theoretical proposals.

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Eric Kandel: biography of a neurologist of learning and memory

Eric Kandel was born in Vienna on November 7, 1929. Together with his mother, Charlotte Zimela, and his father, Hermann Kandel, young Eric left Austria in 1938, after Germany joined the country in the same year. . In 1939, and under the same context, Eric Kandel, Ludwig (his older brother), and later his parents, moved to Brooklyn, New York, where some of his relatives were already living.


Once established in this city, Eric Kandel began his academic training in Flatbush Yeshiva and then in the Erasmus Hall High School. Years later he joined Harvard University , where he studied a degree in history and literature. I was specifically investigating the attitudes of National Socialism in different German writers.

In this context, Kandel encountered the dominant theories of European and North American psychology, a question that soon led Kandel to redirect his studies. It was the paradigm of. B. F. Skinner who dominated the studies on learning and memory . However, Kandel did not agree to defend the strict separation between psychology (the unobservable) and behavior (the observable), which was at the base of the proposals of the behavioral psychologist.


At the same time but in the opposite direction was another Austrian neurologist, Sigmund Freud, who had studied at the beginning of his career the neurological root of conflict and psychic activity , according to Freudian root psychoanalysis. Also influenced by Ana Kris, who had also emigrated from Vienna along with her psychoanalyst parents, Erik Kandel was interested in an important way to study psychology from this paradigm.

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First studies in psychoanalysis and the neurophysiology laboratory

The easiest way to professionalize as a psychoanalyst at this time was to study physics and later psychiatry. Thus, Kandel enrolled in the chemistry course and later joined the NYU Medical School. After receiving this training, and in the course of his training as a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Erik Kandel took an important interest in understand the biological basis of the mind .


This led him to collaborate with Wade Marshall, who was one of the most recognized young scientists in brain studies in the United States. Along with other neurologists, Marshall had systematized the first paradigm of neural representation in the brain of a sensory system. These studies represented the first significant proposal on the existence of Topographic and systematic maps on the sensory surface of touch, vision and hearing .

In this context, for Eric Kandel it was not only interesting to investigate problems in psychiatry and psychoanalysis in biological terms, but to find the cellular and molecular mechanisms of complex processes such as learning and memory.

The biology of memory

During his career, Eric Kandel has studied the cellular structure of the hippocampus and, from there, has proposed theories about the biology of memory. Not only that, but together with the works of Arvid Carlsson and Paul Greengard, who have explained the mechanism of action of dopamine and other neurotransmitters, Erik Kandel proposed systems of molecular action of learning and memory.

These studies earned these three researchers the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology of the year 2000. In addition, these are studies that have impacted in an important way the explanations about brain activity in different disorders such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, depression, schizophrenia, among others. It is one of the most important contributions of the twentieth century, at which time the neurosciences and the study of the synapse has been of special relevance.

Kandel's studies have been carried out with different animal species, both vertebrates and invertebrates, and their results have been applied to the understanding of human beings. Kandel suggests that memory is located in the synapses , with which, changes in the function of these are determinants in the consolidation, the loss and the structuring of the memory, and consequently of the learning. Specifically through this, long-term synaptic alterations have been studied as well as possible strategies to reverse them.

Eric Kandel is currently principal investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a member of the Scientific Council of the Brain and Behavioral Research Foundation, and has been director of the department of neuroscience at Columbia University.

Bibliographic references

  • Eric R. Kandel. Biographical (2018). The Nobel Prize. Retrieved October 17, 2018. Available at //www.nobelprize.org/prizes/medicine/2000/kandel/auto-biography/.
  • Eric Kandel Austrian-American Neurobiologist (2018). Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved October 17, 2018. Available at //www.britannica.com/biography/Eric-Kandel.
  • Bermejo, M. I. (S / A). Eric Kandel The web of biographies. Retrieved October 17, 2018. Available at //www.mcnbiografias.com/app-bio/do/show?key=kandel-eric.

History of Neuroscience: Eric Kandel (July 2024).


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