Erik Kandel (1929-) is an Austrian neuroscientist based in the United States, whose studies have contributed to the molecular understanding of cognitive processes. For this same task, he received the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology in 2000, notably after studying 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.
Eric Kandel: Biography of a Learning and Memory Neurologist
Eric Kandel was born in Vienna on November 7, 1929. With his mother, Charlotte Zimela, and his father, Hermann Kandel, young Eric left Austria in 1938, after Germany annexed the country the same year. In 1939, and in the same context, Eric Kandel, Ludwig (his older brother), and later his parents, moved to Brooklyn, New York, where some of his relatives already live.
Once settled in this city, Eric Kandel began his academic training in Yeshiva in Flatbush then at Erasmus Hall High School. Years later he joined Harvard University, Where he studied a license in history and literature. More precisely, he was investigating the attitudes of National Socialism towards various German writers.
In this context, Kandel stumbled upon the dominant theories of European and American psychology, a problem that soon led Kandel to reorient his studies. It was the paradigm of. BF Skinner who dominated learning and memory studies. However, Kandel disagreed with advocating the strict separation between psychology (the unobservable) and behavior (the observable), which was at the heart of the behavioral psychologist’s proposals.
At the same time, but in the opposite direction, was another Austrian neurologist, Sigmund Freud, who had studied early in his career. the neurological root of conflicts and psychic activity, According to Freudian root psychoanalysis. Also influenced by Ana Kris, who had also emigrated from Vienna with her psychoanalytic parents, Erik Kandel was very interested in studying psychology from this paradigm.
First studies in psychoanalysis and in the neurophysiology laboratory
The easiest way to professionalize as a psychoanalyst during this time was to study physics and later psychiatry. So Kandel enrolled in a chemistry class and then joined NYU Medical School. After receiving this training and during his training as a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Erik Kandel was very interested 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 constituted the first significant proposition 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 study the problems of 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 studied the cellular structure of the hippocampus and, from there, proposed theories on the biology of memory. Not only that but, with the work of Arvid Carlsson and Paul Greengard, who 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 for Medicine and Physiology In addition, these are studies that have had a significant impact on the explanations of brain activity in different disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, schizophrenia, among others. It is one of the most important contributions of the 20th century, when neuroscience and the study of the synapse assumed particular importance.
Kandel’s studies have been conducted with different animal species both vertebrates and invertebrates, and their results have been applied to the understanding of humans. Kandel suggests that memory is located at synapsesThus, changes in their function are decisive in the consolidation, loss and structuring of memory, and therefore of learning. More precisely thanks to this, long-term synaptic alterations were studied as well as possible strategies to reverse them.
Eric Kandel is currently Principal Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Member of the Scientific Council of the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, and was Director of the Department of Neuroscience at Columbia University.
- Eric R. Kandel. Biographical (2018). Nobel prize. Accessed October 17, 2018.Available at https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/medicine/2000/kandel/auto-biography/.
- Eric Kandel. Austrian-American neurobiologist (2018). Encyclopaedia Britannica. Accessed October 17, 2018. Available at https://www.britannica.com/biography/Eric-Kandel.
- Bermejo, MI (S / A). Eric Kandel. The biographies site. Accessed October 17, 2018.Available at http://www.mcnbiografias.com/app-bio/do/show?key=kandel-eric.