Interview with Eric Kandel on the Biology of Mind

During the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting in San Diego, Dana Alliance member Eric R. Kandel, M.D., was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times on his work, the state of neuroscience, and his most recent books. Deeply affected by the expulsion of his family from his childhood home in Vienna during a heightened time of ant-Semitism and Nazi occupation, Kandel has dedicated his life to understanding memory formation from a variety of perspectives.

Kandel’s view of the biology of the mind acknowledges the benefits of connections and circuits but argues the value of basic molecular investigation as well:

I think simple models are very helpful. I work in parallel on the mouse. I just think deep understanding is better than superficial understanding. Many people think that the task of the neurologist is to understand what is considered the connectome–that is, how neurons connect to one another. But that is a limited insight into what the problems are. One has to know what are the functional connections, not just the anatomical connections and how do they participate in controlling behavior.

Kandel also shared his thoughts on the state of neuroscience, arguing that the US government has underfunded science research since the mid- to late-1990s, and despite the current administration’s commitment to brain mapping, it’s still not enough. In addition, he discussed his conflicted feelings for Austria and coming to terms with the place that rejected him in his youth, including his response to receiving the Noble Prize.

Check out other blogs written about Dr. Kandel, including one on a documentary of his life, “In Search of Memory,” and another on his views of memory as discussed at a 92nd Street Y event with Elie Wiesel.

– Amanda Bastone

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