"One of the most remarkable aspects of an animal's behavior is the ability to modify that behavior by learning, an ability that reaches its highest form in human beings."
Eric Kandel (1929–present)
In the neurochemical reactions of the humble sea slug, Austrian-born neurophysiologist Kandel has found keys to the most profound mysteries of human learning and memory. His work on sea slugs, which have comparatively fewer nerve cells than vertebrates, illuminated the biological changes that accompany memory development and learning. Through this research, he and his colleagues recognized that learning produces changes in behavior by adjusting the strength of connections between nerve cells, rather than by altering basic circuitry. This discovery has greatly enhanced current scientific understanding of the basic processes of short- and long-term memory formation. Kandel won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2000.
Kandel, who fled with his family from the Nazi occupation of Austria in 1939, was educated at Harvard University and New York University School of Medicine and began his career at the National Institute of Mental Health. He pursued studies in psychiatry, but soon shifted to neurobiology in an effort to understand the biological underpinnings of psychological phenomena. He came to Columbia in 1974 as professor of physiology and psychiatry and became the founding director of the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior in 1975. He is the coauthor, along with Columbia colleagues Thomas Jessell and James Schwartz, of Principles of Neural Science, a widely used neuroscience textbook. Kandel became University Professor in 1983 and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute senior investigator in 1984. He is a true faculty researcher—equally at home with his lab samples, his colleagues, and his students.
An international group of scholars and researchers gathered at Columbia this fall to explore the remarkable birth, astounding impact, and puzzling future of genetics.
How can we unlock the secrets of the brain? This symposium will outline reductionist and holistic approaches to problems that face neural science.
Columbia's history, as seen by those who have studied, taught, and worked here.
Columbians have changed the world and how we see it.