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Using Aplysia to study the neuroscience of behavior


I begin to work on Aplysia
Eric Kandel Scientist
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Things were by and large moving well, and then I got into difficulty with Denise. While I was a resident, we had our first child, Paul. I was thrilled. First child a boy, no less. And I continued what I was doing, you know, working many evenings, and some weekends. And Denise after a while got furious. She showed up at the lab carrying Paul and she said, 'Who the hell do you think you are? You're just completely neglecting the two of us', and she screamed at me terribly. And I realized she was right and I, you know, pulled back, you know, acted more reasonably, straightened things out.

And after two years, having essentially completed my residency, I left to work with Ladislav Tauc and began work on Aplysia. And I knew I would come back to Mass Mental Health Center, and Ewalt in the meantime had completely changed his mind about me. After the first several months he actually approached me and offered me space in the Mass Mental Health Center, saying, 'I've spoken to Kuffler and I've spoken to Henneman they think you're a very worthwhile person. I'd like to…' And he gave me a state line. Unbelievable, a resident, a state line. And this had a big impact, not only on me, but I was with a spectacular group of house officers. Tony Kris, Anna's brother, the son of a famous analyst, and who ultimately also became a very good analyst. Ernie Hartmann, also the son of a famous analyst and Paul Wender, [another] outstanding [person]. And they saw that people who did research were treated in a very privileged way, and many of them later went to the NIH, many of them I've [interacted] with. I'm not sure this was the only motivation, but they saw research was valued. And so with that I, you know, headed over to France and spent a wonderful year. Actually, the year was not spent in Paris, much of the year spent in Paris. The Aplysia actually come to Arcachon, which is a marine base like Woods Hole. So we spent two seasons in… The season for Aplysia is September to November. So we spent two seasons in Arcachon, and the year in between in Paris. And in Paris I worked on land snails. And we had a terrific time over there.


Eric Kandel (b. 1929) is an American neuropsychiatrist. He was a recipient of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research on the physiological basis of memory storage in neurons. He shared the prize with Arvid Carlsson and Paul Greengard. Kandel, who had studied psychoanalysis, wanted to understand how memory works. His mentor, Harry Grundfest, said, 'If you want to understand the brain you're going to have to take a reductionist approach, one cell at a time.' Kandel then studied the neural system of the sea slug Aplysia californica, which has large nerve cells amenable to experimental manipulation and is a member of the simplest group of animals known to be capable of learning. Kandel is a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. He is also Senior Investigator in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He was the founding director of the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, which is now the Department of Neuroscience at Columbia University. Kandel's popularized account chronicling his life and research, 'In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind', was awarded the 2006 Los Angeles Times Book Award for Science and Technology.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Aplysia, Ladislav Tauc

Duration: 2 minutes, 36 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2015

Date story went live: 04 May 2016