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Investigating the paradigm that nicotine boosts the effects of cocaine


Can Nobel laureates avoid intellectual death?
Eric Kandel Scientist
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So the question is, what does one do after the Nobel Prize? It's a very difficult question, and it has an interesting history.

So, we have a summer house in South Wellfleet where we're going to go to in a few weeks - we go there every month of August, and the children and the grandchildren come. And we have a set of lines outside the house on which we hang laundry, even though we have a drying machine, because Denise is French, she likes the smell of freshly hung laundry. So we're hanging the laundry one day, and the phone rings inside, I go inside, and Steve Koslow from the NIH - this is 1996/1997 - telling me I've gotten the grant from the NIH. In those days, if you could read and write you got funded. The end of the conversation, he said, 'We here think you're going to get the Nobel Prize'. Well, that's nice. I go outside and I tell Denise, 'You know, they think I'm going to get the Nobel Prize.' And she said, 'I hope not soon!'

I said, 'How can you possibly say that? My wife.' And she said, 'You know, I worked with Robert Merton, the sociologist, and he and Harriette Zuckerman wrote a book about Nobel laureates. And they found that after they win the Nobel Prize, you know, they have film clips made about them, they go to symposia, they go to one banquet after another, they're intellectually dead. You have a lot of ideas. Play them out first, lots of time to win the Nobel Prize.'

So after this telephone call and after this visit in Stockholm, I figured I better settle down and prove to Denise that I'm not intellectually dead. So one way to do that came quite naturally.

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: NIH, National Institutes of Health

Duration: 1 minute, 59 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2015

Date story went live: 04 May 2016