a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Being surrounded by beauty


What if psychoanalysis were combined with neuroscience?
Eric Kandel Scientist
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

When I was a resident at Harvard I went through analysis. And at that time, I was still thinking of becoming an analyst. So during my analysis, I not only learned about myself, but I had to work through several problems. One, the decision not to become an analyst. People encouraged me, because they thought I had some clinical competence to develop a speciality. Because I told them, you know, who wants to go to a physician who practices medicine one day a week? And they said, well why don't you take something you can specialize in? Something that would be unique to people? And I said, well what in psychiatry can you do? So people suggested hypnosis. Well this is not me. I like interacting with people. I like, you know, the press of the flesh and the smell of the crowd. I like this contact. Hypnosis, you know, that has no appeal to me whatsoever. So I decided I would do nothing. For a while I supervised residents in psychotherapy, because that you can be helpful on. It's the blind leading the blind. Seeing two people in action, you could always see things that you could improve on.

And then I made this very difficult decision of turning down the job to become chairman of psychiatry, and again Denise just said this is absolutely ridiculous. So I worked through all of that. And then giving up Harvard, leaving Harvard, which was a difficult decision. So not only was I solving, you know, chronic problems, oedipal-schmedible, my relationship with my parents, my relationship to Denise, my relationship to the kids, but a number of professional problems, it was extremely helpful to me. And you really get insight into it. I've always felt that in my interaction with people that I supervise, the insight that I get from doing therapy myself, and from my analysis, has been helpful. Seeing issues with people that I might be able to intervene in ways that is helpful. And I'm very fond of psychoanalysis. I think it's a shame that because it has never gotten empirical, and never reached out to become biological, it has not lived up to its promise. To me, the ideal would be if there's some merger between psychoanalysis and neuroscience. Because psychoanalysis has really wonderful insights into the human minds. Things are sort of intuitive, and they've not rigorously demonstrated many of them. And to test some of these ideas biologically would be enriching for neuroscience as well as, of course, fundamental for psychoanalysis. So there are now several attempts to do this. In fact, this Sunday there's going to be a discussion in The New York Times that quotes me very briefly of people who've been trying to do this. The problem with the people who try to do this is they think that a few hours a week you can solve these problems. I spoke at the Psychoanalytic Institute recently, and the director of the Institute was very proud that all analysts in training now spend four to five hours a week doing imaging experiments. Well they don't realize, you know, when we start off in our career, this is a day-and-night job. This is a full time job and more. And they have no idea what science involves. I think that's one of the problems.

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: psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, neuroscience

Duration: 3 minutes, 53 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2015

Date story went live: 04 May 2016