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In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind [Paperback]

by Eric R. Kandel
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 17, 2007 0393329372 978-0393329377 1

“A stunning book.”—Oliver Sacks

Memory binds our mental life together. We are who we are in large part because of what we learn and remember. But how does the brain create memories? Nobel Prize winner Eric R. Kandel intertwines the intellectual history of the powerful new science of the mind—a combination of cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and molecular biology—with his own personal quest to understand memory. A deft mixture of memoir and history, modern biology and behavior, In Search of Memory brings readers from Kandel's childhood in Nazi-occupied Vienna to the forefront of one of the great scientific endeavors of the twentieth century: the search for the biological basis of memory.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When, as a medical student in the 1950s, Kandel said he wanted to locate the ego and id in the brain, his mentor told him he was overreaching, that the brain had to be studied "cell by cell." After his initial dismay, Kandel took on the challenge and in 2000 was awarded a Nobel Prize for his groundbreaking research showing how memory is encoded in the brain's neuronal circuits. Kandel's journey into the brain spans five decades, beginning in the era of early research into the role of electrical currents flowing through neurons and ending in the age of genetic engineering. It took him from early studies of reflexes in the lowly squid to the founding of a bioengineering firm whose work could some day develop treatments for Alzheimer's and on to a rudimentary understanding of the cellular mechanisms underlying mental illness. Kandel's life also took him on another journey: from Vienna, which his Jewish family fled after the Anschluss, to New York City and, decades later, on visits back to Vienna, where he boldly confronted Austria's unwillingness to look at its collusion in the Final Solution. For anyone considering a career in science, the early part of this intellectual autobiography presents a fascinating portrait of a scientist's formation: learning to trust his instincts on what research to pursue and how to pose a researchable question and formulate an experiment. Much of the science discussion is too dense for the average reader. But for anyone interested in the relationship between the mind and the brain, this is an important account of a creative and highly fruitful career. 50 b&w illus. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Scientific American

Kandel, who received the Nobel Prize in 2000, traces advances in understanding learning and memory. His own groundbreaking findings showed that learning produces changes in behavior by modifying the strength of connections between nerve cells. He conveys his immense grasp of the science beautifully, but it is his personal recollections that make the book especially compelling. He begins with his searing childhood memories of the German annexation of Austria and his family’s escape to the U.S. when he was nine. And he ends with a conference he organized in Vienna to examine the strange reluctance of Austria (unlike Germany) to acknowledge its role in the Holocaust. One comes away in awe of the scientific advances—and of a life well and fully lived.

Editors of Scientific American --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (March 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393329372
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393329377
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,720 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Eric R. Kandel is Kavli Professor and University Professor at Columbia University and senior investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2000. He lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
193 of 200 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure candy for us science types May 5, 2006
"The search for memory" is the best book I've read this year. I've studied Artificial Intelligence in the early 90's, and love science, and a good story. For someone with this background, this book is pure candy.

Kandel's life is intertwined with his attempt to understand what makes us tick. He writes about the scars that Nazi occupation has left on a young Jewish boy in Vienna. These scars lead to a passionate quest for "why", why do people act as they do. Luckily for us, Kandel's attempt to answer this question leads him on a quest that has him surfing the perfect wave of the brain research his whole life. And in this book, we get to experience the wave with him.

For me, science books are often either too technical, or too mushy. This one manages to hit the golden middle ground. After reading it, I have a lot better understanding of the brain & memory in general, and some topics I was not really looking to understand: genetics & cell biology.

The book is well organized. Kandel's personal memories mix with science and keep things from being too dry. The discoveries he describes come alive with the personalities that made them. And when you forget the exact meaning of some technical term such as "modulating circuit", there is a great glossary appendix to refresh your memory.

And the topic of the book is so fascinating. Memory is at the core of who we are, why do remember our summer holiday from 1972 so well, and forget what we had for breakfast today. Science, that invites you to think those grand philosophical thoughts.

The book ends around 2004 with author applying his work to Alzeheimer's disease. From Kristalnacht to biotech in a lifetime, what a journey.

The only thing I wanted to ask Mr.
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81 of 84 people found the following review helpful
"In Search of Memory" deftly mixes auto-biography with history of neuroscience and selected summaries of the cellular bases of learning and memory. It traces the life of famed neuroscientist, Eric Kandel, beginning with his early childhood in Vienna, his expatriation following Nazi takeover, his prosperous scientific career in the States and ending with his invitation to Stockholm to receive the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Kandel tells us how he switched interests early on in his life, from history to psychoanalysis (which continued to serve as a foundation for his future scientific endeavors) and finally, to the molecular bases of behavior. As a young medical student, entering a research laboratory for the first time, Kandel was initially disappointed that he could not immediately look for a neuroanatomical basis of Freud's structural psychic apparatus. Instead, Kandel began studying nervous systems in a piecemeal fashion - one cell at a time. Moving from mammalian to invertebrate specimens, Kandel finally settled on his model organism, Aplysia californica (a sea snail), in order to pursue his studies on the cellular foundations of learning and memory. This line of research would eventually lead Kandel to make groundbreaking discoveries in the field and decades later, to set up a biotechnology firm (`Memory Pharmaceuticals'), to explore ways of chemically improving memory in human subjects.

Throughout the book, Kandel offers the reader a unique and intimate look into how the emerging fields of molecular biology, neuroscience and psychology were coalescing and contributing to the emergence of a new science of mind. For anyone with interest and a background in this field, Kandel's book is a fascinating history lesson and an important source of inspiration. However, the book is also accessible to general, educated readers. The science is not likely to be too overwhelming for someone without a background and Kandel eases the reader into it gently.
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60 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book about biology of mind November 15, 2006
By Emil B
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an extraordinary book about neuroscience , physiology, molecular biology and neurobiology and also about people and history. I bought the book with the intention to satisfy my curiosity in the latest developments in the science of mind. I was ready to handle an experience of reading through dry, complex theories and do some hard work of extracting information that I can make sense with my limited knowledge. Surprisingly, the book has none of that; it is written so well, as if it is the transcript of an one on one conversation between friends, so captivating, so clear and so human. I could not let go of it, reading until small hours when reluctantly, I had to go to sleep so next day I could show up at work in a reasonable shape.

The book interweaves threads of science, personal life stories, career, friends, Jewish history, Nobel prize ceremony and biotechnology. The main story is about neuroscience, with emphasis on personal scientific work that culminated with Nobel prize award in 2000. The book can be divided in following sections: personal life, history of neuroscience and molecular biology, short term memory, long term memory, complex behavior and DNA, consciousness, mental illnesses, the experience of receiving Nobel prize, Austria and its relationship with Jewish community in the past and today and an insight analysis of trends in biotechnology from a business point of view.

The book is focused on the biology of short term and long term memory. Eric does an excellent job explaining the evolution of neuroscience up to the point when he started his career, so the reader has a good understanding of contemporary issues and of the formation of neurobiology.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting book
This was a Good book.i bought it for an assignment for my anatomy class and found it interesting not bad
Published 23 days ago by Cristina pedroza
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful journey through the science of mind
I so much enjoyed this book and I really could not put it down. It is beautifully and clearly written. What I liked most was the historical perspective. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Rojj
5.0 out of 5 stars An extraordinary autobiography of a Nobel Laureate biologist
A must read of what makes memory related by an eminent Nobel Laureate brain scientist as part of his brilliant career.
Published 1 month ago by Ali S. Argon
3.0 out of 5 stars An Outline, Thoughts & Something.
I do not appreciate such mixtures of fundamental neurobiology (that is there, and that is worth to be read), of rather personal reflextions on the history of science (such kind of... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Paul V. KATCHALOV
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Book
This is a wonderful book, but it is actually two books in one. It is the autobiography of a Nobel laureate and, along the way, a history of modern studies of the brain and memory. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Richard B. Schwartz
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome
Rich insights into neurobiology, genetics, exciting read! Thought provoking, for people who interested in field of memory, neurology, psychiatry, genetics!
Published 2 months ago by Shyam A Vyas
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Story of the Evolution of the Science of the Mind
Elegantly woven personal tale with profoundly interesting dive into the science of the mind from one of the world's foremost experts. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Marc Weinstein
5.0 out of 5 stars Profound and inspiring
There is something for everyone in this book. Dr. Kandel provides and engaging overview of the history of science. This work was truly inspirational. Read more
Published 3 months ago by MR Brain
4.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent book
It's an excellent book, the combination of autobiography and the history of brain research is first rate. There are, however, a few problems with the writing.
Published 3 months ago by Robert M Bender
5.0 out of 5 stars A gift, but well loved
My fiance got this book for himself to aid in his graduate studies on aplysia californica. He nerds out over this book. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Sandy
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