- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton; 1 edition (March 13, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393058638
- ISBN-13: 978-0393058635
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 144 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,262,046 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind 1st Edition
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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.)
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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 familys 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 advancesand of a life well and fully lived.
Editors of Scientific American
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As a Jew who was chased out of Vienna as a child, Kandel also details the Austrian embrace of the Nazis, their purge of the Jews, and the inability of post war Austria to acknowledge its dominant role in the holocaust (following annexation, Austrians made up about 8 percent of the population of the greater reich, yet they held most of the key positions and accounted for more than 30 percent of the officials working to eliminate the Jews).
Unless you are already conversant in the biology of neurology, parts of this book will be at times a very slow read, but one well worth the investment. Besides the science, you will also get a comprehensive look and appreciation for virtually all the other key players in neuroscience. The writing is extraordinarily. Kandel does a masterful job of explaining neuroscience in a way that anyone can understand. The biographical and historical elements are equally engrossing. If I could, I would give this book 10 stars on Amazon.
Initially studying the humanities, Kandel is, like most wise people, broadly educated. One of the ongoing themes of In Search of Memory is the manner in which dry neuroscience anticipates and reinforces wet neuroscience. Humor theory in antiquity and the renaissance . . . the empiricism of the British philosophers . . . the Kantian ‘categories’ . . . the hypothetical, abstract constructs of Freud . . . all find some degree of confirmation in the discoveries and tentative conclusions of laboratory scientists in the 20th and 21st centuries.
The writing is very lucid and even when the story becomes increasingly complex, with the discovery of additional neurotransmitters and electro/chemical processes, non-scientific readers are able to follow the exposition and line of argument.
The book also looks to the future, with the daunting challenges of understanding consciousness and the teasing possibilities of integrating neuroscience with such fields as sociology.
Kandel is likable, engaging, and courageous, as when he presses contemporary Austrians to come to terms with their complicity in National Socialism and the holocaust. He is a cultured man, complementing his knowledge of science with his love of the arts and music. He is also a generous man, sharing the limelight with collaborators and colleagues. In some passages his autobiography constitutes an examination of the sociology, economy and ethos of those who do serious science.
If you are interested in following the life of a very interesting man as well as following the course of modern neuroscience, this would be an ideal place to start. It is also rich in its illustrations and it includes a 20+ page glossary which is very, very helpful.
In the first section the author describes his childhood in Vienna with the Nazi invasion and the persecution he and his family faced- he describes the hardships faced and the journey taken to go to the US. In this section the stage is set to pose the questions about how memory works. In particular, how memories can be so clear so far from the date of experience in certain situations and where this permanence is formed and stored is pondered. Though few can empathize with the author's experience all can sympathize with the questions about the basis for memory.
The author works chronologically and goes through his early history working with biological and neurological questions. Practical neuroscience and biological problems are considered and so is the authors journey that took him to study the right system to consider memory. The author throughout the book makes it a point to argue that finding the right simple system to analyze that can give broader implication is at the heart of putting oneself in a position to make progress. The author settled on the sea slug Aplysia. So too are discussed were the experience of the author in first monitoring of action potentials in the squid nervous system. A creature with nerve cells relatively easy to monitor.
The author moves onto trying to monitor change in the nervous system after becoming comfortable with the Aplysia's biology. Reflex behaviour is studied and the monitoring of nerve cells is examined when presented with various stimulus. The chemical reactions that take place within the cell and the neurotransmitters that are associated are discussed and in particular the mechanics of short term memory adaptation and implication to behaviour are discussed in detail through the results of experiments done. The author continues on to pose questions about long term memory and how short term and long term though different, must be associated somehow. The mechanics for this are not understood but insight is provided by the author and the subject matter is fascinating.
The author continues in complexity and starts to discuss things like perception and spacial awareness. Spacial awareness is definitely an arena to explore how memory works given our spacial awareness and that of most creatures is a function of nature in initial architecture as well as environment which determines how the memory implicit in a mental map is formed. This process is being explored in current science and the idea of paying attention is also discussed.
The author moves on to modern biomedical progress and how understanding memory processes in mice has provided a means to develop insight and treatment into memory related diseases. The author discusses how biology is an incredibly important part for the future of psychiatry. In particular the rigour of science should be applied to psychiatry to get an objective measure of results. Interaction of people is shown to be very important for developement and treatment is not chemistry when it comes to social disorders and mental disorders like depression and schizophrenia. The author also walks through some of his thoughts on the collaboration of the private and public sector in the field of pharmaceuticals.
The author concludes with his receiving of the Nobel prize. It is a return to the autobiographical aspect of the book and the author describes how he revisited Vienna and some of the discourse engaged in while there. It is a reasonable end to an otherwise fascinating and informative book.