Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Eric Richard Kandel

Kandel, Eric Richard (1929-) won the 2000 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine—along with scientists Arvid Carlsson of Sweden and Paul Greengard of the United States—for his research on the function of brain cells in learning and memory.

Kandel was born Nov. 7, in 1929, in Vienna, Austria. He immigrated to the United States in 1939, becoming a U.S. citizen in the mid-1940's. He graduated from Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1952. He then studied medicine at New York University (NYU), receiving an M.D. degree in 1956. Kandel held several positions at both Harvard and NYU from 1960 to 1974. From 1974, Kandel taught at Columbia University in New York City.

Throughout his career, Kandel researched brain chemistry, making major discoveries in how the brain creates memories and how learning occurs. Kandel learned how chemical changes in the neurons (nerve cells) of the brain develop into memories. He showed how the neurons create short-term memories, lasting only a few hours or days, differently from long-term memories, lasting for months or years. His research helped scientists begin to better understand disorders that involve memory loss, such as Alzheimer's disease.

Kandel studied sea snails in his research, because these snails have simple nervous systems and large nerve cells. After learning how these simple animals functioned, he then experimented on mice. This work helped him understand how the same processes that occurred in nerve cells of slugs could be seen in mammals, which includes humans.

More to Explore