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In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  4,775 ratings  ·  249 reviews
Nobel Prize winner Kandel intertwines cogntive psychology, neuroscience, and molecular biology with his own quest to understand memory.
Hardcover, 430 pages
Published February 1st 2006 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2006)
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Average rating 4.12  · 
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Lewis Weinstein
Feb 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I'm taking a course at Oxford this summer on "The Brain and the Senses." So this is a little extra homework. The idea of memory, where thoughts come from, etc., is fascinating to me.

And, many years ago, before I was there, Kandel had his laboratory at the Public Health Research Institute, of which I was later CEO.

I'll post more when I get into it.

I HAVE NOW COMPLETED BOTH THE COURSE AND KANDEL'S BOOK.

BOTH WERE TERRIFIC!

The course, offered by Oxford tutor Gillie McNeill, combined descriptions o
...more
India M. Clamp
Nov 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“In Search of Memory” spans the gamut from this Nobel Prize Winner in Physiology or Medicine, Eric R. Kandel. From epithets of Anti-Semitism to meeting his wife and the beautiful shining brain stuff of legend is found within. “Without memory, we would be nothing” and we discover words---like swords “böser jude” delineating the struggles of Jews in Austria and leaving parents behind at 9 years old.

The cerebral cortex is concerned with perception, action, language, and planning. Three structures
...more
Gerald
Mar 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I'm really enjoying this book so far, especially as I'm considering a career in neuroscience research. Kandel's memoirs are both personal and historical. Reading about Kandel's personal growth to eventually become one of the leading scientists of the field has given me much opportunity to reflect on my own career goals. Also learning about the historical development of neuroscience as a discipline has been an interesting to the field as well (and much lighter to read than Principles of Neuroscie ...more
Morgan Blackledge
Feb 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Warning: this book can be a little dull in the autobiographical sections (which you are free to skim), and a bit challenging in some of the technical parts (particularly if you are new to the nuts and bolts of cognitive neuroscience). But if you're a cognitive neuroscience dork (like me) and you love reading about the history of science (like me), and if you are reading this book on an e-reader, so you can pop back and forth between the text and web based resources e.g. Wikipedia etc. (like me), ...more
Anca
Feb 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-library
This is one of the most eye-opening books I have ever read. It was not easy reading it as I constanly felt the urge to pay 100% attention in order not to miss anything and to try to understand and decode all the precious information that I had before my eyes. It was more of a study book from which I've learned about history, psychology, biology and genetics.

Reading this book, I've learned that anxiety and depression are disorders of emotion whilst schizophrenia is a disorder of thought. I've lea
...more
Patricia
Dec 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very readable science book for the layperson, explaining the basic neuroscience of memory. The author, a Nobel-prize-winning neuroscientist, weaves three threads together: a memoir about his own life, the history of thought and research on the workings of the brain, and an account of his own research into the biochemistry and physiology of memory formation. It's a tribute to the author's lucidity that I--whose 10th-grade biology class was 40 years ago now--was able to understand a lot of compl ...more
Laura
A remarkable book about memory, it may also work as an introduction to neuroscience, though, some background in neuroanatomy and related areas may be required.

When I read the synopsis: ''Nobel Prize winner Kandel intertwines cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and molecular biology with his own quest to understand memory. '' I thought the book was going to be very technical and arduous, so I prepared myself for that. However, when I started reading it, I discovered that it was really easy-readab
...more
Ruxandra
Jan 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After reading this book I feel it is the only one I've read, apart from MAUS, that deserves five stars. ...more
Ardon Pillay
Jul 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Simply magnificent.

Kandel, who is perhaps one of medicine’s lesser known Nobel laureates, outlines the major advances in neural science over the last hundred or so years, from Ramon y Cajal's seminal work on neurons to the most recent advances in understanding how consciousness works. He is a champion of the reductionist approach for understanding how executive functions and emotions come about.

His exploration of how we know how nerves work is truly a testament to the inherent logic that under
...more
Robert
Nov 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is an improbable book by an improbable man. Eric Kandel fled Vienna with his parents and brother when he was nine, just as the Nazis were moving in. The family settled in New York where Eric excelled in school and then went to Harvard to be...an intellectual historian...no, a psychoanalyst...no, a Nobel-prize winning brain scientist.

Here, he weaves elements of his personal autobiography together with elements of his scientific biography. There are many ways to get at the science he present
...more
Piotr
Oct 05, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone stuck on a 12 hour flight
One of the biggest questions plaguing behavioral biologists during the 20th century was the localization of the engram, or, a memory trace in the brain. Well, most of them who weren't dualists were looking in the brain. One of the most thorough studies of engram localization was performed by Karl Lashley, who spent a good chunk of his career doing cortical lesions on rodents and primates. he sums up his (mostly) negative results with this quote:

"I sometimes feel, in reviewing the evidence on the
...more
Adnan Khaleel
Mar 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really good book that describes neuronal function from the ground up, and does so in a very easy to understand way. The one thing I did notice is that the book is semi autobiographical and I wasn’t expecting this. It doesn’t detract too much from its central purpose but even so, its a great book on the subject.
Cheese
Jun 29, 2020 rated it liked it
Torn with this one.

It’s an autobiography of someone I knew little about. I read this to gain insight into cognitive memory and relearning over bad habits.

In the end this became in depth into the science of memory. I mean this stuff pans over decades, so it’s detail can be off putting even for someone so interested in biology as I.

A well written book, but it doesn’t flow very easily. It was a slog.
Bria
Jun 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
I learned some real cool stuff about molecular biology in the brain, although later on he tended away from really explaining how things work, as the systems he was studying got more complex. All science autobiographies should be like this - the biography parts are minimal and don't distract from the important, science parts. I even understood why people would be into Freud and psychoanalysis! ...more
Mag
Dec 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A unique blend of memoir and science describing Kandel’s (Nobel prize winner for Physiology or Medicine in 2000) quest for memory both at the personal and scientific level.
Kandel, a 9 year old Jew in Vienna in 1938, starts his book with his memories of Anschluss and Kristallnacht, describes the vividness of these memories and how years later they made him interested in why and how certain memories are remembered while others are lost. Throughout his career, he tackled brain and memory research
...more
Sarah Jane
Jul 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Kandel creates a tangible link between “speculative metaphysics” (9) and experimental research. At once, this is a story of Kandel’s self and a story of creating and finding the space where the conceptual self can take shape. Kandel weaves his personal history into the history of biological inquiry into the nature of the mind. His method is ambitious, but, as an initially skeptical reader, I ultimately found it deeply meaningful. Through unifying philosophical, physiological, and his personal co ...more
Jimbo
This book was a dificult read for me. Nominally it has six sections, but it felt like 3 very distinctive stories. The first centered on Kandel's early life in Vienna, emigration to the US, and education and training. I liked how he weaved his own very distinct memories into his book on the formation of memories. The middle section was the toughest. It went into great detail explaining the biochemistry of nerve action and neuronal growth from stimulus. I have good science education, mostly physic ...more
Sanjana  Sankaran
Apr 21, 2021 rated it it was ok
This book is really boring unless you are a premed student/have a major interest in neuroscience. It is impossible to read if you have no prior knowledge in the subject as the author just dumps a lot of biology on you. I felt like I was reading a textbook for a lot of chapters. So much of the book was name dropping other scientists the author worked with but name dropping is not much fun when a) you don’t know any of the other scientists and b) you have to read two paragraphs about their researc ...more
Konstantin Okonechnikov
May 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The book provides a perfect explanation how difficult it is to be a real scientist and how to combine so many factors in life and research. A perfect motivation. And also with strong bias in my topic of interest: everything about memory.
Will Dorrell
Aug 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Nobel Laureate talks about his life and career - gives a broad strokes description of the cellular and molecular basis of memory and the progress it took from zero in the 1950s to hero in 2000. In no small part due to the author.

Enjoyable, occasionally biochemically dense, but usually remarkably lucid (for a scientist). For those of you still unconvinced that abstract concepts like memory can be pinned down to molecules in nerve cells this is an effective antidote.
Simon Cleveland, PhD
The section on consciousness was particularly interesting.
Jonathan
Jan 23, 2021 rated it liked it
Wonderfully illuminating book on the "new science of the mind" and a life journey from Nazi Vienna to Nobel. At times too stuck in the weeds of molecular biology and meandering memoir, but generally outweighed by moments of exciting detail and sweeping perspective. ...more
John Turlockton
An autobiography rather than detailing the neuroscience of the mind. I don't want to give it a rating cause it's not bad it's just not what I wanted. ...more
Steve
Jul 11, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book more-or-less successfully combined an autobiography and a research history into a holistic narrative of the life's work of the author. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about how brains enable animals to change their responses to environmental events.

The title captures the main theme of the book as far as the research aspect is concerned: Kandel spent much of his life examining neurons and related biological structures to determine a measurable, experime
...more
Andrew Kosenko
Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful book. Part biography, part intellectual history, part first-rate survey of neuroscience. Or -perhaps- all biography, all intellectual history, all neuroscience. An intellectually and aesthetically beautiful work of a great mind and a phenomenal scientist. The joy of science, and the dark history of anti-semitism in Vienna, scientific triumphs and deaths of close friends and colleagues, inimitably clear descriptions of complicated scientific phenomena and the stories of their ...more
Yuriy Stasyuk
Jun 10, 2019 rated it liked it
In search of memory by Robert Kandel

This was a strange and unusual read. Kandel combines a personal autobiography with the history of and an introduction to neuroscience. (With footnotes from the history of the philosophy of mind). If you are here because of Kandel you may like this, if you are looking for a history of neuroscience, some of the nostalgic longing for 20th century Vienna may be distracting - it was to me - and I love history.

Some key takeaways for me:

• There is serious physicalis
...more
Dia
Dec 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
Kandel begins and ends his memoir/neuroscience primer with bold declarations of faith, that consciousness itself, as well as (and of perhaps even greater import) the unconscious processes deduced by psychoanalytic investigations, can be accounted for entirely via molecular and cellular activities. The book is therefore a great education and challenge for those who are interested in the problems and possibilities of reductionism. Kandel's work, for which he won a Nobel prize, shows that the simpl ...more
Jun
In addition to the most conspicuous contents of the book -- the introduction to relatively modern knowledge in neuroscience and its historical development, and of course Dr. Kandel’s life story -- which are intriguing already in themselves, I think it’s worth taking serious notes during reading, of how he chose directions in doing science. Many of his thought processes spark wisdom of a mature scientist who balanced well the pursuit of knowledge and practical career considerations. In this respe ...more
Derek Davis
Nov 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is a superb study of the science of mind as well as a superb study of Kandel as a human being. It traces his progress from a child escaping the Holocaust to his Nobel Prize in medicine and physiology, and beyond. Starting out in psychiatry, he switched to being a research scientist who followed his own intuitions, rather than professional advice, to slowly unfold the secrets of how memories are formed in the neural system, first in a sea snail, then in mice, finally in humans. Though the pr ...more
Ashvin
May 26, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'll be honest, I didn't finish it, and I likely won't any time soon. But, I wanted to say a few things about it in case anyone else was interested.

Kandel does a fantastic job of explaining the neurobiology of learning and memory to the layman. He makes it understandable without dumbing it down. If you're interested in that, read this book. This guy is one of the greats. He has a noble prize and co-wrote Principles of Neural Science, the standard neuroscience book that every neuroscientist has.
...more
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Eric Richard Kandel is an Austrian-American medical doctor with a specialization in psychology and neuroscience. He won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2000 for his research on the physiological basis of memory storage in neurons. He shared the prize with Arvid Carlsson and Paul Greengard.

Kandel is a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the Columbia University College of Physic
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“Indeed, the underlying precept of the new science of mind is that all mental processes are biological—they all depend on organic molecules and cellular processes that occur literally “in our heads.” Therefore, any disorder or alteration of those processes must also have a biological basis.” 4 likes
“philosophical inquiries (the reflections of specially trained observers on the nature of their own patterns of thought) or the insights of great novelists, such as Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Leo Tolstoy. Those are the readings that inspired my first years at Harvard. But, as I learned from Ernst Kris, neither trained introspection nor creative insights would lead to the systematic accretion of knowledge needed for the foundation of a science of mind. That sort of foundation requires more than insight, it requires experimentation. Thus, it was the remarkable successes of experimental science in astronomy, physics, and chemistry that spurred students of mind to devise experimental” 4 likes
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