Eric R. Kandel (1929), USA

Eric R. Kandel was awarded the Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Medicine 2000 for his pioneering research on the molecular mechanisms underlying learning processes and memory.

Eric KandelUsing the marine snail Aplysia californica as a model, Eric Kandel and colleagues have managed to bridge the enormous gap between the physiology of behaviour and classical psychology. The simple structure of the nervous system in this primitive invertebrate is especially well suited to investigating learning and memory formation at the cellular and molecular level. In an impressive series of neurophysiological experiments, now used as standard examples in most neuroscientific textbooks, the group led by Eric Kandel has explained the fundamental neuronal mechanisms underlying learning processes at the cellular level. This work and recent studies by Kandel and colleagues involving genetically modified mice have led to the discovery of neuronal mechanisms responsible for non-associative and associative learning processes (for example classical conditioning) and for the development and functioning of short- and long-term memory in lower and higher animal species. His discoveries open up entirely new ways of understanding human memory and its disorders.

Further reading

Goelet, P., Castellucci, V., Schacher, S. en Kandel, E.R. (1986) The long and short of long-term memory. Nature 322, 419-422;
Bartsch, D., Ghirardi, M., Skehel, P.A., Karl, K.A., Herder, S.P., Chen M., Bailey, C.H. en Kandel, E.R. (1995) Aplysia CREB2 represses long-term facilitation: Relief of repression converts transient facilitation into long-term functional and structural change. Cell 83, 979- 992;
Mayford, M., Bach, M.E., Huang, Y.-Y., Wang, L., Hawkins, R.D. en Kandel, E.R. (1996) Control of memory formation through regulated expression of a CaMKII transgene. Science 274,1678-1683;
Tsien, J.Z., Chen, D.F., Gerber, D., Tom, C., Mercer, E.H., Anderson, D.J., Mayford, M., Kandel, E.R. en Tonegawa, S. (1996) Subregion- and cell type-restricted gene knockout in mouse brain. Cell 87, 1317-1326.


Eric Richard Kandel was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1929 and received his medical degree from New York University School of Medicine in 1956. He is a University Professor of Physiology and Psychiatry at the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He is also a Senior Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Prof. Kandel has received an impressive list of honorary degrees, awards and other marks of distinction in the course of his long career, including the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2000.