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

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

4.5 out of 5 (3 ratings)


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.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 528 pages, Illustrations
  • Publisher: WW Norton & Co
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Popular science
  • ISBN: 9780393329377



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Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.

Review by

Had Eric Kandel been my Science teacher in High School, there's a chance I would've picked Medicine or Biochmistry as my BA, instead of English.When regarded as Kandel's autobiography, detailing his progress, his origins and motivation to comprehend the biology of memory, it is a fascinating text.When regarding as a biography that narrates the birth and development of a new science that combines Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, Psychiatry and many specific sub-areas within these disciplines, it is simply a "must read". Even for someone who, like me, completely lacks scientific formation.

Review by

This book plats a chronicled braid that entwines world events, scientific developments and Kandel’s personal life and scientific work. He tells us about himself and thus a lot about the science that fulfils a need to expose details of the mysterious. For his endeavours he was awarded a third share of a Nobel Prize in 2000. His personal experiences are a web of substantial privilege and deeply felt tragedy. Indeed it is likely that he fell into scientific research because it could provide a sense of purpose and intellectual consolation from the irrational madness of the world. Some will be interested in the personal side (unrelated to science), but more – I suspect – will be interested his unfolding story of brain science and his scientific career. When he started his research, the neurosciences were very immature. Fortunately they are better founded today. Thus in this book, Kandel can discuss the neuronal, molecular and genetic aspects of making memories. He explains the ways in which neurons interact and even the way nuclear DNA plays an active role in setting permanent memories. However, another lesson is also clear to an outside observer. The immature practice of overgeneralization is a hard habit for any field to abandon. Kandel professional career has kept to a theme. Nevertheless he describes how each time he took a new direction, others he respected advised against it. Ultimately he was proved correct. Therefore, we might ask if this good judgment or plain luck? The answer is both of course! He explains how he made his career moves. He did not pay much attention to general attitudes as to what should or could be done. He worked on what he was fascinated by, what he though most important and what was an open field. He took a pragmatic approach and began with the easiest large-scale phenomena that could be studied. He did not try to develop skills independently. He decided what needed to be done and sought out collaborators who already had most of the needed skills he lacked. Each step of the way he tried to be first in some area to make substantive progress. Thus he could do all the easy exploration before it became too crowded. To continue making important contributions, he followed the reductionist path and gradually revealed the inner working of successive pictures from the organ of the brain right down to its molecular structure. Necessarily he did not tie himself down to any particular speciality within the neurosciences. Hence he took whatever he needed from whichever specialities were most relevant.He presents a physical picture of how some neurons are excited or inhibited, how they strengthen connections, how these strengths are maintained, and how they can integrate different messages. He relates this to the laying down and reading of memories, and the formation of spatial awareness. Yet the nature of consciousness, the existence of free will (or won’t) and the process of setting attention are a step too far for even a guess. Certainly much of the reported evidence has helped in the development of medicinal drugs. Yet it goes uncommented that such progress was advanced by the cavalier ‘torture’ of our DNA-cousins: snails, mice and monkeys.

Review by

Book offers a lot of information (sometimes an overload of it, but in a good way). The author starts very basic and leads to quite a high level of detail about neurophysiology.One of the best lines: "The greatest strength of a scientific method is its ability to disprove a hypothesis.".For someone who is interested in the 'science of things', this is a must read to know the inner intricacies of the brain.

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