Posted by: thoughtflashes | May 17, 2010

Eric Kandel and the Molecular Basis of Memory

One reason that I am currently writing down my thoughts is that I do not hang onto them as long as I used to. Therefore, I need a mechanism to record what I have thought about in case I need to refer to them later on. I used to hang onto my thoughts and repeat them over and over again in my head, thinking of variations of my thoughts. If you are not continually exposed to the same information over and over, it usually does not get stored into your long-term memory. An exception to repeated exposure being required for long-term memory is perhaps during a highly emotionally-charged event.

The molecular basis for this long-term memory was made by the great neuroscientist Eric Kandel, one of my scientific heroes. You can also watch Eric Kandel’s Nobel Lecture, which is fun to watch, extremely clear, easy to understand, and interesting. I was also fortunate enough to watch him give a lecture in person at the American Society for Cell Biology 2003 Meeting in San Francisco. What is so amazing about his thought processes and his experimentation procedure is that his process is extremely rational. Once he undertakes one experiment, he then can rationally decide which next step to take, instead of just randomly guessing which is the next experiment that he performs. It is completely logical, and thus saves a lot of time. This contrasts with a lot of guesswork science that I saw as a scientist in my surrounding environment. He has also recently published an interesting autobiography, In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind.

Kandel found that short-term memory generally does not require new protein synthesis. However, repeated exposure results in long-term memory since the repeated exposure causes new protein synthesis. This is an important finding that helps to clarify in molecular terms one of the fundamental aspects of being human.

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