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February 18, 2002

Nobel Prize winner to give Breinin Lecture, Feb. 21

By Holly Korschun


Eric Kandel, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2000 for his contributions to the fundamental processes of learning and memory, will deliver the annual Goodwin and Rose Helen Breinin Lecture in Basic Sciences, Thursday, Feb. 21 at 4 p.m. in WHSCAB auditorium.

A reception will immediately follow the lecture, which is free and open to the public.

Using the relatively simple neural circuitry that makes up the withdrawal reflexes in the sea slug Aplysia, Kandel and his colleagues identified fundamental cellular mechanisms that result in the modifiability of nerve cell signaling. These changes can lead to alterations in the learned behaviors of habituation, sensitization and classical conditioning.

Kandel and his colleagues found that learning produces changes in behavior not by altering basic circuitry, but by adjusting the strength of particular synapses. They identified sets of genes and proteins that stabilize synaptic connections and trigger growth of new ones. Recently, his laboratory has extended this approach to more complex forms of spatial learning in the hippocampus of genetically modified mice.

Kandel, professor of physiology and cell biophysics, psychiatry, biochemistry and molecular biophysics at Columbia University, shared the Nobel Prize with Arvid Carlsson of the University of Goteborg, Sweden, and Paul Greengard of Rockefeller University in New York.

A Howard Hughes Medical Institute senior investigator, Kandel is a member of both the National Academy of Science and American Philosophical Society and is a winner of the National Medal of Science, the Lasker Award, the Wolf Prize, the Gairdner Award and the Harvey Prize. As co-editor of the definitive resource book Principles of Neural Science, he has helped to coalesce the entire field of neuroscience.

Kandel was born in 1929 in Vienna, Austria, and emigrated to the United States 10 years later. He graduated from Harvard and received his M.D. from the New York University School of Medicine. He has held faculty positions at Harvard Medical School and the New York University School of Medicine. At Columbia, he was founding director of the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior.

The Breinin Lectureship is named for Goodwin Breinin and Rose Helen Breinin. Goodwin Breinin (’41M) is chair of ophthalmology at the New York University School of Medicine and director of the Kirby Institute of Ophthalmology. He was a pioneer in developing new treatments for glaucoma and is a 1993 recipient of the Emory Medal—the University’s highest alumni honor. Rose Helen Breinin’s career includes work with the New York City Housing Authority, in public health community service and as a museum researcher and volunteer.