The Science of Brain Health and Cognitive Decline | Eric Kandel

Updated on

Kandel’s latest book is “Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures” (

Transcript – There are two major forms of learning: implicit or explicit or declarative and non-declarative. The simple form of learning, which I studied in Aplysia, which holds true for all invertebrate animals, is learning of perceptual and motor skills. More complex learning involves the hippocampus requires conches participation and it involves learning about people, places and objects. So two different systems, implicit learning, which does not involve conscious participation, involves a number of systems in the brain. In the simplest cases just reflects pathways themselves, but in other cases it could involve the amygdala for emotional learning, the basal ganglia for some motor tasks. So these are a variety of systems, but the hippocampus is not in any fundamental way involved. In the learning of people places and objects it involves conscious participation and it involves the hippocampus. The hippocampus is not critical throughout the lifetime of the memory, but it’s critical for the initial storing and consolidation of the memory. So these are two very fundamental systems. Mammals have them both, invertebrate animals only have one.

Life long learning is extremely important and the more we learn about life span the more important we realize it is. First of all it’s pleasurable. Most people after a while realize when they acquire new knowledge about something that it’s really quite an enjoyable experience. But also it’s like doing exercise, in fact it’s exercise of the brain. It’s good for you. So as people age they’re susceptible to one of two kinds of cognitive declines. One is Alzheimer’s disease, which begins in the 70s but becomes almost an epidemic when people are in their 90s when almost have the populations has Alzheimer’s disease. And the other, which was only recently appreciated to be quite distinct from Alzheimer’s disease, is called age related memory loss. The difference between Alzheimer’s disease in the sense that it starts earlier, it starts in mid life; it involves a different part of the brain it starts in the dentate gyrus, Alzheimer’s disease starts in the entorhinal cortex. And it is prevented. You can prevent it. And also to some degree you might be able to reverse it. Read Full Transcript Here:

Video and more on the book below Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures

Are art and science separated by an unbridgeable divide? Can they find common ground? In this new book, neuroscientist Eric R. Kandel, whose remarkable scientific career and deep interest in art give him a unique perspective, demonstrates how science can inform the way we experience a work of art and seek to understand its meaning. Kandel illustrates how reductionism?the distillation of larger scientific or aesthetic concepts into smaller, more tractable components?has been used by scientists and artists alike to pursue their respective truths. He draws on his Nobel Prize-winning work revealing the neurobiological underpinnings of learning and memory in sea slugs to shed light on the complex workings of the mental processes of higher animals.

In Reductionism in Art and Brain Science, Kandel shows how this radically reductionist approach, applied to the most complex puzzle of our time?the brain?has been employed by modern artists who distill their subjective world into color, form, and light. Kandel demonstrates through bottom-up sensory and top-down cognitive functions how science can explore the complexities of human perception and help us to perceive, appreciate, and understand great works of art. At the heart of the book is an elegant elucidation of the contribution of reductionism to the evolution of modern art and its role in a monumental shift in artistic perspective. Reductionism steered the transition from figurative art to the first explorations of abstract art reflected in the works of Turner, Monet, Kandinsky, Schoenberg, and Mondrian. Kandel explains how, in the postwar era, Pollock, de Kooning, Rothko, Louis, Turrell, and Flavin used a reductionist approach to arrive at their abstract expressionism and how Katz, Warhol, Close, and Sandback built upon the advances of the New York School to reimagine figurative and minimal art. Featuring captivating drawings of the brain alongside full-color reproductions of modern art masterpieces, this book draws out the common concerns of science and art and how they illuminate each other.

Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures

Leave a Comment