Cell Biology and the Study of Behavior

  • Eric R. Kandel


My purpose in this brief discussion is to describe how cellular neurobiologists are trying to study the mechanisms of behavior and learning. For reasons that are fairly obvious, the biological study of behavior and learning is still in its infancy. Behavior is produced by the brain. The brain of man, which is the brain biologists would ultimately most like to understand, is immensely complex. In addition, because it is encased in a bony skull, it is relatively inaccessible from a technical standpoint. Even when its surface is exposed surgically by removing the bone, many important structures remain out of view because they are deeply buried within its massive sub-stance. The brain is also inaccessible for moral reasons. Since it is the seat of those attributes and functions we refer to as character and mind, we would only want to explore the brain of man when we know exactly what we are doing, can do it safely, and have a clear medical indication for doing it. As a result, our understanding of how the human brain controls behavior is very limited. More than in any other area of medicine, study of the relationship of brain and behavior will require the development of adequate animal models.


Motor Neuron Sensory Neuron Ascaris Lumbricoides Abdominal Ganglion Marine Snail 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric R. Kandel
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Neurobiology and Behavior, Departments of Physiology and Psychiatry, College of Physicians and SurgeonsColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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