Brain and Behavior

Impact of Environment on the Brain

How did Eric Kandel demonstrate that learning physically changes the nervous system?

The photograph (on the opposite page) is of a species of sea slug similar to the one that won Eric Kandel the Nobel Prize in 2000. Kandel’s great contribution was to demonstrate in an animal with a very simple nervous system how learning changes the brain. By altering the way he touched the tail of the sea slug, Kandel trained the animal to either amplify or minimize a protective reflex. When he examined the sea slug’s nervous system, he found that the neurons’ synapses had been changed as a result of the conditioning.


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