Kandel’s 11 open (and mostly vague) problems in the biology of memory

The Journal of Neuroscience published a series of articles commemorating the 40th anniversary of the society for neuroscience. In an attempt to follow the footsteps of mathematicians, nobel laureate Eric Kandel proposed 11 open problems for the future of understanding memory:
1. How does synaptic growth occur, and how is signaling across the synapse coordinated to induce and maintain growth?
2. What trans-synaptic signals coordinate the conversion of short- to intermediate- to long-term plasticity?
3. What can computational models contribute to understanding synaptic plasticity?
4. Will characterization of the molecular components of the presynaptic and postsynaptic cell compartments revolutionize our understanding of synaptic plasticity and growth?
5. What firing patterns do neurons actually use to initiate LTP at various synapses?
6. What is the function of neurogenesis in the hippocampus?
7. How does memory become stabilized outside the hippocampus?
8. How is memory recalled?
9. What are the role of small RNAs in synaptic plasticity and memory storage?
10. What is the molecular nature of the cognitive deficits in depression, schizophrenia, and non-Alzheimer’s age-related memory loss?
11. Does working memory in the prefrontal cortex involve reverbatory self-reexcitatory circuits or intrinsically sustained firing patterns?
Unlike the 23 problems confronting mathematics proposed by David Hilbert, the vagueness of most of Kandel’s open questions suggest an even grander question:  What is needed in the study of biological memory to allow us to propose more concrete and formal questions?
Eric R. Kandel (2009) The Biology of Memory: A Forty-Year Perspective. The Journal of Neuroscience 29(41):12748-12756.

The Journal of Neuroscience published a series of articles commemorating the 40th anniversary of the society for neuroscience.  In an attempt to follow the footsteps of mathematics, Eric Kandel proposed 11 open problems for the future of understanding the biology of memory:

1. How does synaptic growth occur, and how is signaling across the synapse coordinated to induce and maintain growth?

2. What trans-synaptic signals coordinate the conversion of short- to intermediate- to long-term plasticity?

3. What can computational models contribute to understanding synaptic plasticity?

4. Will characterization of the molecular components of the presynaptic and postsynaptic cell compartments revolutionize our understanding of synaptic plasticity and growth?

5. What firing patterns do neurons actually use to initiate LTP at various synapses?

6. What is the function of neurogenesis in the hippocampus?

7. How does memory become stabilized outside the hippocampus?

8. How is memory recalled?

9. What are the role of small RNAs in synaptic plasticity and memory storage?

10. What is the molecular nature of the cognitive deficits in depression, schizophrenia, and non-Alzheimer’s age-related memory loss?

11. Does working memory in the prefrontal cortex involve reverbatory self-reexcitatory circuits or intrinsically sustained firing patterns?

Unlike the 23 problems confronting mathematics proposed by David Hilbert, the vagueness of most of Kandel’s open questions suggest an even grander question:  What is needed in the study of biological memory to allow us to propose concrete, formal questions?

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One thought on “Kandel’s 11 open (and mostly vague) problems in the biology of memory

  1. He seems really biased towards synaptic plasticity… I guess that’s a functionalist’s way of saying that adaptivity + learning are the biggest puzzle of them all – but i don’t think the answer will be in explaining synaptic plasticity.

    I like questions 6 and 7…

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