Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Music & Memories: Mendelssohn & Village Hut!

It was as far back as 1960 when the Cockroach Catcher and a few school friends would sit in the back yard of his friend’s village hut and grind away a black disc. We knew the music well as we do not really have other records. On one side was Bruch’s and the other Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. My eyes welled up when Chloe Hanslip came on stage at the Royal Festival Hall to perform the Mendelssohn. Of course she played extremely well (she played a Guarneri del Gesu 1737). As it was, we were all refugees in Hong Kong following Mao’s taking over of China. It was strange that my friend who lives in a hut should own an old gramophone player and one single disc. No matter, it started me on to classical music and I never looked back.

Then I remembered Kandel, but here it was more than the music!!
Eric Kandel, M.D.:
"We are what we are through what we have experienced and what we have remembered."
In 2001 I was fortunate enough to be in New Orleans for the American Psychiatric Association Annual Conference. One of the lectures attracted a long queue and it turned out that the Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel was giving his lecture. I was fortunate enough to be able to secure a seat.

"What learning does is to change the strength of the synaptic connections in the brain," Kandel explained, "and this has held true for every form of learning so far analyzed. So, what genetic and developmental processes do is specify the cells that connect to each other, but what they do not specify is the exact strength of those connections. Environmental contingencies, such as learning, play a significant part in the strength of those connections.""Different forms of learning result in memories by changing that strength in different ways. Short-term memory results from transient changes that last minutes and does not require any new synthesis of proteins, Kandel said. However, long-term memories are based in more lasting changes of days to weeks that do require new brain protein to be synthesized. And this synthesis requires the input of the neuron’s genes."

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