BJKS Podcast

77. Lynn Nadel: Collaboration, Hippocampal History, and clinical applications of hippocampal development

October 20, 2023
BJKS Podcast
77. Lynn Nadel: Collaboration, Hippocampal History, and clinical applications of hippocampal development
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Lynn Nadel is an emeritus professor at the University of Arizona, where his research focuses on the role of the hippocampus in memory. This is our second conversation. We discuss how the Hippocampus as a Cognitive Map was received, Lynn's career, including his years as head of department at the University of Arizona, how to foster collaboration, why Lynn started the Hippocampal History project, and the development and clinical aspects of the hippocampus.

BJKS Podcast is a podcast about neuroscience, psychology, and anything vaguely related, hosted by Benjamin James Kuper-Smith.

Support the show:

00:00: Who was A. Black?
03:38: How was The Hippocampus as a Cognitive Map received?
08:08: Lynn's wandering years
15:46: At the University of Arizona
21:24: How to foster collaboration
28:29: Being a head of department
38:22: The Hippocampal History project
42:56: Lynn's developmental work

Podcast links

Lynn's links

Ben's links

Lynn's first episode:

Black, Nadel & O'Keefe (1977). Hippocampal function in avoidance learning and punishment. Psychological Bulletin.
Edgin, Spano, Kawa & Nadel (2014). Remembering things without context: development matters. Child development.
Goddard (1964). Functions of the amygdala. Psychological bulletin.
Lynch (1979). Representations in the Brain: The Hippocampus as a Cognitive Map. John O'Keefe and Lynn Nadel. Science.
Nadel & Moscovitch (1997). Memory consolidation, retrograde amnesia and the hippocampal complex. Current opinion in neurobiology.
Nadel, Samsonovich, Ryan & Moscovitch (2000). Multiple trace theory of human memory: computational, neuroimaging, and neuropsychological results. Hippocampus.
Nadel, Willner & Kurz (1986). The neurobiology of mental representations. In Myles Brand (ed.), The Representation of Knowledge and Belief. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.
O'Keefe & Nadel (1978) The Hippocampus as a Cognitive Map. Free download:
O'Keefe & Nadel (1979). Précis of O'Keefe & Nadel's The hippocampus as a cognitive map. Behavioral and Brain Sciences.
Pennington, Moon, Edgin, Stedron & Nadel (2003). The neuropsychology of Down syndrome: evidence for hippocampal dysfunction. Child development.
Ravindran (2022). Profile of Lynn Nadel. PNAS.
Squire, Nadel & Slater (1981). Anterograde amnesia and memory for temporal order. Neuropsychologia.
Sutherland & Rudy (1989). Configural association theory: The role of the hippocampal formation in learning, memory, and amnesia. Psychobiology.

(This is an automated transcript with many errors)

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: [00:00:00] Yeah, so I guess this is the second part, so to speak, of our interview. Uh, maybe as a brief, uh, recap for people and for both of us. Last time we, uh, I thought had a pretty cool episode. Uh, you, you got introduced to psychology by Donald Hebb. You then did a postdoc in Prague and fled after the Russian invasion, uh, to London. 

Uh, John O'Keefe showed you some, some of the first place cell recordings. Uh, you offended the editor of Psychological Review, and then you wrote the book, The Hippocampus as a Cognitive Map, as a very brief run through, um, and I thought we could kind of, uh, pick up where we kind of left, uh, that episode, uh, maybe still with the Hippocampus as a Cognitive Map book. 

Maybe the first question I had, which, uh, so I... I looked at the, in the beginning of the book, you have the, you know, as in many books, the dedication. And in your case, it reads to E. C. Tolman, who first dreamed of cognitive maps in rats and men, D. O. Hebb, who taught us to look for those maps in [00:01:00] the brain, and A. 

Black, who insisted that we pursue our route with rigor. So the first two names, I think most people recognize. Um, I'm not so familiar with the third person. I'm just curious. He was, uh, the third person who was influential in, in that book. 

Lynn Nadel: Abe Black was a, um, uh, a psychologist, uh, who was at McMaster University, who was already famous in, you know, in the early, late sixties, early seventies, for work on avoidance behavior and, and related things. And, uh, because he was at McMaster. In this period, he was, uh, you know, in contact with Case Vanderwolf, who was at that point one of the leading figures in recording Theta activity from the hippocampus. So Abe interested in the hippocampus, and for reasons I still don't fully understand, he decided to come and do a sabbatical, year, I think it was a year, it may have been eight months, in London with me and John. [00:02:00] In 1974, so he came and, uh, we became very friendly and very engaged and he really jumped. know, head first into the project, so to speak. And we wrote a few papers together about avoidance behavior and the role of the hippocampus in avoidance behavior. He taught us a lot about that stuff, and we taught him about the hippocampus. And, you know, we became extremely good friends, and he was a very invaluable sort of part of the emergence of the book, you might say. then he got sick and died of pancreatic cancer before the book came out in 1968. So, you know, that was, that was quite shocking for me and John, basically, so he was just somebody who was influential in At the period when we were creating the book, he was very important for our thinking about avoidance behavior and any related learning and memor learning and conditioning stuff. 

That was his background. And, uh, just an all around great guy that we just got along with very well, you know, both socially and [00:03:00] scientifically. So, you know, that was, it was still raw in our minds, you know, that Abe had, had passed away. He was like 50, maybe 49 or something when he died. It was really kind of tragically early and so on. 

So that, that's who Abe Black was. He's somebody that people should know about. I mean, if you go, you go to Wikipedia, you may or may not find him. But if you go to scholar, Google scholar, I mean, some, he edited some books. He published important articles on avoidance behavior, but it all ended in 1978 because he died. So he's not somebody that people know about now, but he was pretty important back then and he was very important to us. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Okay. I'm curious when, so you published the book, you know, finished it. Uh, what happened? What was the kind of response to it? Did people, did no one notice? Did people not like it? Did they like it? 

Lynn Nadel: Well, John and I kind of speculated, you know, that we'll publish this book and it'll, it'll either sink like a stone, uh, that nobody will notice it or it'll, you [00:04:00] know, it'll stir up, you know, you know, and sometimes not so positive reactions. I would say what happened was sort of in the middle, uh, what it was noticed very quickly. It got, it got, uh, uh, it was picked up very quickly. There was a book review in science. Uh, fairly soon after it, so it was, you know, noticeable in that sense. The book review was written by Gary Lynch, who is another famous, you know, famous figure in the early days of hippocampus, who's actually still active at UC Irvine. But Gary Lynch did some of the earliest work on LTP and the calcium story with LTP. wrote a book review that was pretty positive. And then it got, uh, it got selected as a target article for brain and behavioral sciences. Uh, so that we wrote a sort of a. Uh, kind of a concise version of the book for great, you know, as a target article for BBS came out in 1979 with lots of comments from lots of [00:05:00] people and our response to those comments, which, you know, went all the way from, you know, brilliant and exciting to these people are completely wrong and nonsense. Um, so it, you know, it was noticed, there's no question it was noticed and, and, and people picked up on it and there was a lot of excitement. I would say in the initial days it, it, it, it made an impact and it's certainly of. Uh, smooth my path to getting jobs and things like that. So it was, it was noticed, uh, you know, then it died down a little bit, you know, the field continued to grow and, and basically the, the book is now a historical artifact, you know, in some ways, although here in Trondheim, the students are, I chose it as a book to read for historical interest. So they have a little book club and they're reading the book, so to speak. And I sat in on one of their sessions. It was quite fun. so, you know, the. I would say the reaction to the book overall was very, was quite positive, you know, in, in many ways, you know, it was negative in some other ways, [00:06:00] but those were more about the science, but sort of as an impact and both on our, you know, on my career, on John's career and so on, and on the field, you know, it was, it had a pretty, it had a pretty positive response, I would say. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah, just as a brief comment here for people who are interested in reading the book, um, I couldn't really find it to buy anymore on Amazon, um, but you can download it for free on the UCL website, which I'll post in the description. 

Lynn Nadel: Yeah, also on the University of Arizona website. It's also available there at the library and the archives. Uh, yeah, so anyone can download it. That's, that's trivial. it first came out, they, they printed about 2, 500 copies, I think, something like that. And then some years later, they pulped. You know, six or 700 of them because they, you know, it sold less than 2000 copies. 

We didn't make much money for that book. Um, they pulped it and they gave us, you know, uh, you know, [00:07:00] we'll send you 10 copies each or something, you know, before we destroyed the rest. And so we got a bunch of copies for free. And we handed them out to our family and friends and stuff like that. And, and that was it, you know, and they destroyed the plates. 

They didn't, the plates no longer existed. These were pre computer days. There were no, there's no digital version of it. Uh, so that when it came time to think about republishing it, they said, we don't have the plates anymore. You know, somebody would have to key the whole thing in again. We're not going to do that. So they released the copyright to us and that's how we could post it for free. They release the copyright. So, you know, it's, uh, but it's really hard to find. I think if you go on eBay, you can still find a copy sometimes. You know, people who had it die and their kids sell it because they have no idea what, you know. You know, so it's, it's, you can still find a copy if you look hard in some of the, you know, antiquarian, you know, bookseller kind of stuff. I have three or four copies. That's it. You know, but it's, you know, if you do find a copy it's not going to be cheap. [00:08:00]  

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, now it's a classic book and there's, as you said, not many copies. 

Lynn Nadel: Yeah. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah. Uh, okay. So. Uh, to, to kind of continue through your career, I mean, we, we only kind of did the beginning in the last episode, um, until you basically, if I remember correctly, you'd already left UCL at this point, uh, before the book was published. 

Um, so yeah, maybe where, where did you go after that and why? 

Lynn Nadel: Well, I left UCL for personal reasons, because I had kids and, and, uh, I'd split up with their mother, and she took the kids back to the States, and so I decided I needed to be back in the States, you know, to be available for my kids. Uh, so I left UCL in a, in a kind of a lecture or tenure track kind of position, with no job. Uh, just to go back to the States, you know, the book wasn't finished yet. This was 1976. So I was still working on some of the chapters and, you know, I figured I could just go somewhere and hang out. uh, I had saved up some money from a [00:09:00] sabbatical I had done in Norway that paid me very well. And I figured I'd just go and hang out in the States for a while and see what happens, I did. And that didn't last very long because I ran out of money. And, uh, and I called, uh. A good friend of mine in San Diego, Larry Squire, um, a name I'm sure, you know, uh, cause we had been good friends for, you know, ever since graduate school and he said, you know, come on out to San Diego. Um, and I'll, I'll pay you for a year as a, as a. here and we can do some work on amnesia and I hadn't worked with humans before. So I said, great, I'll do it. I went to spend a year in like with Larry, uh, in, in La Jolla we tested, I tested the patient and a, who was Larry's, you know, best patient in those days, uh, did a lot of things about language and memory, which was a, which was me moving in a slightly different direction. it was a good year. But then, then, then it was over and then luckily for me, I [00:10:00] got a call out of the blue from somebody at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia who said, we're inviting you to come in for a two year contract replace Graham Goddard, who got a kind of a research fellowship that bought out his teaching and they needed somebody to do his teaching and so on. 

So would I be interested in doing this? I, I still don't know why they. Asked me, but Graham Goddard was, was also a graduate student at McGill at the same time that John O'Keefe and I were graduates. So I knew him, and he might have been the one who recommended me, I don't know. Um, and Graham Goddard is himself, you know, a legend in the field. 

I mean, he did very early, absolutely critical amygdala. when he left McGill about a year before John and I did, he went, I think, to Waterloo and sort of made that place into a haven for good research, and then he went to Dalhousie where he did the same, then he went to New Zealand to the University of [00:11:00] Otago in Dunedin, and he did the same thing there. 

He was a serial builder of great departments, basically, then he met an untimely Death, again, very young and a hiking accident in the hill, in the mountains around New Zealand, you know, it was just story. Anyway, I went to Dalhousie two years, replacing Graham Goddard. I arrived there, it became clear that nobody, nobody knew I was coming.  

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah. 

Lynn Nadel: informed anybody in the psychology department that, you know, so and so was coming to replace Graham. it was kind of interesting at the beginning, but it turned out to be a spectacular place for me to be. First of all, I finished the book there. That was, you know, helpful. But also, the place had both really good sort of physiological psychology, you might say, the combination of brain and behavior stuff. 

It's a Canadian department again, so it had that mixture. it also has some really strong cognitive psychologists. So, so I really learned a lot of cognitive [00:12:00] psychology at Dalhousie. That's kind of where I converted over to more of a cognitive psychologist than a, than a rat running, you know, animal behavior person. Um, so Dalhousie was, was really, you know, a great place to spend a few years. I met Bruce McNaughton and Carol Barnes there. One was a, Carol was a postdoc and Bruce was a graduate student finishing up his PhD with Graham Goddard. I met Rob Sutherland, who also became very, you know, famous for his hippocampal research. 

Sutherland and Rudy, you know, people in the field know these, know this name. He's still active. He's at Lethbridge. I met several other people who I subsequently collaborated with. I just met a lot of people there who were really important for my subsequent career. And it was a wonderful, it was a wonderful department. 

You know, I had two great years there. Um, but it was not a great environment because by that point my kids had know, shifted from living with their mother to [00:13:00] living with me. And they were teenagers, you know, just beginning to be teenagers. And Halifax was not a great place for them to be. It was kind of a depressed maritime city. 

And either they went to public schools, you know, with kids whose Aspirations were quite limited in terms of what their life goals were, or, uh, you, you paid a lot of money to send them to private school, which was never an option for me, not because of the money, because I just didn't believe in private schools for the kids. So I decided to leave basically, even though they. over the course of the two years, they, they kind of got used to me being around and they, they were, they would have given me a position if I had, if I wanted to stay, but I didn't. I left again without a job and went back to California and just. I hung out for a year living on, on Canadian unemployment money, basically, and, and thinking and writing. 

And then I got a call out of the blue from Gary Lynch, the guy who wrote the review of the book. [00:14:00] And he said, you know, you want, I was in San Diego, you know, I went back to where I had roughly been when I was working at Larry's lab. And he said, you want to teach a course? You know, I'd like, I'm buying out of a course, do you want to teach a course on? So the neurobiology of cognition or something like that, you know, so I said, sure, it sounds like fun. So I, you know, did that. I would drive up to Irvine from North County, San Diego, several times a week. And I would teach and I would hang out there for a while. I, I had and still have, you know, a sibling, my brother, who's now dead, but his wife, they were living in, in Newport beach, right. 

You know, 10 minutes from UC Irvine. I stayed at their house overnight, you know, sometimes. So I got kind of. up in the UCI community even though I had no job and as a function of that I got involved with the people in cognitive science there They had a strong cognitive science program and I met those people and and they decided it would be good idea They hop to get me a postdoctoral fellowship Which they had money [00:15:00] to provide at a Sloan big Sloan Center grant Sloan at that point to Sloan I don't know. 

They're still doing it. They were they were funding cognitive science. They were trying to kind of nucleates cognitive science as a field. This was in 1980, right? So I got hired on, and I got paid, and then I convinced the people there to, to, to sign off on a grant application so I could set up a lab, and I got funded by NIH to set up a lab. 

I still didn't have a job, this was soft money, I was like a, you know, an adjunct person, but they facilitated me, you know, getting a grant. that paid me for three years and the money for a lot of the research I did in the 80s on developmental stuff. And then that ran out. But pretty much as that ran out, I got through the connections with the people in cognitive science. 

I got introduced to people the University of Arizona, one of whom was doing a sabbatical in [00:16:00] Harnish. And he We're about to start up a cognitive science program in Arizona. you know, maybe you would be interested in, in being a part of it. So I went down there and gave a talk at a, at a symposium. 

It's a chapter is published in a book in 1984 or something like that. The neurobiology of mental representations was the chapters I was thinking about. You know, how does the brain represent stuff, basically, which is a good cognitive question, but also a good brain question. Anyway, they recruited me to Arizona to be sort of the first person hired in this new cognitive science program, but somebody who would bridge between brain and behavior, brain and cognition. 

I was meant to be the glue person. So then we also hired a bunch of other people, and that's how I ended up at Arizona, basically. They gave me my first job. My first job as my first real job in the States. which was as a full professor with tenure. I never went through the tenure process. I was hired, you know, off of soft [00:17:00] money, straight into tenure, which was pretty unusual, I guess. 

I was really lucky. I never had the angst of going through tenure or anything like that. So just at the point when they had a lot of money and a lot of opportunity, to build the cognitive science program, to rebuild the psychology program, which was not very good at that point. And then we started hiring, you know, incredible people. 

We had resources. And then within about a year or two, uh, or three, maybe, for I can't be sure became clear that the department head was not somebody who was really going to realize that the best for the department in psychology, which was where my appointment was, was part psychology, part cognitive science, but my tenure home was in psychology, I became the department head in psychology, which was totally unanticipated by everybody who ever knew anything about me that I should be a department head was completely ludicrous idea, it turned out to be pretty good at it. Uh, we hired, and I was, you know, spearheaded the [00:18:00] hiring of lots of really great people, including Bruce McNaughton and Carol Barnes and, you know, getting the funding to build them a state of the art laboratory. I mean, multi million dollar deals. And we, uh, the department grew and it was just a fantastic, we hired a lot of good people, Dan Schachter, John Kihlstrom. Meryl Garrett, these are all, you know, famous names in cognitive, cognitive psychology at the time, memory and language and perception and so on. We, we, we, we had a good thing going and I was, you know, pretty instrumental in a lot of that, I would say, uh, with a lot of help, of course, from others. that continued on through the, through the nineties, basically. 

So this is sort of. I'll get back to what I was doing from a research point of view, but, and then the, then the state shut the spigot off basically and stopped funding this thing at the level they were funding it. And so things, you know, there was a golden era of about eight to 10 years when we were building and growing and make, you know, and recruiting great people and, and [00:19:00] so on. 

And then it became less, that, that became less the case. So I was department head for 13 years and then I, Stopped being department head, but stayed on, you know, doing my research. So, you know, that, that was the progression, you know, and I, there were other things I did later on, you know, at the university, I became very involved in university administration things. working in the provost's office a little bit, you know, getting involved with faculty governance, became chair of the faculty of the whole, of the whole university. I got very involved in some of that stuff, that's not the science part of the story. That's the sort of, you know, structural part of the story. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah, I wanted to kind of, before we get maybe more into your time in Arizona and kind of what you did, I'm just curious because. It sounded like you had, I'm curious like whether you had, well, in a sense, much of a career plan until you went to Arizona, because the way you tell it, it sounds like it's kind of like, well, I went there and then I didn't know what to do, so [00:20:00] I just did this. 

I don't know that someone gave me money and, um, 

Lynn Nadel: whole, no, no, one thing you could not ever do is say I had a kind of a plan in my mind about what was, you know, how this was gonna unfold. Never. was never, that was never the case. I mean I, I have to say I, I never really thought about. This is the way the next 10 years are going to play out. 

And this is, these are my goals. And that's just not the way I've lived my life, you know, possibly to my detriment, but I, that's just not the, that's not the person that I am. So, I mean, I just went with it, you know, I mean, when opportunities arose, I grabbed them, you know, and there was a general plan, which was to be. be in a community, you know, that was exciting intellectually. That was the, you know, if there was a picture, it was I wanted to be in a community that was intellectually stimulating and exciting. And so I did things that, you know, fit that plan. And if I couldn't be part of that, then I just left. I just went somewhere else. [00:21:00] You know, and quite often nowhere, just waiting for another opportunity to emerge. And luckily for me, opportunities kept emerging. I mean, I consider myself extremely lucky in that regard, you know, that, you know, most of it, all of the time, pretty much, something good happened, even though I, wasn't like planning it out step by step. I, 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Um, I had a question about, you mentioned it, I had a question about collaboration basically because, um, I mentioning, I think I mentioned in the first episode, there's a, a profile on you in p n s that came out a few years ago or something, and at the end, uh, there's a quote of you, which is, I'm not somebody who wants to do all of my own. 

And the most fun and most productive times I've had, have been in really deep collaborations. This, to me, seems to fit quite well with what you said, that you always wanted to be part, like, of a group of exciting people who did cool stuff. I'm curious, uh, maybe it's, uh, as a first question here, uh, what, what makes a good [00:22:00] collaborator? 

Or how can people become better collaborators from, from your experience? 

Lynn Nadel: wow, 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Or maybe what did you like 

about collaborators?  

Lynn Nadel: the collaborations that worked for me, and I think this is what one ought to look for, are, you know, people who you respect and trust. and people who have expertise and knowledge base that you don't have. So that, you know, between the two of you that the, the sum of the parts is way more than, uh, you know, than just adding the two together because you can spark each other in, in ways that, uh, that are very productive. it depends upon, you know, picking, picking the right person, because there's got to be someone who you can work with, who can tolerate, you know, your style of working, but who you completely trust, you know, that when they say something about an area you don't know about. You trust that they know what they're talking about, and you just take it on face value. it's sometimes hard to know who those people are, so that takes a while. Yeah, but, but, I mean, I think nowadays, you know, in, in, in this era of big science, where [00:23:00] nobody can do any, you know, with all the new techniques and technologies involved, one is forced to do that, basically. You're, I mean, I've, you know, here at the Kavli, I've been actually interviewing the Mosers about this kind of stuff. And the same point comes out basically, you know, that you, you can't do it every, you can't do it all yourself. You have to, you have to have collaborators who you trust, basically. So, you know, but how to, how to sort of identify those people is tricky. You know, in the case of O'Keefe, it was somebody that I knew from graduate school. 

I knew I could trust him completely. And he, I think, had the same level of trust in me. And with my other major collaboration with Moskvich, I knew him from when I was a graduate student also. He was an undergrad at McGill. So these were people who I already had a strong relationship with, and I knew I could trust as people and as scientists. so that was the foundation. And then we could just, you know, basically exchange ideas and thoughts and trust each other, you know, that we knew what we were talking about. And, and [00:24:00] that, you know, made it possible to accomplish a lot more as a team than either of us could ever have accomplished as, and that's why I'm, that's why I prefer. You know, the collaborative mode, you know, and I think it was interesting. This, this point came up in my, in my interview with, uh, with Edvard Moser, you know, he said it, the fact that there were two of them, that he and my Brit were, were, you know, that that was actually a big advantage. They could try ideas out on each other. Basically in a way that, you know, if one of them was isolated by themselves, they might not have been able to do it. So, you know, having this kind of sounding board of somebody you completely trust going back and forth, it really worked well for me. And I think it's in general, you know, a good way to do it. 

You know, there are some people who can't do that. Some people who really want to be the, you know, the only show in town. I mean, that's not, that's not me, never has been. And I'm, I'm happy to, you know, to have my career the other way. You know, as a, as collaboration. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah, and I was [00:25:00] also curious here from the kind of, um, not exactly flip side, but as a head of department, is there anything head of departments can do for this? Or is it kind of, I don't know, is it just hiring the right people who seem like people, other people would trust and who know stuff or? 

Lynn Nadel: yeah, yeah, yeah. I think that's the key there. And you don't know what's going to happen. You know, you certainly end up collaborating most extensively, typically with people in, you know, who you bump into in the hallway. So thing that I always looked for in hiring was people who not show up, close their door, you know, have their own little group, but not interact with others. You know, they might be highly successful, but they were not to other influences and so on. So I tried to avoid hiring people like that and try to, you know, people who I already knew based on talking to other people or, you know, my knowledge of them and et cetera, that these are people who are going to come and are going to interact with other people. They're going to [00:26:00] share with other people, they're going to, you know, draw other people in and so on. So, you know, there's people vary in that regard. Some people just want to do their own thing. Basically, they want to be left alone with their group, small or large, and do their own thing. And there are others who, you know, say, oh, you know, I'm open to collaborating with, and, and those are the kinds of people we tended to hire at Arizona. who were more likely to be collaborative. Uh, you know, again, you can't, you can't be perfect in figuring out who those people are, unless you have evidence, you know, specific evidence. But we were pretty successful in hiring people who were that kind of. You know, so that, so that we created an extremely collaborative environment at Arizona. basically, and also one that was very nurturing of students, because I think those things tend to go together. I mean, at some level, although not always, but they do tend to go together. So it was a, we created what I thought was a really good environment for the, for 15 or 20 years. I [00:27:00] mean, I think it still is. But I, I, I can't say with any certainty. But what I do know is that, you know, students who were there in the, in the early nineties through the nineties, early, early, early aughts, they frequently comment about, you know, what a special environment it was. Now, a lot of people say that about their graduate school environment, you know, it's just, it's kind of part of the deal. we, but really they say, I, I, I didn't understand when I was there, just how, how unusual the environment was, you know, and, and now that I'm somewhere else and I see that people don't always keep their doors open and talk to everybody. People don't always nurture and encourage in the same way that was just taken for granted at Arizona. So that was, yeah, I think that that's been part of the goal. I, I was, I, I'm proud of that, you know, achievement, you know, basically as a, as a, I mean, the rewards you get as a department head are different than the rewards you get as a researcher. I mean, you don't get publications, you know, you get the pleasure of knowing that [00:28:00] you've advanced other people's careers, that you have actually, you know, made better science, you know, not just by yourself, but by the people around you. so I think, I feel like we did that in those years. It was maybe easier to do it back in that time. the pressures weren't quite the same as they are now. Uh, you know, higher education, even research institutions have changed a lot. in those days you could do that and get away with it. And we, and we did. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah, I'm curious, like what are some, in a sense, I'm trying to get at what it's like to be a head of department and run that kind of thing, because obviously most people don't have that kind of experience. Um, I'm, I'm trying to ask it in a slightly more intentional way than just what was it like? So maybe, maybe as a, uh, maybe how is it all just admin? 

Can you still do research if you're head of department? 

Lynn Nadel: No, no, no. I mean, you do less. I didn't think it would affect me as much as it did, but when I look at my CV during the years when I was head [00:29:00] of department, I, I was clearly less productive. So it, it eats into that. But if you have a good lab and you have a few people like a postdoc or two who are really good, you know, if you have a functioning lab, you don't have to be there. 

Absolutely. percent in the lab. You can actually devote some time to these other things. And, and so, you know, it is certainly possible to be a department head and to have a, an active research career. It won't be quite as active maybe, but it by no means cuts off that, you know, that avenue. Um, You know, it was, as I say, it was good to feel that I was nurturing other people's careers, especially the young people that we hired. 

It was a, you know, that was a lot of positive things going on there. was a lot of negative crap about being a department head, you know, it's time wasted in committees and doing administrative nonsense. I tried to limit that as much as possible. I, I would say I was. The kind of department head who skated pretty close to the edge of the line, [00:30:00] you know, in terms of what you can do and not do when you're an administrator, you know, the rules were always there to be bent a little bit. And, uh, you know, and I think it also, you know, it's important if you're going to be a department head to be somebody who has, uh. Uh, let's say good social skills, you know, in interacting with people. I mean, if you want to do good things for your department, you have to be able to get along with the dean. 

You have to be able to get along with the provost. You have to, you know, you have to be someone who, you know, can put forward a positive kind of affect in all of these situations. That was the part that people might not have predicted. And that was the part that I turned out to be pretty good at, that I myself wouldn't have predicted. Turns out, you know, I'm, I can be convincing when I want to be. Sort of, you know, and, and so, you know, they, in that circumstance, it was, it was a rewarding role, but it's not for everybody, you know, there are certain kinds of people who will not do well, you know, as department heads, uh, turned out I was, I, I think I did fairly well. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Why did you take it then? If it was [00:31:00] also a bit of a surprise to you that you were good at it. 

Lynn Nadel: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I took it, it was challenging and I like a challenge, but I took it because it gave me the opportunity to directly influence the growth of the program. When I took it in 1989, we were just really beginning to build. We had made some critical hires, but Bruce and Carol, Bruce McNaughton and Carol Barnes, that, that all happened under my watch. 

I did all the work behind getting that to happen, and a number of other people. I took it because I figured I could actually shape, you know, the course of the way the, the way this emerging kind of enterprise, which started almost nowhere, and became this, you know, very strong department, that I could have a strong influence on that. 

You know, I could create the community that I wanted to be a part of. I could help create it. And I couldn't do that if I wasn't department head. I could influence things, but I, you know, Arizona had a strong department head arrangement where the department head really had a lot of power. You know, I was not, I was not elected. 

It's not like a rotating [00:32:00] position where somebody does it for three years and the next person does it for three years. I did it for 13 years and, and, and I had a lot of power. I wasn't after the power. I was after what the gave me, the ability to really shape the to shape the environment, you know, that I and the others were going to be living in and, you know, managed to do that. 

So that's why I took it because of the opportunity, the challenge to do that the possibility of creating a strong, a strong community. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: It sounds like a very good decision for you and the place. I mean, like you, you seem to enjoy it and... 

Lynn Nadel: I did. I enjoyed it. I think it was good. You know, I, I, I, you know, I don't know what impact it had on my family life. You know, I was busier than, you know, I might otherwise have been. I had, that point in time, I had five kids, know, so three of them were still living at home. They were young kids. 

You know, I was department head with like a three year old, you know what I mean? So I had, you know, I was a single father for some portion of that time. So I had a lot, [00:33:00] I had a lot on my plate basically, but yeah. You know, somehow you just do, you know, you do, you do what you have to do, you know, and it kind of worked out. 

So, uh, you'd have to ask my kids who probably thought I did nothing but work most of the time. But they all seem relatively well adjusted and they still talk to me. So I have to assume it wasn't, it wasn't tragically horrible for them. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: That's nice. Yeah, but, uh, okay. I mean, of course, like how you then managed to... Handle all these things. I mean, you said you kind of just do what you have to do. Is, is that just it and you, I guess you maybe, uh, 

Lynn Nadel: a lot. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: yeah. I mean you also seem to have a fairly like relaxed attitude as far as I can judge from a distance. 

Lynn Nadel: It turned out that I was very good at not agonizing over decisions and not agonizing over things that went wrong and not taking it home at night and being all stressed out in the evening when I went home. I was pretty good at just letting stuff roll off my back, basically, and just [00:34:00] moving, you know, forward. Basically, again, I'm not sure I would have predicted it, but it turned out. And I think that's a very important attribute for a department head. If you end up agonizing about stuff and letting everything eat away at you, you'll be at, you'll be within a few years, you'll burn out. So I never really burned out basically, except for dealing with the staff. So it turned out that, you know, the worst part of being a department head is dealing with the non academic staff who, you know, in the front office and, you know, the technique, you know, the people, you know, doing that kind of work. We had a fairly big front office at that time, because this goes back to the days when, you know, the people in the front office, you know, would type up professors exams for them, for example. There were no computers yet, right? I mean, this was a... So we had a pretty big staff, and I had to... that staff, and that turned out to be really problematic. I wasn't so great at managing, you know, people who I thought were being petty and, you know, having [00:35:00] silly jealousies, and this person has a bigger desk than I have, and this person's office has a window but mine doesn't, and all of that kind of nonsense, basically. That finally ate away at me, and kind of that was a strong reason why I finally gave it up. I just couldn't deal with that stuff anymore. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: scientists aren't petty at times or 

Lynn Nadel: I was about to say, of course, some of the same things were true of the faculty, but you can't tell them that you can't say you're acting like a spoiled teenager, you know, you have to find a way of getting them to, you know, understand the right thing to do, so to speak, and you have certain amount of. But I would say that person for person, pound for pound, I had way more trouble with the staff than I did with the faculty. Again, it's a matter of choosing your right faculty colleagues, some of which I couldn't choose, but many of which I could. So we didn't have a lot of problems. We had a very, very collegial environment, but there were some individual faculty who were You know, I thought in the [00:36:00] end, quite silly, you know, in one way or another. 

And yeah, I did my best to try to navigate around it, but I didn't, I didn't, uh, obsess about any of it. I went home, on the music. Cooked a meal, enjoyed my kids, and, you know, I enjoyed my, my new wife, who I got together with in 89, and, you know, we're still together now, so this was, this was a relationship that, you know, really was the one I was waiting for in my life, and so all of that worked out okay, but it was, you know, it had its, it had its difficult moments, I, you know, obviously, but it, but it worked out, and a lot of it was because I just don't obsess about stuff, know, that's, that's a characteristic of my personality, and it served me well in this regard. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: yeah. Yeah. Not, not caring can be a great help 

Lynn Nadel: yeah, of course, this risks it not caring and especially at the personal level, you know, I mean, you know, right. It's a, it's a fine, a fine 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah, that's a 

Lynn Nadel: between, you know, being able to deal with things without obsessing about [00:37:00] them and just ignoring problems that you need to deal with. I mean, you know, I didn't always find the right way. on that continuum, but, you know, in the long run, it served me well to be the sort of a person who didn't let things eat away at me. You know, I just did what I had to do in the moment, the best I could do, and that was the best I could do, and just move on. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: good attitude. I think I need more of that. I tend to think, I think things through more than necessary. Well 


Lynn Nadel: well, maybe it's because I don't think stuff through it that much. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: sure it helps so I think you're, you're doing well there. Um, agonizing about it before it happens, I'm not sure it's really uh, adaptive or useful. 

Lynn Nadel: uh, I once, uh, I got a fortune cookie in a Chinese restaurant, which says something like, uh, anxiety about the future is like a down payment on, on something that may never happen. You know, that kind of, you know, thinking through all the [00:38:00] scenarios and all the bad things that might happen, you know, obviously you have to, you have to do some cost benefit analysis about your behavior at some level, but agonizing about it endlessly is to me very counterproductive. And I have tried to avoid doing that, you know, in most of my life and sometimes to my detriment, but you know, that's been a strategy. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: I wanted to ask a little bit about the hippocampal history. Uh, yeah. How did it start? 

Lynn Nadel: When I retired, I thought, you know, I need something to do. So I know all these people. I was, I was there at the dawn of the hippocampal era. You might say I was, you know, in Montreal with Brenda Milner. So even the people who preceded John and me in the of hippocampal world, I knew all those people personally. wouldn't it be an interesting project? You know, put, you know, write a kind of a history of the early days of the hippocampus. That's what got it started. And so I, I sent out, [00:39:00] uh, sort of a request to a bunch of people from my generation and asked them if they would want to contribute, you know, their thoughts about some very specific questions. How'd you get started on the hippocampus? You know, things like that. Uh, and I, I got some responses and, you know, and, but I didn't get enough responses from it. And I didn't, yeah, I got a half a dozen or more. And then the project kind of just lay fallow for a while. And then I picked it up again during COVID thinking, you know, the hell with writing a book. 

My initial thought was I was going to take all of this stuff and write a book. And the more I thought about it, the less I liked the idea of writing a book because it would, it, it was hard to think about writing it without it being sort of narcissistic because I was involved in, I mean, these were all my friends and, and some of the stories would be about, you know, me and, I mean, it was just too much about me. And that's not what I wanted to do. So then I came along, then I came up with this idea most recently of the hell with the book. [00:40:00] I'll just take these interviews that I've done with other people, you know, verbal or not, most of them were written. Most people just wrote me their reminiscences, to speak. and I'll just post them online, you know, as a, why not? And that's how the series in Mastodon got going. there are 13 such postings. now I have just, I have a long interview with Brenda Milner that I need to cut down and figure out how to up into parts that Mastodon can deal with. And I have, uh, just now completed interviews with, with Ed Varden, Mike Ritmoser, which I will post online once I've cleaned them up. And, you know, that was today. So today is interview day. I'm 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah, 

Lynn Nadel: them. You're interviewing me. It's kind of amusing. So that project was really initially a kind of a vanity project, which I, you know, rapidly turned into something else and, uh, not, not so rapidly, uh, and, and I've gotten a lot of very positive feedback from the younger generation, you know, [00:41:00] people who really enjoy reading about, you know, like what it was like back then kind of stuff, you know, and I can, I'll continue doing it and I'm going to push on some more people to contribute to it because I get a lot of, I mean, I, I, yeah. started this on Macedon. I suddenly had 400 followers. I mean, that's ridiculous because I don't, I'm not engaged with social media, but a lot of people wanted to sort of hear about what it was like from the people who actually lived it. So that's, that was the, that was it. It still is. It's, it's now evolving in that regard. 

I'm probably going to start asking some younger people from the, from the next generation following mine. You know, like the Moses who were kind of in their mid fifties moving on to 60 that era of people who came of age in the hippocampal world after the book was out, know, after after LTP had been discovered. You know, who were really beginning their career in the late eighties, early nineties, like the Mosers and Mike Hasselmoe and other people like that. So I've already got a Hasselmoe to give me his, so [00:42:00] I'm going to reach out to more and more people. And it'll be a little bit less the people that I personally knew very well, but it'll be people who are important to the field. You know, have been important to the field and, and whose reminiscences and observations, you know, might be of some value to the next generation going forward. That's, that's the idea behind it and it's still, it's ongoing. It's kind of like what you're doing. I mean, it, it, but nowhere near as organized as what you're doing. You're doing it kind of like professionally. Well, I'm just 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: I'm trying. 

Lynn Nadel: Yeah, 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah. I mean, both have advantages, disadvantages, right? But, um, I mean, but yeah, I think the motivation is the same to kind of, I mean, I feel like you can, you know, most of the stuff you learn is not something you learn by reading a research paper or a textbook or whatever, right? Like a lot of the interesting things about how science actually is done. 

And what things actually mean have, you know, people can just tell you in five minutes stuff. You could never read in any paper. 

Lynn Nadel: Right, exactly. So I'm going to go back to the research because I'm going to have to quit in about seven minutes. And 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: [00:43:00] Yeah, 

Lynn Nadel: don't want to, I mean, in the nineties, I focused a lot on, on hippocampal development and my lab was really, really focused on the, implications of, of late maturation of the hippocampus and looking at. Rat pups and rat pups and doing all kinds of research like that. It was pretty interesting and exciting. then in the, in the mid 1960s, sorry, mid 1990s, Moskovich came to. to Tucson for a sabbatical and, and we got caught up in thinking about human amnesia and, and the multiple trace theory resulted from, from that collaboration with Morris during that sabbatical. And that sort of altered the trajectory of my research going forward from there. I got much more engaged with the human research and we started doing neuroimaging we, you know, on remote memory started, you know, thinking about issues about reconsolidation and, and, you know, you know, the, all of those issues that, you know, came out of thinking about the multiple trace theory and that has really dominated, you know, my, [00:44:00] my research trajectory ever since basically, and that was again, just to kind of almost a, Almost an accident, you know, if Morris hadn't come to do a sabbatical there, you know, that probably wouldn't have happened. But it was a collaboration. Again, it was two people who trusted each other, were willing to think about something a little bit out on the edge. And, you know, the rest became history. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: yeah. Um, one thing that kind of surprised me when, about some of your works, like how much of it was clinical, um, that you did a lot of like developmental, um, disorders and that kind of stuff was that 

Lynn Nadel: That came out of the, you know, I just literally today gave a talk on my developmental stuff here at the Institute, you know, and talked about the clinical implications and all of that. was because of a collaboration with a guy called Jake Jacobs, who I also met at Dalhousie, who trained in animal learning theory, and then shifted gears to go into clinical. but trying to apply, you know, the, the science from learning and learning and conditioning research to clinical [00:45:00] things, he hooked, he got caught up in the idea of multiple memory systems with different developmental trajectories. And that kind of led to the law of the development work with Jake with focusing on the implication of the, of the fact that. In the first few years of life, the learning that takes place is taking place in non hippocampal systems, because hippocampus isn't functional yet for the first two years. So the memories that we acquire in the first few years of life are decontextualized, because it's the hippocampus that attaches things to context. So, these decontextualized memories are part of your backbone, basically, and they may reemerge later. If they're bad memories, you don't know where you got them from, but they affect your behavior. You know, down the road and that then was very suggestive of clinical syndromes. like phobia and panic attacks. 

When the person said, I, you know, when I do such and such, I panic. I have no idea why. I don't know what caused [00:46:00] this, but this is what happened. And we began to see this pattern. You know, there's some things that happened early in life before the hippocampus could have an outsized effect. On later behavior and in particular could lead to certain anxiety disorders. And that sort of was the clinical route that, that, you know, the developmental stuff led to this thinking about clinical stuff, basically. And so that just burgeoned out. But a lot, but largely because of this collaboration with Jake Jacobs, who deserves a lot of the credit for, for the, for having taken that direction. know, my involvement with Down syndrome was a different angle. I just got called in to think about Down syndrome and what might be causing the mental retardation. And when I looked at what little literature existed in the mid 80s, I said, wow, there's a hippocampal story here. You know, this actually is directly relevant to, and it turns out that improper development of the hippocampus. Is one of the signature features of Down Syndrome in both humans and mouse [00:47:00] models, and it helps to explain some of the aspects of the mental retardation. So I got caught up in different kinds of developmental issues for different reasons, but it all came out of, you know, sort of this understanding about the implications of the late maturation of the hippocampus down syndrome case, being that that extra chromosome right from birth affects the development in particular of late developing structures. In Down syndrome sort of development ends too soon. There's like premature closure of development just in the brain, but also in the heart, in the, you know, in the skin folds, in the, in the, in the eye folds, there's a bunch of ways in which that manifests itself, but it has particular impact on late developing systems. So, hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, portions of the cerebellum. So we did a lot of work sort of pointing out how this played out in these late developing systems. And so that, you know, it was another idea, but it emerged from, you know, basic understanding of the [00:48:00] implications of the postnatal maturation of the hippocampus. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Yeah, it's, uh, it's really fascinating, but you have to leave. 

Lynn Nadel: I do. Yeah. Now, unfortunately, I have to leave. Well, look, if you think of another few questions, we can, I'm going back to Tucson next week after. I'm going to be in Berlin next week, actually, to give a talk there, 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Oh, really? 

Lynn Nadel: the, at the Charité and then, then I'll spend a few days in Berlin and then we're back to Tucson and, uh, you know, back to normal life or something like that, you know, so if you have other questions, who knows? But I hope this was useful. I 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: Well, 

Lynn Nadel: filled in some of the gaps. 

Benjamin James Kuper-Smith: I think it definitely was. Thank you very much. 

Lynn Nadel: All right, Ben. Good luck.

Who was A. Black?
How was The Hippocampus as a Cognitive Map received?
Lynn's wandering years
At the University of Arizona
How to foster collaboration
Being a head of department
The Hippocampal History project
Lynn's developmental work