Dr. Karl Pribram
OVERVIEW
By wedding his knowledge and skills as a neurosurgeon to the methods and concerns of psychology early in his career, Karl Pribram set a model for the field that has since become known as neuropsychology. While he is more popularly known for theories like the holographic model of memory, he still spends most of his time on laboratory research, where his abilities as a surgeon have been essential. By making precise incisions in the brains of laboratory animals and then observing any, changes or deficits in their behavior, he and his colleagues have been able to fill in some of the terra incognita, in our map of the links between brain and behavior.
Pribram, who has on more than one occasion in his career challenged the established wisdom, was something of a rebel in his youth. As a boy in Chicago, he was expelled from a dozen or so grammar schools, sometimes for fights with kids who called him a German, which he considered an affront to his Czech ancestry (his family had emigrated to the U.S. from Austria when Karl was eight}. In Catholic schools, he got into trouble for challenging the nuns to prove there was a God.
 
Despite his rebelliousness, he soon achieved dramatic success, beginning with his years at the University of Chicago, where he finished both a B.S. and an M.D. in five years flat. After a residency in neurosurgery, he joined brain scientist Karl Lashley at the Yerkes Laboratory of primate Biology near Jacksonville, Florida. Pribram became the neurosurgeon on Lashley's research team, and helped write up 30 years of Lashley's monumental studies on the elusive memory trace.

Working as a young neurosurgeon in Jacksonville, Pribram was given a ward of lobotomy patients to oversee. Though lobotomies were a common procedure in psychiatry in the 1940s and early 1950s, none were done while he was running the ward. Pribram felt that there was not enough solid knowledge of brain function to justify the widespread use of lobotomies.

His dissatisfaction led him to careful experiments on laboratory animals. One of his key findings was that the frontal lobes were tied to the limbic system, especially the amygdala. In a classic series of experiments, he showed that monkeys who had the frontal lobes or amygdala removed could still be assertive under certain circumstances.

Pribram directed Yerkes Labs briefly after Lashley’s retirement, and then went to Yale in 1948, where, during his 10 year stay, he did pioneering research on the limbic system. The limbic system, a string of brain centers that includes the hippocampus and the amygdala, was then thought of as an olfactory brain, mainly involved in the sense of smell. Pribram was first to show that the system was far more complex in its role, and that visceral as well as olfactory information was processed by these structures. (He is only now pulling together 30 years of papers that will be published in three volumes under the title of The Primate Forebrain.).

In 1960, Pribram once again challenged the prevailing wisdom in a book that he wrote with George A. Miller and Eugene Galanter called Plans and the Structure of Behavior. Until then, both Miller and Pribram had been staunch behaviorists. But in Plans, they declared that the assumptions about brain and behavior that were the underpinnings of the behaviorist school were mistaken: Pribram's contribution was the notion that brain cells did not work as a simple reflex arc, but, rather, were part of an elegant feedback circuit. It was no longer enough to talk about the brain as, "an empty black box" between stimulus and response. Declaring themselves "subjective" behaviorists, the three authors gave impetus to the cognitive movement, now one of the dominant fields in psychology.

One way of mapping fashions in an academic field is through the authors cited in journal articles. When I mentioned that to Pribram, he agreed, laughing: "That's right. My older work is widely cited, but my newer work seems to be off the map!" If some fellow neuropsychologists have shied away from Pribram's current interests, new allies have emerged in other sciences aid the hinges of the consciousness explosion. He is collaborating with physicist David Bohm, a professor at London University who once worked with Albert Einstein and who is also close to philosopher mystic J. Krishnamurti.

Pribram thinks of himself as an innovator rather than a renegade. He to accustomed to the resistance of colleagues, who have usually come around to his way of thinking in the past. Only time will tell whether he has gone too far with his speculations on holographic theory, but Pribram's past record suggests we are in for a lively debate.


Does the hologram, a three dimensional image re created from the patterns of laser light, provide the long sought model of how information is distributed and stored in the brain? Karl Pribram, the Stanford neuropsychologist, argues that it does, and his theory may have staggering implications for our perception of reality.




Karl Pribram interviewed by Daniel Goleman

On one of the bolder frontiers of science, there is a curious alliance forming among neuropsychologists, quantum physicists, and mystics. A leading theorist in the movement is Karl Pribram, a 59 year old neurosurgeon psychologist whose research on the brain at Stanford University sometimes makes him as comfortable with the thinking of mystics as with the concepts of behaviorists, among whom he once counted himself.

Pribram proposes nothing less than a new scientific paradigm for studying mental processes, a hypothesis that could explain some of the classical paradoxes of brain function as well as some paranormal and transcendental experiences. The Stanford scientist believes the brain operates according to the same mathematical principles as a hologram. Brain researchers seem to agree that memory is a result of biochemical changes in the brain and is stored in individual cells to be recalled when electrochemically activated. What Pribram's theory purports to explain is why traces of the same memory have been proven to exist in more than one area or part of the brain, or how memory comes to be distributed through the brain.

He argues that the process is the same as the mathematical transformation that occurs when a three-dimensional image is projected into space in holography. Initially, the notion of a neural hologram was only a metaphor. But now, Pribram believes there is sufficient laboratory evidence to demonstrate a physiological basis for the model.

Some brain researchers, among them Nobel Prize winner Sir John Eccles, have disagreed with Pribram’s holographic theory on technical points. Others object to some of his wide-ranging speculations about its relations to our perception of reality.

Neuropsychologist Frank Wood of the Bowman Gray School of Medicine in Winston Salem, North Carolina, calls Pribram's model "a modem science echo" of Aristotle's theory that ideal forms dominate mental life at all levels, from the biological to the social. Wood sees it as offering "potentially penetrating insights into the basic nature of brain function."

But Wood feels the hypothesis has its limitations, "such as the fact that there are precious few experimental findings for which holography is the necessary, or even preferable, explanation. Indeed, some aspects of the neuropsychology of memory . . . may not fit the holography analogy at all." Moreover, Wood observes, "many brain researchers would have reservations about Pribram's application of holography to explain phenomena like the paranormal."

But Pribram's brilliant research career has surely earned him the right to speculate. He has played a large personal role in putting neuropsychology on the scientific map; many of those currently making significant contributions to the field arc his former students or research partners.

To explore Pribram's theory, and his speculations on it, PT associate editor Daniel Goleman visited Pribram in his Stanford laboratory. This is how their talk went:

Daniel Goleman: History tells us that, with every paradigm shift in science, a new frontier of legitimate investigation opens. And from that new frontier come answers to questions the old paradigm did not allow to be asked. It seems to me you're posing questions that have not been allowed before a precarious position.

Karl Pribram: Let me tell you how I got into the holographic story. First, though, I want to make it clear that this is a development of theory and is fairly independent of the day today laboratory research program that engages me. The theory is largely based on the research of others. Nonetheless, because I am actively doing brain research, I have had the opportunity of at least checking for myself the essential results on which it is based.

Back in the 1950s, people dealing with the brain and those dealing with mental processes weren't together. Psychologists, who were supposed to be dealing with mental processes, by and large at that time thought “mind" was a dirty word; they were dealing with behavior. People who studied the brain were in neurophysiology. I wondered why people who were interested in behavior weren't also interested in brain function. The answer always was that we simply didn't know enough about the brain- a fair evaluation of the state of the art.

For one thing, brain science was plagued by some classic, unsolved mysteries. One was the puzzle of memory loss. More exactly, why was that any given discrete memory would not be lost after brain injury? If a person has a stroke, and half his in is destroyed, he doesn't come home and recognize only half his family. It doesn't work that way. Either memory is destroyed completely or nothing is lost. There's no correspondence between how much tissue is damaged and how much memory is lost.

Experiments had been done showing that just 2 percent of the fibers in a particular system would retain that system's functions. There's an amazing amount of redundancy in the brain. Imagine if 98 percent of your kidneys were gone, but the other 2 percent worked so well you couldn't d anything wrong at all. The brains spare reserve for memory is fantastic. And we couldn't explain it.

Thus, for over half a century, physiologists have searched for an “engram”—a change in brain cells that marks a memory trace. They've never found one. Memory seems to be distributed throughout the brain, located in no particular part.

Goleman: What are the other classic puzzles of brain science?

Pribram: One, there's the constancy problem, the question of how we can recognize an object regardless of distance or the perspective from which it is viewed. No matter where you sit in this room I can recognize you as Dan Goleman. You can sit far away or very near, and I don't look at you and think that your head has become swollen or shrunk. Your head looks a reasonable size no matter where you are. Yet the question raised is: how does a hard wired brain, in which connections between parts are fixed, allow perceptual flexibility?

Then there's a similar puzzle in the motor system, in which skills can be transferred from one limb to another...I'm right handed, but if I try, I can write with my left hand. Or even by holding a pencil in my teeth. Next time you are at the beach, try to write in the sand with your left big toe. The puzzle is that the part of the brain that controls the left hand, or the teeth, or the big toe has never written anything before. How does that particular group of brain cells process information about writing?

Something has happened that takes memory of my learning how to write and distributes it to places in the brain where it's never been called on before. There was, until .recently, no good explanation for the brain's ability to do that.

Goleman: Where have puzzles like that led you?

Pribram: Ideas started to come together in the mid 60s. A major factor was the invention of the hologram. A hologram produces a three dimensional image from a photographic film on which the interference pattern of light waves reflected from an object or scene has been recorded. When the film is illuminated, an image of the object is produced.

Goleman: What does any of this have to do with the brain?

Pribram: Sir John Eccles mentioned in an article several years ago that "synaptic potentials" -the electrical exchanges between brain cells -don't occur alone. Every nerve branches, and when the electrical message goes down the branches a ripple, or a wave front is formed. When other wave fronts come to the same, location from other directions, the wave fronts intersect and set up an interference pattern. It's somewhat like the meeting of ripples that form around two pebbles thrown into a pond.

It seemed plausible to me that if there are interfering wave fronts in the brain, those fronts might have the same properties as a hologram. Both holograms and brain tissue can be cut up without removing their image-processing capabilities. Holograms are resistant to damage- like memory in the brain. The persistent puzzle of a distributed memory might be solved. The brain had to behave, in part, like a hologram.

Goleman: The puzzle couldn't be solved without the hologram.

Pribram: Right. We'd been searching for some organizational principle that would allow for the basic facts of perceptual constancy, transfer of learning, and the elusiveness of memory in the brain. Suddenly, this principle was presented to us in the hologram.

Goleman: So that was the single organizing principle that allowed for some understanding of all those things you already knew to be both true and puzzling about the brain.

Pribram: Yes. Best of all, we didn't have to conjure up a mechanism in the brain; the hologram was there all the time in the wave front nature of brain cell connectivity. We simply hadn't had the wit to realize it. Even Eccles, who pointed to the wave phenomenon in the first place, has more recently gone back to emphasizing the nerve impulse aspects of brain functioning.

Goleman: But this is all theory. Do you have any data to back it up?

Pribram: Once we saw where to look, it became clear that one test that could be readily made was whether the behavior of single cells in, for instance, the visual system, would obey the mathematical laws that comprise a hologram. The physical hologram stores the interference patterns of light reflected from objects. The question became, therefore, whether there are cells in the brain that respond to the interference patterns of sensory input. In short, do they act as frequency analyzers -that is, do the cells resonate to different frequencies?

Goleman: Which is to say, that when the environment presents a certain frequency, a specific group of cells in the brain resonates to that frequency and not to others?

Pribram: Right. A century ago, Georg Simon Ohm suggested that brain cells in the auditory system act as frequency analyzers for sounds. Ohm is also responsible for Ohm's Law in electricity, which relates to voltage, amperage, and resistance. Hermann. von Helmholtz followed up Ohms suggestions and, for many years, the auditory system was considered to be something like a piano keyboard. Then Georg von Bekesy showed that the cochlea of the inner ear operated more along the lines of a string than a keyboard. He also showed that not only the ear, but the skin as well acts like a string: it is sensitive to vibrations and their frequencies in such away that, for example, fine tuning forks vibrating on the forearm are perceived as a simple point of vibration when their phases of vibration are properly adjusted.

In our laboratory, we showed that only a single response is produced in the brain cortex under those conditions. A further inference than can now be readily tested quantitatively is that the brain cells respond in terms of this interaction of the response and the frequencies of the tuning forks.

Goleman: How so? What are the mathematics involved?

Pribram: It's called a Fourier analysis, and is a form of calculus that transforms a complex pattern into its component sine waves. Helmholtz showed that this kind of analysis could explain the functioning of the auditory system. Then an entirely different line of research, done in Russia by N. Bernstein in the 1930s, showed that the same type of analysis fit the motor system. We didn't hear of that work until the 1960s, because Bernstein's book, The Coordination and Regulation o/ Movements [Pergamon Press), wasn't translated until 1967.

Goleman: What did Bernstein do?

Pribram: It was really fascinating. He dressed people in black leotards and took movies of them against black backgrounds. Black on black. Except that he painted white dots on their joints -elbows, knees, and so on. Then he had them do things like hammer nails, or jump up and down on platforms that were on springs. Of course, all that his movies showed were white dots moving up and down along the film, creating wave forms.

He did a frequency analysis at the wave forms. The mathematics he used were Fourier's. With that analysis, he was able to predict within a few millimeters where the next step in the sequence would fall.

Now, I read Bernstein's work and saw that he was using the same mathematics for motor activity that Ohm had used to describe the auditory system. And that was the same mathematical principle that Gabor had used to invent the hologram. So I thought, "If Bernstein can do a Fourier analysis on these movements, why can't his brain do it? And if his brain can do it, mine can, too, and perhaps this is the way everyone’s brain analyzes movements into their "frequency components.”

Goleman: So you have the same organizing principle in the auditory, somatosensory, and the somatomotor systems.

Pribram: That left the visual system. In 1968 or so, I got a note from Fergus Campbell at Cambridge University. His group had just shown that the visual system also worked as a frequency analyzer for patterns.
The significance of his discovery has still not filtered down to textbooks, which consider cells in the visual system as "feature detectors," cells that are selective of highly specific features, such as lines and comers. A classic study had shown that cells in a frog's visual system fired only in response to buglike movements. From such studies, it was concluded that all of the brain's involvement in perception was due to the fact that particular cells detected particular features. That turns out to be only a partial truth.

It's not that cells in the visual system are detecting only a certain line. What they respond to is the patterns of shadow and light. Everywhere one looks there are light and dark areas. It is these areas the eyes take in and transmit to the visual cortex. The light to dark alternations are measured in terms of spatial frequency whereas the auditory signal is measured in terms of temporal frequency. Cells in the visual cortex are frequency analyzers; they fire in response to a particular spatial frequency. With visual patterns, the alternations are rather complex, but the Fourier theorem says that no matter how complicated a wave form is, you can break it down into its component sine waves. Seven or at the most 12 of these turn out to describe even a fairly complex pattern rather well.

Russell DeValois at Berkeley has recently performed a critical experiment. He mathematically converted a plaid pattern into the Fourier domain by computer and then recorded how the cells in the visual cortex re sponded to the same plaid. David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel at Harvard Medical School had shown in the late 1950s that those cells are selective of certain spatial patterns. DeValois pointed out that the plaid pattern and its Fourier transform are different.

What he found was that the cells were selective for the Fourier transform of the plaid, not for the pattern of the original plaid itself.

By now, evidence from a half dozen laboratories from Leningrad and Cambridge to Harvard and Berkeley, and our own laboratories at Stanford, supports the conception that this is how the visual system does, in fact, work. But the issue continues to be controversial because it is intuitively simple to think visual pattern's are composed of features, as in Euclid's geometry, while it is counterintuitive and difficult to grasp that visual patterns might be decomposed into their sine wave components.

Goleman: So the visual system analyzes a pattern into its component frequencies. Then, instead of a localized engram that might make up a specific memory, visual memory is composed of wave forms and organized like the hologram. So that the memory becomes activated when the right set of wave forms is transmitted from the eye.

Pribram: Precisely.

Goleman: Then, when a familiar room floods us with memories, it's because the patterns of shadow- light shadow that it evokes trigger a set of stored holograms. What we call 'situational cues "for memory are no other than a set of wave forms that can activate the appropriate hologram.

Pribram: It also explains how imitative learning can happen.

Goleman: Imitative learning? When a child learns to march by watching a parade, or a novice at tennis learns how to serve by watching a pro?

Pribram: Yes. Imagine what it would be like to learn a tennis serve if you had to extract every feature of what you were copying, and to describe every move to yourself, feature by feature. You never think about doing it that way -you just watch how it's done, then go ahead and try it yourself. You'd never be able to imitate the subtleties of the serve piece by piece. But if the whole configuration is transmitted and analyzed by virtue of its component wave forms -if the brain does a Fourier transform and activates the appropriate holographic motor pattern -then the entire movement can be readily imitated.

Goleman: So what happens is that the brain resonates with a set of wave forms encoded in the movement; the brain then activates similar wave forms to execute the tennis serve.

Pribram: In a sense, we thus resonate to vibrations -the counterculture had it right: we actually can resonate to each other's "vibes."
Goleman: It reminds me of the master hypnotist, Milton Erickson who has the ability to tune into everything about the other person -body posture, tome of voice, breath rate, facial expression -and imitate it perfectly.
He does it to establish a deep rapport with the patient that leads easily to a trance state. Erickson's genius seems to be in doing this a step deeper than most of us do normally when we are with another person.

The holographic model seems to say that when two people are in synchrony this way, their brains arc picking up and implementing the same holographic wave forms.

Pribram: Exactly. The brain can instantly resonate to and thus "recognize" wave forms. Once "recognized," the inverse transform allows
them to be implemented in behavior.

We apparently need to get on the same wavelength -literally -before we can understand each other. Perhaps this accounts for the fact that a behaviorist may operate in one particular mode composed of different combinations of frequencies from those characteristic of the humanist.

Goleman: Then when people don't "connect" in everyday life, just don't understand each other, is there some sense in which their holograms are out of phase?

Pribram: Absolutely. The hologram yields a new way of looking at consciousness that is very different from the old behaviorist and phenomenologist approaches. The behaviorist looks for cause and effect; the phenomenologist, for reasons and intentions. In holography, however, one looks for the transformations involved in moving from one domain to another.

Goleman: It sounds as though there is not a single hologram in the brain, but, rather, the capacity for a vast array of them.

Pribram: That's right. And it's an important caveat. You must understand that the brain is a very particular kind of holographic instrument. Brain physiologists have found that the receptive field of a single cell in the visual system covers at most 5 degrees of visual angle. It is within this 5 degree patch that there's a hologram. When one records electrical impulses from cells in the visual cortex, one finds that within any given 5 degrees, a cell records in the pattern predicted by the frequency domain.

Next to that is another cell with another 5 degree receptive field. Thus, the cortical surface is composed of these patches, each of which encodes in the frequency domain.

The holograms within the visual system are therefore patch holograms. The total image is composed much as it is in an insect eye that has hundreds of little lenses instead of one single big lens; the insect gets a composite image that's just as good as if there were a single lens. Or, take the audio speaker system that uses 18 small four inch drivers, or condensed speakers [as in some of the Bose systems] instead of one big 12 or 18 inch speaker. One obtains the same single "image" from either.

There's an advantage to patches, though. When one moves across the control surface from one patch to another, the encoding is slightly different, and so movement can be sensed. The multilensed insect eye is far more sensitive to slight movements. Patch holograms are a much more powerful way of encoding than a simple hologram.

Goleman: But if my visual system is a patchwork composite of all these 5 degree spans, why don't I experience a room as a visual patchwork?

Pribram: In each patch, the activity of the cells creates a wave front; I believe that the interaction of these wave fronts is what you experience. You get the total pattern all woven together as a unified piece by the time you experience it.

One of the elegant things about the holographic domain is that memory storage is fantastically great. Storage is also simpler, because all that is needed is to store a few rules rather than vast amounts of detail. Another advantage is that correlations are done incredibly rapidly. In a computer, the fastest way to analyze data is to transform them to the Fourier domain and do cross correlations; the computer is simulating what neural holograms do is the brain.

Goleman: Then the hologram would seem to be an efficient mode for decision making. It would allow a person to interact spontaneously with a very complex environment.

Pribram: Extremely efficient. Decisions fall out as the holographic correlations are performed. One doesn't have to think things through one-two three four -a step at a time. One takes the whole constellation of a situation, correlates it, and out of that correlation emerges the correct response. And one can execute numerous correlations simultaneously.

Goleman: This seems to me to explain how it is that we can take in so much information from our surroundings but consciously attend to very little of it. We somehow immediately isolate the critical aspects of a situation from moment to moment and deal with them all at once.

Pribram: As I look around the room, the amount of information I'm processing is fantastic! My brain can do this only if one stage of information processing is in the frequency domain, like a hologram. In such instances, it is probably best not to speak of information processing, but of image processing. The term "information" suggests that the sensory input has become divided into sections, alternative events, whereas image processing implies a more holistic mechanism is at work.

Speaking of holistic images brines me to another point. When I was teaching at Harvard, B. F. Skinner once confronted me with a challenge. He and other behaviorists would talk about what went on inside the head in terms of a "black box." They insisted on dealing only with behavior that could be directly observed; the brain was a mystery they chose to ignore. Skinner asked me what I thought of Wolfgang Kohler's theory of isomorphism: the idea that there was a one to one correspondence between the form (morphology) of the world around us and the form in the brain representing that world.

Kohler's isomorphism was literal: if, one were observing a square, Kohler would expect to find electrical activity in the form of a square in the brain. Skinner asked whether I would like to imagine mowing a lawn. What might be going on in my brain if isomorphism were correct? I had to reply that I had no good answer to his question; in that case, he said, he would go on treating the behavior of organisms in terms of the black box approach. But now that I can think of the brain as a hologram, which is just the patterning of wave forms, I am in a much better position to answer Skinner. However, it also entails the view that the world around us is isomorphic to the brain, i.e., that the world is, in part, made up of the patterning of wave forms.

Goleman: The wave forms "out there" are isomorphic to the wave forms in the brain.

Pribram: Yes! One aspect of the universe is that it is composed of wave forms.

Goleman: But we perceive the world as images and objects.

Pribram: We make images of objects, but at another level of analysis, quantum physics tells us that the universe is composed of wave forms that interact to form particles or vice versa.

Goleman: Then we cannot directly apprehend the world as it actually is, but only as the filters in our brains make it seem?

Pribram: No, that's not quite right. The world we directly apprehend is one reality. Another, perhaps a more encompassing reality, is the one the physicists have become aware of in the past half century.

The scientist who's putting the most thought into this problem is David Bohm of London University. He's a theoretical physicist who has come at the problem from a totally different direction, but is coming out in the same place that I am from my work with the brain. That is, the physical universe and our brains have in common an order of reality that is similar in organization to holograms.

Bohm pointed out that ever since the telescope and the microscope were invented, we've been looking at
the micro and macrouniverse through lenses. And, what's more, deriving our conceptual models, our concepts of physics and biology in the same way.

Goleman: Does this mean that our models of the physical universe are limited in some fashion, in the same way that the properties of lenses limit what the viewer sees through them.? What's limiting about a lens?

Pribram: A lens objectifies. Scientists are always trying to be objective, to work with objects and particles and things. But in quantum physics, particles don't act only like objects, they also behave as if they were wave forms. David Bohm has been suggesting that these wave forms may compose hologram like organizations he calls the "implicate order." That is a very different way of looking at the universe from the lens defined world view, different from the "objective" approach, which Bohm refers to as the "explicate order." If psychology is to understand the conditions that produce the world of appearances, it must hook to the thinking of physicists like Bohm.

Goleman: Does Bohm have any support among other physicists?

Pribram: He's in very good company. Some of the others who have grappled with the same problems include Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Eugene Wigner and, of course, Albert Einstein. Bohm had worked with Einstein, who was searching for a unified field theory. Einstein didn't like the probabilistic, statistical view that, at bottom, the physical universe is composed of essentially, haphazard movements of minute objects, particles such as electrons, photons, and quarks. As Einstein once put it, he did not believe God played dice with the universe. Bohm is offering an alternative conceptual resolution of the particle wave dilemma by suggesting that behind haphazard appearance lies a domain of constraints that, when uncovered, will provide a consistent, nonstatistical basis for the apparently haphazard comings and goings of individual particles.

Goleman: But the universe we see and understand is the explicate order. You've said tour brains can analyze holographically, which should be within the implicate order. Why, then, is our reality one of objects rather than wave forms?

Pribram: Because our sesnes are all lens systems of one sort or another.. The lens of the eye is more highly developed than that of the cochlea in the ear or that of the sensors in the skin. But those sensory surfaces all act, as shown by Bekesy’s work, as primitive forms of lenses.

Goleman: Then, we create an object world because of the way our senses and brain are organized, not because of the way the world is organized per se.

Pribram: Don't misunderstand. The world of appearances is certainly a real world. But it is not the only order of reality. Both physics and biology tell us that. We directly perceive only one order. Yet we know from other sources that the world is round. The fact that in the world of appearances it seems flat doesn't contradict the other reality, its roundness.

Goleman: In the range at which I have too deal with the world, it is irrelevant that it is round.

Pribram: Exactly. The same holds for holographic reality. It isn't that the world of appearances is wrong; it isn't that there aren't objects out there, at one level of reality. It's that if you penetrate through and look at the universe with a nonlens system, in this case a holographic system, you arrive at a different view, a different reality. And that otther reality can explain things that have hitherto remained inexplicable scientifically.

Goleman: Such as...

Pribram: Such as paranormal phenomena. Synchronicities, the apparently meaningful coincidence of events. As a way of hooking at consciousness, holographic theory is much closer to mystical and Eastern philosophy. It will take a while for people, to became comfortable with an order of reality other than the world of appearances. But it seems to me that some of the mystical experiences people have described for millennia begin to make some scientific sense. They bespeak the possibility of tapping into that order of reality that is behind the world of appearances. I have no personal experience with that, but when I read some descriptions of mystical experiences, I wonder if somehow those people haven't hit upon a mechanism that lets them tap into the implicate order.

Goleman: What might such a mechanism be?

Pribram: My best hunch is that access to those other domains of consciousness is through attention.

Goleman: That makes sense. Many classical spiritual methods deal with retraining attention, mainly through meditation. Eastern religious literature is rife with accounts of the paranormal and transcendental states people have reached through these methods, ranging from simple precognition through knowledge of another's thoughts to a leap into transcendental oneness.

But, mysticism aside, most of us have experienced what Jung called "synchronicity," where two or more events happen that suggest an uncanny connectedness. For example, you get a letter from a friend the day you start to write one yourself, yet you've booth been outt of touch for years. Unless you discount it as just haphazard coincidence, there's no explanation for synchronicity.

Pribram: In terms of holographic theory, all those events are plausible if the brain can somehow abrogate its ordinary constraints and gain access to the implicate order.

Goleman: If the key to the implicate order is attention, what part of the brain turns the key?

Pribram: We have some likely candidates. There's the frontal lobe-limbic connection--which ties structures in the depths pf the brain to the cortex at the top. We know it is a major regulator of attention.

Goleman: You suggest that there is a particular mechanism in the brain that probes the doorway to the implicate order, and that, once entered, that order allows a range of experiences that defy our assumptions of what is possible for consciousness. The implications are staggering. The hologram and Fourier frequency domain have the makings of good science fiction.

Pribram: It is mind boggling. The frequency domain deals with the density of occurrences only; time and space are collapsed. Ordinary boundaries of space and time, such as locations of any sort, disappear. They are read out, or re created, when transformations into the domain of objects and images occur. In the absence of space time coordinates, the causality upon which most scientific explanations depend is also suspended.

Goleman: Density of occurrences. But isn't density a quality of space?

Pribram: Fine, if there is space! You see, we don't know how to talk in anything but space time coordinates. But when I do a frequency analysis of an EEG, neither of my coordinates displays time or space. One axis deals with the spectrum, the other with power, or the amount of activity in its density at each node in the spectrum.

Goleman: So it's possible to translate time space phenomena into other domains in which the organizing principles are not interims of time or space, repackaging information in a new way.

Pribram: Yes. In the frequency domain, time and space become collapsed. In a sense, everything is happening all at once, synchronously. But one can read out what is happening into a variety of coordinates of which
space and time are the most helpful in bringing us into the ordinary domain of appearances.

Goleman: Is there any way an ordinary person’s brain can jump into such a timeless and spaceless domain??

Pribram: It does it all the time. I've been talking to you for two hours, and I didn’t have any of the material we discussed organized in time or space. It was holographically organized, and I've been reading it out of my brain. Like printout from a computer memory. My memory is organized along other dimensions than time and space -though space and time tags may be attached to particular memories.

Goleman: Even so, the paranormal demands much more than our ordinary access to the implicate order.

Pribram: While we don't know what the mechanisms for a leap to the paranormal might be, for the first time, we have to suspend clue disbelief in such phenomena because there is now a scientific base that allows understanding. Perhaps if we could discover the rules for "tuning in" on the holographic implicate domain, we could come to some agreement as to what constitutes normal and paranormal, and even some deeper understanding of the implicate order of the universe.

We all could perhaps then leap, occasionally, into the timeless and spaceless domain.

Goleman: In some metaphysical systems, that domain corresponds to the definition of God.

Pribram: That's right. Leibnitz talked about "monads," and a windowless, indivisible entity that is the basic unit of the universe and a microcosm of it. God, said Leibnitz, was a monad. Leibnitz was the inventor of the calculus, the same mathematics that Gabor used to invent the hologram. I would change one word in the monadology. Instead of calling it windowless, I prefer to call monads lensless. In a monadic organization, the part contains the whole—as in a hologram. "Man was made in the image of God." Spiritual insights fit the descriptions of this domain. They're made perfectly plausible by the invention of the hologram.


After the laser's original beam is split, one part is deflected toward the film plate and the other is bounced off the object. When the beams reconverge, they form a light interference pattern that is recorded.
The image is reconstructed when a second beam is reflected off the plates and diffused in the same pattern.

If you drop two pebbles into a pond, concentric circles, or waves, radiate out from each. When the two sets of waves run into each other, they form in interference pattern. Where the crests of waves meet, they make a wave that is twice as high; if a wave meets a trough, the two will cancel each other out to form a flat patch; if two troughs meet, they will make a deeper trough.

Light waves produce the same complex mix of interference patterns when they intersect. Like the pebble's in the pond, a laser -the purest form of light available -sends out a beam of light waves in one frequency. When two laser beams meet, they produce an interference pattern of light and dark. If one of the beams is reflected off an object, such as a face, and then strikes a photographic plate, the plate will record the interference pattern, thus storing an image of the face.

In an ordinary light, the plate looks a uniform silvery gray. But when the right frequency of light from a projector strikes the plate, the original interference pattern is set up, creating a holographic image. We see a replica of the face, projected away from the plate that appears three-dimensional in that the viewer can see different sides of it as he changes position.

According to Karl Pribram, the hologram provides us with the long sought model of how sensory input is distributed in the brain, then stored as memory, and later reconstructed.