Holonomic brain theory

The holonomic brain theory, originated by psychologist Karl Pribram and initially developed in collaboration with physicist David Bohm, is a model for human cognition that is drastically different from conventionally accepted ideas: Pribram and Bohm posit a model of cognitive function as being guided by a matrix of neurological wave interference patterns situated temporally between holographic Gestalt perception and discrete, affective, quantum vectors derived from reward anticipation potentials.

Pribram was originally struck by the similarity of the hologram idea and Bohm's idea of the implicate order in physics, and contacted him for collaboration. In particular, the fact that information about an image point is distributed throughout the hologram, such that each piece of the hologram contains some information about the entire image, seemed suggestive to Pribram about how the brain could encode memories.[1] Pribram was encouraged in this line of speculation by the fact that DeValois and DeValois[2] had found that "the spatial frequency encoding displayed by cells of the visual cortex was best described as a Fourier transform of the input pattern."[1] This holographic idea led to the coining of the term "holonomic" to describe the idea in wider contexts than just holograms.



Lens-defined model of brain function

In this model, each sense functions as a lens, refocusing wave patterns either by perceiving a specific pattern or context as swirls, or by discerning discrete grains or quantum units. David Bohm has said that if you take the lenses away, what you are left with is a hologram.

According to Pribram and Bohm, "future orientation" is the essence of cognitive function, which they have attempted to define through use of the Fourier theorem and quantum mechanical formulae. According to Pribram, the tuning of wave frequency in cells of the primary visual cortex plays a role in visual imaging, while such tuning in the auditory system has been well established for decades.[citation needed] Pribram and colleagues also assert that similar tuning occurs in the somatosensory cortex.

Pribram distinguishes between propagative nerve impulses on the one hand, and slow potentials (hyperpolarizations, steep polarizations) that are essentially static. At this temporal interface, he indicates, the wave interferences form holographic patterns.

Pribram has written, "What the data suggest is that there exists in the cortex, a multidimensional holographic-like process serving as an attractor or set point toward which muscular contractions operate to achieve a specified environmental result. The specification has to be based on prior experience (of the species or the individual) and stored in holographic-like form. Activation of the store involves patterns of muscular contractions (guided by basal gangliacerebellarbrain stem and spinal cord) whose sequential operations need only to satisfy the 'target' encoded in the image of achievement much as the patterns of sequential operations of heating and cooling must meet the setpoint of the thermostat."

Quantum dynamics of free will

According to this theory, waveforms, within the matrix of a distributed system, allow fluctuations taking place to create new patterns, according to Pribram, and the resulting dynamic potential can then organize new foci of activity oriented to the precipitation of strategic planning and exercise of free will.

In a 1998 interview,[3] Pribram addressed the understanding of cognitive potential, stating that, "(I)f you get into your potential mode, then new things can happen. But usually free will is conceived in terms of how many constraints are operating, and we have in statistics a notion of degrees of freedom. I think our will essentially is constrained, more or less. We have so many degrees of freedom, and the more degrees of freedom we have, the more we feel free, and we have freedom of choice."

These so-called "quantum minds" are still debated among scientists and philosophers, and there are actually a number of different theories—not one—that have been suggested. Notable proponents of various quantum mind theories are philosopher David Chalmers and mathematical physicist Roger Penrose. Cosmologist Max Tegmark is a notable opponent of the various quantum mind theories. Tegmark wrote the well-known paper, "Problem with Quantum Mind Theory," which demonstrates certain problems with Chalmers' and Penrose's ideas on the subject.[4]

See also


  1. a b Pribram, 1987
  2. ^ DeValois and DeValois, 1980
  3. ^ http://twm.co.nz/pribram.htm
  4. ^ Charles Seife (4 February 2000). "Cold Numbers Unmake the Quantum Mind"Science 287 (5454): 791. doi:10.1126/science.287.5454.791PMID 10691548.


  • Karen K. DeValois, Russell L. DeValois, and W.W. Yund. "Responses of Striate Cortex Cells to Grating and Checkerboard Patterns", Journal of Physiology, vol. 291, 483–505, 1979.
  • Russel L. DeValois and Karen K. DeValois, "Spatial vision", Ann. Rev. Psychol, 31, 309–41, (1980)
  • Paul Pietsch, "Shuffle Brain", Harper's, May, 1972, online
  • Paul Pietsch, Shufflebrain: The Quest for the Hologramic Mind, Houghton-Mifflin, 1981, ISBN 0-395-29480-0. 2nd edition 1996: onlineShufflebrain: The Quest of Hologramic Mind: an in-depth but non-technical look at experiments on the neural hologram
  • Karl H. Pribram, "The Implicate Brain", in B.J. Hiley and F. David Peat, (eds) Quantum Implications: Essays in Honour of David Bohm, Routledge, 1987 ISBN 0-415-06960-2
  • --- 'Holonomic Brain Theory and Motor Gestalts: Recent Experimental Results', (1997)
  • Michael Talbot, "The Holographic Universe" 1991, HarperCollins

External links

  • "Holonomic brain theory", Article in Scholarpedia by Karl Pribram, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.
  • ACSA2000.net – 'Comparison between Karl Pribram's "Holographic Brain Theory" and more conventional models of neuronal computation', Jeff Prideaux
  • NIH.gov – 'Concept-matching in the brain depends on serotonin and gamma-frequency shifts' M. B. Bayly, Medical Hypotheses Vol. 65, No. 1, pp. 149–51, 2005
  • ReutersHealth.com – 'Celebrity photos prompt memory study breakthrough: Scientists at two California universities have isolated single neurons responsible for holding the memory of an image' (June 23, 2005)
  • ToeQuest.com 'Holonomic Brain Theory: Holographic Theory offers answers for two main paradoxes, Nature of mind and Non-locality'
  • TWM.co.nz – 'The Holographic Brain: Karl Pribram, Ph.D. interview', Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove (1998)
Subpages (1): Quantum Holography