This is an old interview conducted by Jeffrey Mishlove of his series Thinking Allowed. My girlfriend studied with Karl Pribram a few years back, which must have been quite the amazing experience.
Read the whole interview - Pribram is an interesting and brilliant man.THE HOLOGRAPHIC BRAIN
With KARL PRIBRAM, Ph.D.THINKING ALLOWED Conversations On The Leading Edge Of Knowledge and Discovery
With Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove
JEFFREY MISHLOVE, Ph.D.: Hello and welcome. Our topic today is the mind-brain relationship, and my guest is Dr. Karl Pribram, professor of neuropsychology at Stanford University, in the Department of Psychology and in the medical school. Dr. Pribram is the author of Languages of the Brain and hundreds of articles about the mind-brain relationship. In fact I would say fairly that Dr. Pribram is probably one of the most influential scholars alive today in probing the mysteries of the mind-brain relationship.
MISHLOVE: It's a pleasure to have you here. You know, many academic psychologists -- and perhaps you have some sympathy for this point of view -- over the years have taken a perspective which laymen tend to laugh at, at times. They claim that the mind doesn't exist. I wonder if you can explain that perspective -- talk about what we mean, or what you mean, by the mind.
PRIBRAM: Well, I don't like the term the mind, because it reifies -- that means it makes a thing of -- something that's a process. We pay attention, we see, we hear. Those are all mental processes, mental activities. But there isn't a thing called the mind. There might be something you want to call yourself, but the mind sort of makes something concrete out of something that's very multifaceted.
MISHLOVE: Yet somehow when I'm aware of myself being aware, I think, "Well, that's my mind that does that."
PRIBRAM: That does that; that your mind does it. I'd have to think about that.
MISHLOVE: You're very well known in psychology and in neuropsychology as the developer of the holographic or holonomic model of the brain. Can you talk about that a little bit, and how it relates to the mind -- or rather, to the mind-body process? I have to be on my toes with you today.
PRIBRAM: Yes. The holonomic brain theory is based on some insights that Dennis Gabor had. He was the inventor of the hologram, and he obtained the Nobel Prize for his many contributions. He was a mathematician, and what he was trying to do was develop a better way of making electron micrographs, improve the resolution of the micrographs. And so for electron microscopy he suggested that instead of making a photograph -- essentially, with electron microscopes we make photographs using electrons instead of photons. He thought maybe instead of making ordinary photographs, that what he would do is get the interference patterns. Now what is an interference pattern? When light strikes, or when electrons strike any object, they scatter. But the scatter is a funny kind of scatter. It's a very well regulated scatter. For instance, if you defocus the lens on a camera so that you don't get the image falling on the image plane and you have a blur, that blur essentially is a hologram, because all you have to do is refocus it.
MISHLOVE: Contained in the blur is the actual image.
PRIBRAM: That's right. But you don't see it as such. So one of the main principles of holonomic brain theory, which gets us into quantum mechanics also, is that there is a relationship here between what we ordinarily experience, and some other process or some other order, which David Bohm calls the implicate, or enfolded, order, in which things are all distributed or spread -- in fact the mathematical formulations are often called spread functions -- that spread this out.
MISHLOVE: Now what you're talking about here is the deep structure of the universe, in a way. Beneath the subatomic level of matter itself are these quantum wave functions, so to speak, and they form interference patterns. Would I be wrong in saying it would be like dropping two stones in a pond, the way the ripples overlap? Is that like an interference pattern?
PRIBRAM: That's certainly the way interference patterns work, yes.
MISHLOVE: And you're suggesting that at that very deep level of reality, something is operating in the brain itself.
PRIBRAM: Well, no. In a way, that's possible, but that's not where the situation is at the moment. All we know is that the mathematical descriptions that we make of, let's say, single-cell processes, and the branches from the single cells, and how they interact with each other -- not only anatomically, but actually functional interactions -- that when we map those, we get a description that is very similar to the description of quantum events.
MISHLOVE: When you take into account that there are billions of these single cells operating in the brain.
PRIBRAM: That's right. And the connections between them, so there are even more; there are trillions of connections between them. They operate on the basic principles that have been found to also operate at the quantum level. Actually, it was the other way around. The mathematics that Gabor used, he borrowed from Heisenberg and Hilbert. Hilbert developed them first in mathematics, and then Heisenberg used them in quantum mechanics, and Gabor used them in psychophysics, and we've used it in modeling how brain networks work.
MISHLOVE: So in other words, in the brain,when we look at the electrical impulses traveling through the neurons, and the patterns as these billions of neurons interact, you would say that that is analogous, I suppose, or isomorphic to the processes that are going on at the deeper quantum level.
PRIBRAM: Yes. But we don't know that it's a deeper quantum level in the brain.
MISHLOVE: That may or may not be the case.
PRIBRAM: Analogous isn't quite the right word; they obey the same rules. It's not just an analogy, because the work that described these came independently. An analogy would be that you take the quantum ideas, and see how they fit to the data we have on the brain. That's not the way it happened. We got the brain data first, and then we see, look, it fits the same mathematics. So the people who were gathering these data, including myself, weren't out to look for an analogous process. I think it's a very important point, because otherwise you could be biased, and there are lots of different models that fit how the brain works. But this is more based on how the brain was found to work, independent of these conceptions.