Karl Pribram

From Academic Kids

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Karl H. Pribram (born February 19, 1919 in Vienna, Austria) was trained as a neurosurgeon. A long time professor at Stanford University, he did pioneering work on the elucidation of the cerebral cortex. To the general public, he is better known for his development of the holonomic model of brain function. Pribram is now a research professor in Psychology and Cognitive Science at Georgetown University.

The holonomic model theorizes that memory/information is stored not in cells, but rather in wave interference patterns. Pribram was drawn to this conclusion by two facts: (1) there are visual cortex response functions that correspond to Gabor functions, which in turn are related to hologram image functions, and (2) drastic lesions can be made in animal brains which reduce - but do not extinguish - memories (training), as demonstrated by Karl Lashley in the 1920s. Pribram utilizes Fourier analysis, based on the Fourier Theorem, a form of calculus that transforms complex patterns into component sine waves. Pribram's theory also explains how the human brain can store so many memories in such limited space. A growing number of researchers believe his theory may be the most accurate model of reality science has yet offered.

Pribram believes the brain operates according to the same quantum mathematical principles as a hologram. David Bohm, a quantum physicist who has collaborated with Pribram, has suggested these wave forms may compose hologram-like organizations. That is a very different way of looking at the universe - from a lens defined world view - a view which is quite different from the more conventional biological psychiatry approach.

Technological advances associated with brain wave patterns, such as brain imaging and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), have emerged and become more prominent in recent years. These advances, foreshadowed by the insights of Pribram and Bohm, offer the potential for improving diagnostic objectivity and the efficacy of psychiatric interventions. Researchers have made significant advances with TMS brain implants, which focus magnetic pulses on specific brain regions, thereby altering the neurological wave patterns that Pribram describes. TMS has proved a valuable tool in the treatment of epilepsy, and shows promise for efforts to suppress certain thought processes.

It is now widely recognized that the electrical activity of neural membranes (which result from the activity of ion channel transfers) is a significant variable affecting cognition, meaning the conventional biological psychiatry model of brain function will be seriously challenged, or supplanted entirely, by a more advanced model. Pribram believes that if psychology is to understand the conditions producing the world of appearances, it must look to the thinking of physicists like Bohm.

Pribram's other contributions include a quantum approach to neurophilosophy.

When asked recently to summarize his research interests, Pribram wrote: "My interests are focused on cerebral function as it relates to psychological processes. I am especially concerned with the differences between the functions of the posterior convexity of the brain on the one hand, and its frontolimbic systems on the other. Briefly put, the convexity deals with locating us in space and time; the frontolimbic formations monitor that experience to create a narrative about our existence. The substance of my research and theorizing is to provide data and interpretations as to just how our brains organize the psychological processes that make up 'locating' and 'monitoring'."


  • Plans and the Structure of Behavior (with George Miller and Eugene Galanter) 1960
  • Languages of the Brain 1971
  • Freud's "Project" Reassessed (with Merton Gill) 1976
  • Brain and Perception 1991

Edited by Pribram

  • Biology of Memory (with Donald Broadbent) 1970
  • Rethinking Neural Networks 1993
  • Origins: Brain & Self Organization 1994
  • Scale in Conscious Experience: Is the Brain Too Important to be Left to Specialists to Study? 1995
  • Learning as Self-Organization 1996
  • Brain and Values 1997

External Links

  • ACSA2000.net (http://www.acsa2000.net/bcngroup/jponkp/) - 'Comparison between Holographic Brain Theory and conventional models of neuronal computation', Jeff Prideaux
  • KatherineNeville.com (http://www.katherineneville.com/karl_havel_prize.htm) - 'Pribram Receives Havel Prize For His Work in Neuroscience' (October 8, 1999)
  • PariCenter.com (http://www.paricenter.com/library/papers/pribram01.php) - 'Brain and Mathematics', Karl Pribram
  • ReutersHealth (http://www.reutershealth.com/archive/2005/04/06/eline/links/20050406elin019.html) - 'Sony invention beams sights, sounds into brain' (April 6, 2005)
  • SyberVision.com (http://www.sybervision.com/Golf/hologram.htm) - 'Pribram: The Magellan of Brain Science', Daniel Goleman, Psychology Today
  • IHUG.co.nz (http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~thegroundoffaith/issues/2003-10/pribram.html) - 'Like Bohm, Karl Pribram sees the holographic nature of reality' (October 2003)

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