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An Attempt to

Describe Memory as a Hologram of


Brain Waves and Oscillations

Essay
by
Ursula Ehrfeld

Ursula Ehrfeld, July 19, 2014, revised November 9, 2014

Page 1 of 34

Abstract
The holographic memory hypothesis is more than half a century old. It is as old as the optical
holography. And even Dennis Gabor, the inventor of optical holography, was involved. In physics and
technology holography has proven to be quite successful. Yet, all attempts to describe human memory
as a hologram have failed up to now. Hence, the holographic brain hypothesis is simply ignored in
neuroscience textbooks. Probably, my attempt will fail too. Nonetheless, for me it is worth to try it once
more since I am deeply convinced that the model may proof clinically useful.
People can think in metaphors only. The metaphors, which I am most familiar with, result from physics
and technology. After several years of studying there are also metaphors that I learned from
neuroscience. So I feel able and free to combine both fields.
In Wikipedia you can read, Holography is a technique which enables three-dimensional images
(holograms) to be made. That is what jumps into everybodys mind when hearing the concept. And
that is exactly what I am not interested in! For the purpose I am using the metaphor and its analogies,
holography is a technique to store and reproduce coherent wave fronts. And holograms are the
storage spaces. In physics, a hologram is essentially not more than a sophisticated record of
wavefronts in a photo emulsion, which can be used to reconstruct the wavefronts that have generated
the hologram. It is as exciting as trivial to draw analogies to the rhythms of the brain. Actually, any
input to the brain coming from the outside world can be described as waves and oscillations. Why not
store this input as biochemical hologram? No esoteric or metaphysical view required! And the other
good news is that I do not need the metaphors as used to describe quantum computing in
microtubules or somewhere else.
Input waves into the brain are supposed to induce photochemical and other chemical processes that
are obviously saved as memory traces. Accordingly, we might draw analogies between memory traces
and photo emulsion. Take the input waves from the outside world, find their coherent partners within
the brain for building holograms, look for the neuronal substrate that might act analogue to the
photographic emulsion and you have the basic elements that allow to build the hologram of the input
waves and oscillations. What else is needed to describe memory?
Holograms are supposed here to be the engrams of the inner representations, and endogenous waves
as well as ongoing, up-to-date-input waves are the media to keep them alive. How does an elephant
get into the brain? My answer is: The hologram of an elephant will be build up step by step, just by
learning.
Besides wave phenomena and optical holography, there is another pool of metaphors I have to use.
They are required to describe the coherence of the rhythms which is observed in the brain. The brain
is a nonlinear system operating far from thermodynamic equilibrium as any living system. It follows
rules as described for selforganizing, chaotic systems far from thermodynamic equilibrium. The
rhythms of the brain are manifold. There are electromagnetic, electric, electro-chemical, and chemical
waves. And chemical waves normally behave different from classical waves. Chemical waves follow
self-organizing processes. Laser waves as used in optical holography are also selforganizing
waves if we follow Hermann Haken.
A brief introduction to my metaphors from physics will be given.

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CONTENTS
Introduction and survey

Holography as a metaphor in modern physics

Holographic memory a story with a long history

Karl S. Lashley presented convincing analogies

Discussions with Dennis Gabor in the late 1960s

State of discussion today

An unexpected new motivation for me

People can think in metaphors only

10

What metaphors do I use and what are the analogies I am drawing?

10

What is holography? What is a hologram?

11

Object and reference waves in the brain

12

Object waves

12

Reference waves

12

My further storytelling a huge puzzle

13

Small vehicles have encouraged me

13

For me it seems as if

14

Internal representations

14

The memory as a storehouse of our experience and the experience of our


genetic ancestors

15

Metaphors of the physicists and the usefulness of their models

15

Waves as metaphors

15

Standing waves

16

Standing waves in resonators

16

Musical instruments generate standing waves

16

Differences between waves and oscillations

17

Oscillators transform energies, waves transport energy

17

The Laser

17

Synergetics and selforganization processes in the laser medium

18

Autowaves non-classical waves

19

How can we adapt the above considerations to the brain?

19

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Rhythms of the brain

20

Similarity with laser waves?

21

From optical holography to its analogies in the brain

21

The role of rhythms of the brain in my imagination

22

"Click" - the language of the nerve cells

22

From the "clicks" to the waves

23

What is needed for my brain to recognize a banana?

24

The elephant in my brain

25

How does the elephant get into the brain?

25

First step to build a hologram of an elephant

25

Further steps to build a hologram of an elephant

26

Genes as seed capital of knowledge

26

Feelings and emotions

27

What is consciousness?

28

How and to whom could the holographic hypothesis be useful?

28

What will be next?

29

Acknowledgment

29

References

30

Ursula Ehrfeld, July 19, 2014, revised November 9, 2014

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An Attempt to Describe Memory as a


Hologram of Brain Waves and Oscillations

All models are false,


but some models are useful.
George E. P. Box (1919-2013)

Introduction and survey


The holographic memory hypothesis is more than half a century old. Yet, all attempts to describe
human memory as a hologram have failed up to now. Probably, my attempt will fail too. Nonetheless,
for me it is worth to try it once more since I am deeply convinced, the model may proof useful.
My further storytelling is a huge puzzle. Unfortunately, I am not able to tell it as a sequence of
interconnected processes following each other with linear causality. This may make it sometime
difficult to follow, sorry. And there is a further point which might annoy you: It is my deep conviction
that people can think in metaphors only. I am repeating this like a mantra. The metaphors, which I am
most familiar with, result from physics and technology. Waves have proven to be the most useful
metaphors for physicists. There is hardly any textbook in physics where you cant find waves. And
holography a method to store and reconstruct coherent waves turned out to be a very useful
experimental tool for many applications in physics and technology. (Waves having a constant phase
difference are called coherent.) It is as exciting as trivial to draw many analogies to the rhythms of the
brain. Actually, any input to the brain coming from the outside word can be described as waves and
oscillations. Why not store this input as biochemical holograms?
Optical holograms are some kind of sophisticated photographs: they need coherent light like laser
light. Photographs are less demanding. They work with normal daylight or normal lamps. Photographs
as well as holograms are the result of photochemical processes that occur in a photo emulsion. Input
waves into the brain are inducing photochemical and other chemical processes that obviously have to
be saved as memory traces. Accordingly, we might draw subtle analogies between engrams and
photo emulsion. A hologram is not more and not less than a record of wavefronts in a photo emulsion,
which can be used to reconstruct the wavefronts that have generated the hologram. The most
comfortable, first access to optical holography is provided in Wikipedia.
Take the input waves from the outside world, find their coherent partners within the brain for building
holograms, look for the neuronal substrate that might act analogue to the photographic emulsion and
you have the basic elements that allows to build the hologram of the input waves and oscillations.
What else is needed to describe memory?
This statement immediately affects a concept which preoccupies the neuroscientists concerned with
mind and consciousness as well as the philosophers, it is the concept of internal representations. As
soon as the auto associative memory is mentioned, the question will be asked, how the model

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explains internal representation. In the dictionary vocabulary.com one finds the definition: Internal
representation is a presentation to the mind in the form of an idea or image, or furthermore, the sum
or range of what has been perceived, discovered, or learned. A usage examples refers to Hegels
Philosophy of History: External phenomena are translated in our internal representation of them. I
fully agree with these definitions. No esoteric or metaphysical view required! Holograms are the
engrams of the inner representations, and endogenous waves as well as ongoing, up-to-date-input
waves are the media to keep them alive. How does an elephant get into the brain? My answer is: The
hologram of an elephant will be build up step by step, just by learning.
Besides wave phenomena and optical holography, there is another pool of metaphors that is even
more difficult to introduce. Nonetheless, they are indispensable. The brain is a nonlinear system
operating far from thermodynamic equilibrium as any living system. It follows rules as described for
selforganizing, chaotic systems far from thermodynamic equilibrium. The rhythms of the brain are
manifold. There are electromagnetic, electric, electro-chemical, and chemical waves, and chemical
waves normally behave different from classical waves. Chemical waves follow self-organizing
processes. This does by no means exclude that the rhythms of the brain occasionally behave like
classical waves. The most famous self-organizing waves often referred to as autowaves are the
chemical waves, as know from the observations of Belousov and Zhabotinsky. A summary of
references can be found on the homepage of the Brandeis University (Publications Brandeis
Zhabotinsky). Following Herman Haken, also laser waves are self-organizing waves generated by
synergetic processes. See Haken (1983, 1995, 2008). The good news is that I do not need the
metaphors that are used to describe quantum computing in microtubules or somewhere else.
Even though I cannot tell a story of how 'things are', I can tell a story of how I see things. I can't even
explain what optical holography really is. I can only tell you what people are observing, calculating and
generating. This is why transforming these ideas into the phenomena people are observing when
exploring brain functions, requires a huge amount of personal 'abstraction'. It took me a long time to
reach this abstraction level and to figure out analogies in the brain. And this is on my mind, only with
the confidence of my imagination.

Holography as a metaphor in modern physics


Holography was invented by Dennis Gabor (1900- 1979) in 1947. In Wikipedia you can read,
Holography is a technique which enables three-dimensional images (holograms) to be made. That is
what jumps into everybodys mind when hearing the concept. And thats exactly what I am not
interested in!
I am regarding holography just as a technique to store and reproduce coherent wave fronts. (Waves
having a constant phase difference are called coherent.) When two coherent waves interfere, the
interference fringes contain the full wave information which then can be stored in the photo emulsion
(a film). The hologram does not only store the intensity (brightness) and the frequency (color) of the
light wave like a photograph, it also stores its phase. To be more precise: to store the phase is
possible only when two coherent waves are interfering. Then, their phase difference is stored.
My second remark is that holograms are no pictures, which can be seen, when illuminated with normal
light. Then they show only black and white spots or fringes. Three-dimensional images can be seen
(reproduced) only when the hologram is illuminated with one of the coherent (light-) waves called

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reference wave by which it has been produced. The wave, which has to be stored and reproduced,
is called the object wave.
Gabor invented holography when he was looking for a method to improve the resolving power of light
microscopes. He found a solution for his problem when using
coherent electron beams, with electron waves which have a definite phase. But an ordinary
photograph loses the phase completely, it records only the intensities. No wonder we lose the
phase, if there is nothing to compare with! Let us see what happens if we add a standard to it,
a coherent background.
The electron microscope was to produce the interference figure between the object beam
and the coherent background, that is to say the non-diffracted part of the illuminating beam.
This interference pattern I called a hologram. (Gabor (1971))
The concept coherent background we will need later when looking for holograms in the brain. Let us
have a look, how Dennis Gabor describes some more, main features
Light which is capable of interference is called coherent, and it is evident that in order to yield
many interference fringes, it must be very monochromatic. Coherence is conveniently
measured by the path difference between two rays of the same source, by which they can
differ while still giving observable interference contrast.
This is called the coherence length, an important quantity in the theory and practice of
holography. it is a reciprocal measure of the spectroscopic line width. (Gabor (1971))
Holography is a concept that is often used as a metaphor in modern physics. Just recently, I found a
paper published by N. Sieroka and E.W. Mielke, with the title Holography as a principle in quantum
gravity? Some historical and systematic observations, Sieroka (2014). In their short survey on the
contemporary history of holography the authors are giving many examples for the use of the term
holography, e.g., in black hole physics and (surface) information, and in the popular string theory.
The authors critically evaluates variants of the holographic principle from two perspectives: (i) their
relevance in contemporary approaches to quantum gravity and in in closely related areas; (ii) their
historical forerunners in the early twentieth century and the role played by past and present concepts
of holography in attempt to unify physics. In connection with these evaluations, the authors present a
brief and critical look at wider philosophical interpretations of the term. The authors emphasize that
there is no generally accepted definition of the term, and its significance, especially as a guiding
principle in quantum gravity, is rather uncertain. The authors although mention optical holography
referring to Dennis Gabor, and they describe it as a fascinating thing that allows us to encode or
register a (d+1)-dimensional object on a d-dimensional screen or surface.
This paper is a very helpful tool for me to demonstrate my distance to the holographic concepts related
to quantum gravity or quantum computation. I dont even need the ability of holography to reduce any
dimensions. I am using the metaphor only as a possibility to store and reproduce coherent waves in
optics as well as in the brain. This includes the search for analogies of the material engrams of the
stored waves the holograms. And it includes the ways of building up the auto-associative access to
the stored wave information.

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Holographic memory a story with a long history


When I started years ago to think about memory and consciousness, the analogies to the optical
holography suddenly emerged. The idea appeared so completely obvious and, at least to me,
seemed purely born from the phenomenology of my personal observations. There is this wild braid of
multidimensional associations of thoughts and feelings that comes to mind when we remember.
Everyone knows this. For sure, I had read about this analogy casually, somewhere, decades ago, and
saved it in my subconscious.
Probably I have hit upon this hypothesis while reading in a book written by Frederic Vester (1978). Or
my memory recalled Karl Pribrams nice manuscript, which was hidden in my bookcase, where he
justified the hologram hypothesis very impressively, Pribram (1970). Wherever I have picked up the
idea doesnt matter, since at that time, I was not able to really understand it, anyway.
Frederic Vester is giving the simplest description of the analogy between optical holography and
memory referring to experiments of K. S. Lashley (1950) and considerations of Karl Pribram (1969).
Karl S. Lashley presented convincing analogies
The most spectacular analogy supporting the holographic hypothesis used to be the observation of K.
S. Lashley that memory seemed to be more or less evenly distributed throughout the brain tissue.
Lashley trained rats to perform specific tasks (seeking a food reward), then he lesioned specific areas
of the rats cortex, either before or after the animals received the training. The cortical lesions had
specific effects on acquisition and retention of knowledge, but the location of the removed cortex had
no effect on the rats performance in the maze. This led Lashley to conclude that memories are not
localized, but that they were widely distributed throughout the cortex, K. S. Lashley (1950).
Lashleys observations remind to the properties of optical holograms. In an optical hologram the wave
information is distributed upon the glass substrate, carrying the hologram in a way that each part of the
glass carries (nearly) the whole wave information. Imagine an ordinary photo of a duplex house. If you
tear up this photo in two pieces you might do this in a way that each of the torn parts shows one half of
the duplex. This will not work with a hologram. If you tear up a hologram each tiny part will carry the
full wave information of the duplex. The image resolution is somewhat reduced so are the numbers of
perspectives from which to view the image, but the two sides of the house can be seen from each half
image.
Discussions with Dennis Gabor in the late 1960s
Even Dennis Gabor, the inventor of optical holography, was impressed by this analogy. I could not
justify who was the first to realize it, Gabor or Lashley or Pribram. Anyway, Gabor was involved in a
discussion on the subject that took place in the late 1960s. This discussion was obviously opened by
H.C. Longuet-Higgins (January 1968). Dennis Gabor responded by several papers. (D. Gabor,
February 1968, and March 1968). Ultimately, they could not really find a common view of things which
proved to be helpful for the idea.

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In 1969 the idea of a holographic brain was burdened by a major impediment, when D. J. Willshaw, O.
P. Buneman and H. C. Longuet-Higgins published the paper titled Non-Holographic Associative
Memory. There the authors stated
The features of a hologram that commend it as a model of associative memory can
be improved on by other devices.
State of the discussion today
If you search the Internet today, you will find that, at some point, the discussion in the media slipped to
the parapsychological and esoteric level. What a pity! This has been provoked by Karl Pribram (1979)
and was reinforced by several talks and interviews he gave, as well as by his article on Scholarpedia,
Pribram (2007). Obviously, this esoteric touch did not improve the acceptance by the scientific
community up to now. The most recent view given by Karl Pribram (2013) can be found in his new
book The Form Within. (Walter J. Freeman has uploaded a book review on ResearchGate, dated 22
March 2014.) Today, the holographic brain hypothesis is simply ignored in Neuroscience textbooks.
No word to be found in books authored by Eric Kandel or other great neuroscientists.
And there is another problem already touched above. The models on the brains network dynamic are
significantly influenced by neuroinformatics. And as I learned from several discussions I had with
neuroscientists working in this field, the early discussion on holographic memory, and here primarily
the paper of Willshaw et al. (1969) still justify a negative attitude. Holography has been disapproved by
Willshaw, Bunemann, and Longuet-Higgins. Their statement mentioned above could never be
smoothed out, and there are many models which are much more attractive for neuroinformatics. It is
still a challenge for computational neuroscientists to make further development efforts designedly
improve upon holography. The purpose of neuroinformatics is to show similarities between brain
networks and computers, and here holography is not very productive. A critical analysis on associative
memory relying inter alia on the review article by Longuet-Higgins et al. (1970) is given by Gnther
Palm (1980).
An unexpected new motivation for me
With my attempt to apply holography to the brain in a non-esoteric manner I felt very lonesome. Then,
it took me completely by surprise when Gyrgy Buzski drew my attention to the publications of Philip
Landfield and Olivier Thibault. There, I found an overwhelming summary of ideas on 'A
Neuroholographic Model of Memory: Theta Rhythms, Facilitation, and Calcium Channels', Landfield et
al. (2001). You will find this paper and supplementary information on Synchronous EEG-Rhythms, P.
W. Landfield, (1976) among the contributions of Olivier Thibault on ResearchGate. And I found Olivier
as a very interested, open-minded, highly engaged, and helpful partner for my retrial.

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People can think in metaphors only.

What I cannot build, I cannot understand.


RICHARD FEYNMAN
(Found once more in Antonio Damasio's Book
Self comes to mind, 2010.)

People can think in metaphors only. We must always make comparisons. And metaphors are nothing
but tools for comparisons, starting points for drawing analogies. We use metaphors to build up our
mental models and concepts. If we want to understand something unknown, we must compare it with
something familiar. Here the dilemma is already evident since we must recall the 'familiar' from our
memory. Then we must build up our model by using the 'familiar' as a starting point. We build up
models in our mind, on a piece of paper, or in the workshop. This also holds for scientific and technical
models. In physics and technology we have to include the huge reservoir of metaphors that we are
getting from mathematics.
Different people prefer different metaphors depending on their personal experiences and knowledge.
The metaphors I am using to explain holographic memory are in substantial aspects different from
those of Karl Pribram. It is not for me to review or criticize his claims. Nature, anyway, does not care
what we believe is the truth. What I am trying to do is using my own metaphors in order to find
experimentally testable predictions, hoping that they might inspire new experiments and finally might
be useful for patients. First and may be the most important characteristic of my personal bunch of
metaphors is that they do not include any parapsychological or metaphysical assumptions. A further
one: I am not searching for any computer performing complex calculations in the brain. My brain is
learning from experience only. It is preserving all essential actions, occurrences, processes, and
events by storing the characteristic waves and oscillations (rhythms) associated with those
experiences. Hence, my brain does not calculate, it stores experiences and compares the new ones
with the older ones.

What metaphors do I use and what are the analogies I am drawing?


Not only in modern physics, also in modern technology, optical and acoustical holography has proved
to be a very successful tool for many practical applications. Accordingly, I have to show that
synchronous and coherent brain waves and oscillations can also be holographically stored and
retrieved in analogy to laser light. And if I can show this, then the rhythms of the brain might be
regarded as the core of memory and consciousness.
With respect to optical holography, Dennis Gabor clarified in his Nobel Lecture 1971
I want only to say that in my opinion the similarity with the human memory is functional only,
but certainly not structural.
And that is the crucial point! In physics and technology, the concept of holography is by no means
restricted to optical waves and oscillations and a structural similarity is not expected nor required at all.
Even the functional similarities may be restricted to those that are essential to store and reconstruct

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waves and oscillations. But what is functionally essential? I believe it as my job to find an answer to
this question. Hence, first of all, I have to show the essentials of optical holography.

What is holography? What is a hologram?


Holography is a technical procedure, by which coherent wavefronts can be stored and reproduced.
Waves having a constant phase difference are called coherent.
Holograms are the material basis, which saves the waves information as engrams, and allows the
reconstruction of the wavefronts. Optical holograms are tangible objects.
You may think of a hologram as a kind of a sophisticated photograph. But there are three significant
differences:
(i) A hologram is containing more information than a photograph. While a normal photograph of an
object, which is illuminated by sunlight, is only a record of the patterns of brightness and, if applicable,
of the colors of the light coming from the object, a hologram is able to record further information, the
phase information.
(ii) Holography will not work with normal sunlight. It needs coherent light preferably laser light to
illuminate the person or the object, making sure that the phase information will be saved.
Correspondingly, the phase information is of relevance only when we use laser light for illuminating the
object. When using sunlight, the phase information is not significant for the generation of an ordinary
photograph.
(iii) To generate a hologram, you need two beams. When you want to take a normal photograph of a
person or of any object, it is absolutely sufficient to expose your film with the light emanating from this
person or from the object. When you want to make a hologram you need a second beam which is able
to save the phase information. That means it needs two beams, one coming from the object called
object beam and one coming from a second source called reference beam.
This last mentioned requirement will be of special relevance when we look on the analogues of optical
holography and memory. This is the crucial requirement where I am searching for a conclusive test
an experimentum crucis of the applicability of optical holography to brain and memory. To generate
a hologram, there are always two coherent beams required, in the brain as well as in optics.
It might sound surprising: The recording material is in both cases photograph or hologram the
same, i.e. the recording material is a photo emulsion applied on a sheet of paper, the photo paper, or
on a glass plate. There are higher quality requirements for making a hologram than a photograph, but
the photochemistry is the same in both cases.
Holography is the technical procedure to generate, record, and reconstruct holograms. Depending on
the wide variety of possible experimental setup, we achieve quite different types of holograms. (We
mainly differentiate between transmission or reflection holograms, thin or thick amplitude or phase
holograms, and volume holograms. Here I have to refer to the literature, e.g. Saxby (1991),
Ackermann et al. (2007).)

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Now, the greatest challenges of my hypothesis will be


-

to identify object waves as well as reference waves in the brain, and

to find the functional and structural analogues of the photo paper representing the hologram in
the brain the wave-sensitive substrates able to resonate to the waves that have generated
their modification. It is obvious to begin the search by studying the synaptic plasticity in all its
variants.

Object and Reference Waves in the Brain


Object Waves
Any input from the outside world that reaches our brain via the sensory systems, releases
electrochemical pulses, called action potentials (APs). APs are travelling rapidly along the cells axon,
and activate synaptic connections with other cells when arriving. Hence, any input in our sensory
systems can be described as waves and oscillations.
To create such an electrochemical pulse, a multitude of processes are running simultaneously.
Voltage gradients build up and break down across the electrically excitable cell membrane of the
neuron, ion channels open and close, ion pumps transport selected ions in certain directions,
neurotransmitters are released, chemical and electrical synapses are excited or inhibited, and a wave
of depolarizations results.
The AP can be described as wave packets, as well as all other electrical and electrochemical events.
That means, they all can be Fourier-transformed to a series of harmonic waves, independently if they
are periodic or non-periodic. The Fourier transform holds for any pulse. That means, any input in our
sensory systems can be described as waves and oscillations.

Reference Waves
The brain shows endogenous waves and oscillations that are observed and described in the
neuroscience literature as being highly coherent. For me, they seem to have all the properties that
are required to serve as reference waves. The endogenous waves and oscillations might build up a
coherent background in the brain. They are observed, e.g., as default modes.
Even better because undisturbed they can be observed under anesthesia and epilepsy. During
these states, which are associated with loss of consciousness, the EEG signals are characterized by
high amplitudes and high synchrony, Supp (2011).
However, during conscious, waking behavior the EEG demonstrate low-amplitude, desynchronized
patterns. For me this is no mystery since such low amplitude patterns might be described as a result
of interference of the input waves and oscillations the object waves and the endogenous rhythms
serving as references.

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My further storytelling a huge puzzle


"Language inexorably forces us to present everything as a sequence", with these words in the
summary of his introduction to radical constructivism, Ernst von Glasersfeld apologizes for forcing the
reader to read one chapter after the other, and he continues, " but that inevitable succession should
not be understood as a logically necessary order."
Happy, all are those who can tell a story behind which a logical order is obvious or is at least hiding!
Which logical order is functioning in our brain? Which logical order hides behind the behavior of
people? Sometimes you might follow events and thoughts that appear logical for a while, and then
chaotic elements emerge, and challenge everything.
In the following chapters, I make an attempt to sketch my ideas like parts or pieces of a huge puzzle. I
am not able to tell the story as a sequence of interconnected processes following each other with
linear causality. For some people that's hard to accept, as I had to learn.

Small vehicles have encouraged me


Small vehicles have encouraged me to present my idea to the public. I found them in a wonderful little
book of the great and wise neuroscientist and cybernetician Valentino Braitenberg.
In his book 'Vehicles: Experiments in Synthetic Psychology, first published in 1984, Valentino
Braitenberg describes very impressively and wittily, how a simple vehicle consisting of a small box
with wheels, a motor and a very primitive sensor, might make you believe it is alive. He shows us how
to construct by simple interconnections of motors, sensors, and the individual vehicles themselves
artificial "beings" that simulate the behavior of living beings so realistically that these artificial beings
are virtually indistinguishable from living subjects, even to a careful observer. His artificial beings
exhibit properties similar to those attributed to people, some lovable, others less lovable, those that
give them recognition, and those that make them appear ridiculous.
Valentino Braitenbergs vehicles give the impression that they can sense cold and heat, show fear and
aggression, love and hate, with behaviors that seem to follow the laws of logic. They are able to
associate red color with aggression and the smell of hydrogen sulfide with the image of rotten eggs.
They seem to be creative, identify laws and rules and are able to create routines to make life easier.
They seem to concatenate judgments, make predictions and they also seem to be selfish as any
human, which is very important in order to appear credible as an ordinary person. Braitenbergs
vehicles are quite credible!
Braitenberg has devoted his book, which became a worldwide bestseller, to the "victims of idealism",
in the sense of idealism of philosophers. This with good reasons. If you have read the book of
Valentino Braitenberg, it becomes difficult to not reach unbiased conclusions based on your own
phenomenological observations concerning the brain and human behavior. On the other hand, the
ingenious and yet simple ideas of Braitenberg may encourage others to construct their own 'vehicles'
after his models. And no more and no less, my attempts to understand the brain as a hologram should
accomplish. Hence, all my efforts should be interpreted under the motto: For me, it seems as if

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For me, it seems as if


As I already said in my introductory remarks, I cannot tell a story of how 'things are', I can tell a story of
how I perceive things. I can only tell what people are observing and calculating. Since I no longer have
an institutional affiliation, I am unable to perform experiments on my own. Thus, I am observing what
other researchers are presenting. Inevitably, using different metaphors and analogies, I end up with
my own interpretation of their experiments and results.
It is helpful to me that I am knowing most of the experimental procedures and techniques used. Of
course, I am biased by the authors interpretations. Nevertheless, I find myself constructing my view
of the world. If my view allows making predictions, which others cannot make, then my view might be
advantageous and perhaps provide a rationale for novel therapeutic approaches. That is all I can offer
and expect.
Again, interpretations are filtered by what we have learned. And they are biased by the metaphors and
analogies which we traditionally learned to use successfully. Traditionally, physicists use metaphors
and analogies different from those of psychologists, physiologist, computer scientist, and all other
scientists.

Internal Representations
All sensory information reaching the brain from the outside world can be transformed following
Fourier into harmonic waves and oscillations immediately after entering the sensory system. This
decomposition is not only a mathematical gimmick, it is a physical phenomenon applicable to
spectroscopy. All that 'information' from the outside world will also be 'transformed' immediately into
action potentials (AP). And for APs the same applies, i.e., APs can be decomposed by Fourier
transform into harmonic waves and oscillations. (Certainly this is also true for APs that are
endogenous produced!)
It is important here to emphasize that the waves and oscillations that reach our sensory areas from the
outside do NOT contain any kind of 'encoded information' whatsoever that could be decoded by the
brain. The APs are causing reactions in the brain which can be registered and saved or stored only.
There is nothing to be decoded. This storing process is an encoding process.
The input signals coming from the outside world have no meaningful content per se, i.e., they don't
carry any mystic or nonmystic meaning which must be deciphered by the brain. But, howsoever, it is
obvious that there are inner representations of the world and its objects in our brains! Now the
question is how did the brain build up these inner representations? What kind of the encoding
mechanisms the brain is using?
In my view, the 'inner representations' of the world and its objects are built up step by step by the
brain. They have to be learned! And learning means, the incoming waves and oscillations have to be
stored from the very first moment when information in the embryonic brain is able to cause waves and
2+
oscillations. At the cellular level, waves and oscillations (Ca -oscillations) are seen the moment a
sperm enters the egg, e.g. Uhln, (2010).

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At this point, I access holography. For me, memorizing (learning) means to store all significant
reactions of the brain to these waves from the outside world in a holographic way so that they can be
reproduced by following input as well as by endogenous events. The APs are the initial reactions.
Than means, due to their wave nature, the APs will take the role of object waves. As far as they are
coherent by themselves and coherent to endogenous waves and oscillations, they are able to
generate holograms. In my opinion, each sensory system and even more, each neurotransmitter
population in the sensory systems can create its own individual holograms (its own 'maps'). Only in
conjunction, the individual holograms of many sensory systems can then merge to what we perceive
as an associative memory. And only by interacting, they form what we perceive as 'internal
representations'.

The memory as a storehouse of our experience and the experience of our genetic
ancestors
Our experiences are stored in our memory, and new experiences are compared to former ones in
order to consciously understand and interact with the world we live in. We use our former experiences
as yardsticks to evaluate momentary events. Normally, this does not need an active effort of our
consciousness.
The memory of mankind lies in the images and written words, in the metaphorical narratives of the
elderly, in all that has been handed down to us through art, music, literature and science. We call it our
culture, our cultural heritage. But this cultural heritage must be actively reconstructed and assembled
in our own brains through the process of learning. This needs a lot of effort and endurance. On the
basis of our cultural heritage we learn to feel empathy, to act with foresight, and to be creative.

Metaphors of the physicists and the usefulness of their models


All models are false,
but some models are useful.
George E. P. Box (1919-2013)

Waves as metaphors
Waves have proven to be the most useful metaphors to physicists. The models that are built using
waves and oscillations as metaphors are mathematically computable, comparable, expandable,
technically feasible, and easy to communicate. Waves dominate our daily lives. Water waves, sound
waves and the broad spectrum of electromagnetic waves, light waves, infrared waves, radio waves, Xrays, radioactive radiation. Even particles can be described as waves and vice versa. On the
description of the light is it waves or particles? a controversy between Isaac Newton and Christian
Huygens started in the 17th century. Physicists have postulated the probability waves of quantum
physics and Erwin Schrdinger has them packed in his famous equation.
Also the atmosphere is filled with waves. In space we can observe background radiations, which give
us information about the origin of the universe. And there, we are searching gravitational waves on
behalf of Albert Einstein.

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And the infamous string theory leads many physicists to the limits of their acceptance readiness. This
will not change as long as the theory does not turn out to be useful.
Not to forget the music! Music provides metaphors and analogies that are familiar to most of us. What
would happen to us without music, without the waves and oscillations that can be produced by voices
and instruments filling concert halls and transmitting wirelessly to the vastness of the universe?
Broadcasted by the air that surrounds us, the music is the most beautiful of all 'embodiments' of
waves. Music as a pressure wave can shake every fiber of our nervous system. To understand
musical instruments as well as their analogies in the brain it might be helpful to understand the
metaphor standing waves. (The Physics Hypertextbook)

Standing waves
A most important interference phenomenon occurs when two otherwise identical waves propagate
exactly in opposite directions toward one another. The result is a wave that does not progress over
time, but remains standing. It is called a standing wave. Musical instruments are generators of
standing waves.

Standing waves in resonators


Standing waves don't form under just any circumstances. They require that energy be fed into a
system at an appropriate frequency. That is, when the driving frequency applied to a system equals its
natural frequency. This condition is known as resonance. Standing waves are always associated with
resonance. Resonance can under certain circumstances be identified by a dramatic increase in
amplitude of the resultant vibrations.
A resonator favors specific frequencies and/or wavelengths and produces a definite spectrum of
standing waves. The energy input into a resonator is concentrated in these standing waves. The
amplitudes of the standing waves are correspondingly amplified. An outstanding characteristic is that
the amplitude of standing waves is much larger than the amplitude of the disturbance driving it. Hence,
a most interesting feature of a standing wave is not that it appears to stand still, but that the amplitude
of a standing wave is much larger than the amplitude of the disturbance driving it. This ability to
amplify a wave of one particular frequency over those of any other frequency has numerous
applications. The effect can also be regarded as filtering.

Musical instruments generate standing waves.


Best suited for demonstration of standing waves are musical instruments. They cover a wide variety
of different types, including transverse waves (shear waves) propagating in vibrating strings (violin,
guitar, piano), membranes (drums), and solid objects (bells), as well as longitudinal waves (pressure,
compression, density waves), e.g., known as vibrating columns of air (horn, whistles, pipes).
Basically, all non-digital musical instruments work directly on this principle of standing waves in
resonators. Driving disturbances for music instruments are vibrations or waves covering a spread of
frequencies. For brass, it's the buzzing of the lips; for percussion, it's the relatively indiscriminate
pounding; for strings, it's plucking or scraping; for flutes and organ pipes, it's blowing induced
turbulence. (The Physics Hypertextbook)

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What gets amplified is the fundamental frequency plus its multiples. These frequencies are louder than
the rest and are heard. All the other frequencies keep their original amplitudes while some are even
de-amplified. These other frequencies are quieter in comparison and are not heard.

Differences between Waves and Oscillations


When talking about waves and oscillations and their analogies found in the brain, I am trying to
differentiate, as far as possible, between both. I am using the terms in the following meaning:
Oscillations mean temporarily periodic events. Accordingly, an oscillation is a time-dependent
occurrence of a spatially fixed object the oscillator showing rhythmic changes in the fluctuating
fractions of its total energy. The center of gravity of the oscillator remains stationary on its place.
Waves mean temporarily AND spatially periodic events. A wave is a travelling occurrence that is
space and time dependent. The concept rhythm covers them both.

Oscillators transform energies, waves transport energy


During oscillation, each oscillator is alternately transforming energy of one special form into another
form. This may be, for instance, an exchange between kinetic and potential energy (pendulum), or
between electrical and magnetic energy (resonant circuit).
An oscillator is able to transmit energy to its adjacent medium or environment producing transversal or
longitudinal waves. Any oscillating behavior has rhythmic influence on the neighborhood of the
oscillator and causes more or less long lasting more or less damped waves.
In a wave every single oscillator remains stationary, and it only transfers energy to its next neighbors.
This energy might be of electromagnetic nature, or potential/kinetic energy in the gravitational field of
the earth.
Let us keep in mind: Oscillations generate waves and vice versa waves excite oscillations.

The Laser
Deliberately, I do not like to show the technical equipment built up to generate holograms. Apparatus
always demand for analogues to other apparatus and tend to hide basic principles. (For a long time
this was my problem with the laser in the brain.)
A laser is a light-emitting device basically not different from an ordinary lamp, where many single
atoms (molecules) are in excited states. The atoms (molecules) release their excitation energy in a
very irregular and random way. There, all light quantums of the same energy can be described as
light-waves having the same wavelength, but different phases. Accordingly, the multitude of light
waves emitted by the molecules in an ordinary lamp is far away from being coherent.
In a laser, excited atoms or molecules are locked up between two mirrors forming a resonator. Only
standing waves can survive in such a resonator. Here all the excited atoms (molecules) contribute with
their energy to the total energy in the resonator (in the easiest case two mirrors). The waves fitting
best between the two mirrors will resonate. These resonating waves enslave all other randomly

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travelling waves, i.e., they impress their own phases on all those waves having the same wavelength
but different phases. They enforce phase correlation, i.e. coherence.
Remark on coherence length: The laser is producing monochromatic and coherent light of extreme
long coherence length, if the bandwidth of the monochromatic laser light is small enough. The
coherence length might reach many kilometers. (Coherence length and bandwidth are inversely
proportional.)
In the brain, there is no need for large coherence length since the interfering waves and oscillations
do not have to cover long distances. There shop floors are not too far away from each other. Hence,
the bandwidth can be comfortably broad.

Synergetics and self-organization processes in the laser medium


Soon after the invention of the laser, Hermann Haken explained the occurrence of highly coherent
laser light by means of the principle of synergetics and self-organization. Following Herman Haken,
the emergence of coherence in the laser is to be described as a self-organizing process, Haken (1983,
1995, 2007, 2008). In the laser medium, the atoms (molecules) are energetically continuous excited by
energy, actively pumped into the system by an external source. The energy can be pumped
electrically by an electric current or optically by another laser. Chemical lasers even obtains their
energy from chemical reactions. Accordingly, infrared laser radiation base on the vibrationally excited
products of chemical reactions.
Coherence depends on the amount of energy which is pumped into the laser medium. Due to
resonators (in the easiest case two mirrors), only specific waves can stay for a longer time in the laser
medium and can interact intensely with the light-emitting atoms (molecules). The pumped energy, e.g.
the electric current, serves as a so-called control parameter. Below a critical value of the electric
current, the device acts as a lamp. The atoms (molecules) emit randomly incoherent light wave tracks
(which are amplified by stimulated emission). The light field amplitudes are Gaussian distributed.
Above a critical value of the electric currents (the laser threshold) the properties of light change
qualitatively and dramatically. A transition from the irregular light from a lamp to the highly ordered
coherent laser light occurs. The emergent laser light wave is called order parameter. Once
established, it governs the emission acts of the individual atoms (molecules) termed enslavement.
Since the (joint) action of the atoms (molecules) generate the order parameter (the coherent laser light
wave), while the later enslaves the individual parts (atoms, molecules), we may speak of circular
causality.
Normally, the laser principle will be explained without referring to synergetics, self-organization and
Hermann Haken. But for me it was very helpful. Hence, I have understood the laser principle
thoroughly enough, to be able to transfer this principle as an analogy and metaphor to the
emergence of synchronous and coherent waves and oscillations in the brain. When introducing
synergetics and self-organization, we may leave the field of classical waves, i.e. the field where waves
can mathematically be described by linear differential equations. For the sake of completeness, I will
finally mention briefly the non-classical waves, the so-called autowaves that definitely play an
important role in the brain. They might contribute to the coherent background, and even actions
potentials are reasonably described as autowaves.

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Autowaves non-classical waves


Autowaves are self-supporting non-linear waves in active media, i.e. they cannot be described by
linear equations. That means that they are more difficult to analyze mathematically and no general
analytical method for their solution exists. Each particular wave equation has to be treated individually.
Especially, the concept of interference has to be considered in a much broader way. Like classical
waves, autowaves transport energy. And superposition stays to be the superposition of the
impingement of interfering energies.
Chemical waves, as they occur in the famous Belousov-Zhabotinski reaction, are well-known
autowaves. In the brain, various kinds of chemical waves are observed. In the brain we find energy
forms like
-

chemical fission potentials, e.g., the fission of ATP (Adenosintriphosphat), the cells primary
energy currency,

redox-energy forms, carrying an electron from one reaction to another,

electrochemical potentials of ion gradients, i.e., concentration gradients,


across biological membranes and electrical membrane potentials,

electrostatic energy between charged groups or dipoles, and

mechanical forms of energy.

Definitely, some of these energies are generating autowaves.


It would lead to far to discuss autowaves here in more detail, although they are very important in
biological systems. But this is another story to tell.
Synergetics and selforganization occur in a manifold way. Sometimes waves emerge even without an
actual, measurable energy transport from one oscillator to an adjacent one. A La-Ola (wave) is a best
example. The spectators in the stadium are the oscillators producing a La-Ola. Spatially adjacent
people are 'kicked off' in a rhythmic way by a noticeable 'perception wave' brushing over their 'minds'.

How can we adapt the above considerations to the brain?


Thanks to Hermann Haken's descriptions I finally understood the laser principle thoroughly enough, to
be able to transfer this principle as an analogy and metaphor to the emergence of synchronous
and coherent waves and oscillations in the brain.
As we learned, resonators are filtering disturbances and they amplify those waves that resonate in
the appropriate system. The energy input into a resonator is concentrated and amplified in standing
waves. The resonating waves are able to enslave other waves. If there are prominent waves and
oscillations they should be able to enslave other waves and oscillations and enforce them to oscillate
with the same phase and probably even with the same wavelength. Thats what we can consider as
the laser in the brain.
How about the idea, that all and any waves and oscillations in the brain can enslave each other, the
manifold of chemical and other biologically viable waves including the electromagnetic ones? All of

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them are controlling and enslaving each other in a circular causality. There is no beginning and no
end!
Did you know, that at the very beginning of the individual's 'life' if you accept the fusion of ovum and
2+
sperm as the beginning of the individual's 'life' there are Ca -oscillations controlling and enslaving
2+
Ca -dependent enzymes, controlling and enslaving cellular molecules, controlling and enslaving ?

Rhythms of the Brain


Clocks tick, bridges and skyscrapers vibrate, neuronal
networks oscillate. Are neuronal oscillations an inevitable
by-product, similar to bridge vibrations, or an essential
part the brains design?
Buzski, G. and Draguhn A. (2004).

In neural tissue the brain we find both: the oscillations and the waves. And even standing waves
can be observed in the brain, e.g., by using voltage-sensitive dye imaging (VSDI). Better said, we can
make a lot of observations, which can be interpreted as waves and oscillations, measured by physical
methods, and formulated by mathematically models. The metaphors and analogies related to waves
and oscillations are applicable everywhere. In his monograph 'Rhythms of the Brain' Gyrgy Buzski
gives an excellent overview.
The most famous waves known even by non-scientifically educated people are the EEG waves.
Are EEG activities and fluctuations waves or oscillations? When reading about EEG you might get the
impression that there is a wave running along the scalp surface. This view is supported by the fact
that the EEG records look like this and we talk, e.g., of alpha waves. As a matter of fact, the records
show spatially stationary, rhythmic signals! They show the rhythmic change of electrical potentials
between pairs of electrodes. Insofar it is definitely an oscillation. But as we just learned, oscillations
are producing waves Hence, EEGs have to be waves also!
EEG waves indicate whether the person is lightly or deeply asleep, whether he or she is awake or
under anesthesia. They indicate changes in the brain in diseases such as schizophrenia, epilepsy or
Parkinson's disease. EEG waves are non-invasively accessible, relatively easy to record and provide
important information about brain functions.
Then there are the action potentials (APs), which can be regarded as waves. More precisely: they are
wave packets, which can be Fourier-transformed, like all wave packets. This was shown almost 200
years ago by Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier in his Analytical Theory of Heat (1822). With his work, the
so-called Fourier analysis, he laid the foundation for modern physics and engineering. A Fourier
transform of a signal that does not even need to be periodic, may be done mathematically, but also
technically / physically. The latter is the task of spectrometers.
APs are sequences of pulses, which are initiated by neurons, communicating excitation down the
axon. All signals reaching the brain from the sensory areas whether via the eyes, the ears, the nose,
the tongue, the skin, or whatever are causing action potentials provided the input signals are strong
enough. According to my hypothesis, these are the signaling molecules (in the broadest sense) at the
synapses, which are effective as 'spectrometers' for action potentials. This can be regarded as

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resonances of the Eigen frequencies of the vibrations and rotations of the biomolecules building,
feeding and running the synapses, i.e. ion channels, ion pumps, neurotransmitters etc.
There are two more, important rhythms to be mentioned: the membrane potentials as well as the
single molecules oscillations. Membrane potentials are oscillating devices. They react on action
potentials by getting depolarized, and they repolarize autonomously. Single molecules that are fixed
on ion channels or cell membranes oscillate. They vibrate or rotate with frequencies in the infrared
regime. When they communicate with their next neighbors, they produce waves. (Electromagnetic
oscillators, i.e. any electrically charged particle, e.g., ions, always produce electromagnetic waves as
soon as they will be moved.)
And there are many oscillations of the individual ions and molecules, which may result from rhythmic
movements of electrical charges as well as vibrations of the chemically bounded atomic and molecular
components of a molecule. The fact that these vibrating molecules are amino acids and other organic
molecules building large and small proteins, cells, and ultimately the whole brain, complicates their
calculations, but not necessarily their observation. If the idea of electromagnetic waves in the brain
causes discomfort to somebody, I am referring to Paul Nunez and Ramesh Srinivasan (2006).

Similarity with laser waves?


Many waves and oscillations are synchronized and highly coherent. Wolf Singer is probably one of the
most popular names in brain research for his discovery of the synchronous behavior of neurons.
So I started searching for the 'laser in the brain', as well as the analogies and metaphors that would
allow me to understand the emergence of synchronous and coherent waves and oscillations in the
brain. As mentioned above, I eventually arrived on the doorstep of Hermann Haken's description of the
laser, which he has continued to develop into the science of synergetics and self-organization.

From optical holography to its analogies in the brain


If it is possible to save laser waves as holograms in a photo emulsion, allowing to reproduce them so
I thought why not store the synchronous and coherent waves and oscillations that are observed in
the brain in an analogous way? Ultimately, optical holograms are nothing more than concretely
recorded interference pattern of coherent waves. The optical holograms are recorded on high quality
but otherwise quite normal light-sensitive emulsions, such as those used in photography.
You can rest assured, I am definitely not looking for silver halides in the brain. The chemical changes
that write the holograms in the brain tissue are much more sophisticated. Searching for the 'photo
paper' in the brain means to find the storage medium for the interference pattern in the brain that
allows reproducing the neural waves and oscillations, by which they have been produced.
Two different laser waves may interfere (cooperate) in a constructive way or in a destructive way. In a
photo emulsion the two light waves either add up and reduce the silver halides to silver or they dont.
In the brain the analogue might be that two phase coupled chemical, electrical, or electrochemical
waves cooperate to change a biomolecule e.g. by changing its structural conformation or they
dont.

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This chemical change has to have the feature that the resonating behavior of the newly configured
molecule has changed itself or its surroundings in a way to allow the occurrence of one of the original
waves when illuminated by the other one. Thought the case, two cooperating waves change a
biomolecule in a way that this molecule or its surroundings is able to resonate basically with both
waves depending on its excited state. If it is excited by on of the waves it should be able to resonate
with the other one. This is a most simple model only, born from a wishful thinking! I have no reference
at all supporting this idea! But I feel challenged now to improve this idea by checking and adapting
Eric Kandels and John Lismans work.
As far as I understand, all the basic work to discern the 'photo paper' in the brain has already been
done. At least, insofar as the discovery of neural correlates have been discovered a long time ago. I
remind to the work of Michael Merzenich, Eric Kandel, John Lisman and many others. They have
examined the manifest changes in the nervous system, usually described under the keywords of
synaptic plasticity. (See also D. V. Buonomano and M. M. Merzenich (1998). Only, the allegorical
reference to the 'photo paper' is not yet recognized as such!
Eric Kandel, who has decoded the molecular mechanisms of long-term memory to a large extend, is
giving an excellent overview in his book 'In Search of Memory' (2007). See also Kandel (2000, 2013).
In addition to the work of Eric Kandel, John Lisman's work on the role of calcium and the enzyme
called CaMKII in initiating the only brain correlate of long-term memory, known as long-term
potentiation (LTP), is of the utmost importance. In January 2014 John Lisman has published a paper
with the title Holoenzymes: Refreshing memories, which provides a very good introduction to his work,
Lisman (2014)

The role of Rhythms of the Brain in my imagination


Each 'information' that reaches my conscious and my unconscious perception arrives as a 'signal' that
hits my sensory system. It hits my eyes or my ears, my olfactory system, the sensors of my skin and
whatever sensory system is involved. In the simplest case, it can be a few odorant molecules that hit
my olfactory sensory neurons and there, encounters odorant receptors specialized to react on these
molecules and respond by initiating action potentials.
No matter which sensory area is activated by the environment, action potentials, triggered by the
signal, are simple electrical pulses without any encoded mysterious information. No one has ever
described this better than Heinz von Foerster.

"Click" - the language of the nerve cells


Heinz von Foerster (1911-2002), Austrian physicist and one of the founders of cybernetics, has
described 'the language of the neurons' in a way that provides a good introduction for the role of
waves and oscillations in the brain. (Ref., e.g., Der Diskurs des Radikalen Konstruktivismus, edited by
Siegfried J. Schmidt, suhrkamp taschenbuch wissenschaft, 1987.)
Heinz von Foerster refers to the 'Principle of Undifferentiated Encoding' of Johannes Mller (18011858), which reads: "The state of excitation of a nerve cell encode only the intensity, but not the nature
of the excitation source (it encodes only: 'So and so much at this point of my body' but not 'what'.) "

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This principle formulated in the 19th century is still up-to-date. It describes not more and not less than
the well-known fact that the action potentials that are triggered as a result of excitation of sensory
nerve cells, only indicate whether it is a strong or a weak stimulus. Action potentials inherently do
not carry information on the kind of excitation that was used to create the event. Weak
excitations produce low pulse frequencies, strong stimuli produce high pulse frequencies, while the
amplitude of the pulses remains constant. It is therefore, the frequency alone that encodes the
intensity of the stimulus.
Action potentials are discernable only as parts of an enormous community of tens of thousands of
action potentials arriving at the very same moment. The only characteristic feature of an actions
potential is its affiliation to this community. As parts of this community, the action potentials are typified
by two hallmarks, (i) the particular area in the brain where it is initiated, and (ii) the coincident arrival
with many other action potentials preferentially also those from different sensory areas. As such, all
coincidently initiated action potentials now bound together by their arrival time are committed to act
jointly. ('Bound by synchrony' at the moment and locus of their initiation.)
I am now trying to make these observations understandable:
Heinz von Foerster called these pulses i.e., the action potentials the "clicks" because they can be
heard in loudspeaker (after suitable amplification) when placing a recording electrode near an axon.
And "click" is the "vocabulary of the nerve language," said Heinz von Foerster. And again, "The
amazing thing now is that every sensory cell, rods or cones on the retina of the eye, a hair cell on the
basilar membrane of the ear, a pressure or pain cell, a hot or cold cell, all are speaking by using the
language of "click". The signals that are fed to the brain do not say 'blue', 'hot', 'cis', 'au', etc., etc., but
'click', 'click', 'click'.
All these many 'clicks' are to be differentiated by the specific receptive cell where they are born, and
by the direction in which the receptive cell is dispatching the "clicks".
At the receptive cell level, the "clicks" are given a 'ticket' indicating the date of their birth as well as
their destination, i.e., the direction of their journey. The ticket is still not labeled with 'blue' or 'hot', 'pain'
or 'pleasure'. So what else needs to happen to make the "clicks" recognizable as 'hot', 'pain' or
'pleasure? In other words: What must happen for my brain to recognize a banana?

From the "clicks" to the waves


Following Fourier, all those "clicks" can be decomposed into a series of harmonic waves, not only
mathematically but also physically and technically. The 'language of the sensory cells' is therefore a
'language of waves and oscillations'. The popping up of 'Internal representations' is analogous to a
concert performance whereby a music score is followed.
If the brain is successful in storing these score of waves and oscillations (e.g., in a holographic way;
maybe you have a better idea?) and importantly, in retrieving them, the same concert can be played
again and again. Then memory is no different than storing inputs from the outside world, for later
retrieval with high fidelity. That is obviously THE definition of memory.

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What is needed for my brain to recognize a banana?


Whenever a molecule hits my olfactory system, my brain responds with "clicks", regardless of whether
the molecule comes from a banana or a piece of cheese. How does my brain understand the
'meaning' of these "clicks"?
First and foremost, the brain does not recognize anything that it has not learned to recognize! If the
molecule once belonged to a banana, and I want to recognize that this belonged to a banana, I have
to know bananas. I must have somehow learned beforehand the characteristics of a banana, its
color, smell, taste, shape, and feel in my hand or my mouth. If this information is not available, I am
faced with a conundrum. This also applies to the cheese.
It takes two to tango. That means, it takes at least two groups of signals from different sensory
systems to understand and recognize the difference between a banana and a piece of cheese. The
molecule that is wafted and perceived as a scent does not tell more than something happened that
released a click by an odorant neuron. And it needs at least a second series of "clicks" from another
sensory system created somewhere on its topographic path that tells me if this is a banana or a piece
of cheese. These second series of clicks may originate from the visual and/or from the tactile
sensory system as well. The auditory system could contribute as well if, when presenting a banana to
her child, a mother says, "Look, my dear, a banana!" (The emotion also is important here! The
affectionate language of the mother is a particularly important accessory for enhancing communication
in teaching.) The greater the number of sensory 'clicks' produced when defining a memorable
moment, the better and perhaps longer lasting the memory. Better yet if a whole 'symphony' of 'clicks'
from different sensory and emotional systems is available to overwhelm the sensory systems.
A single series of "clicks" is produced by the reaction of one individual olfactory sensory cell,
responsive to a fragrance. To be consciously aware that this 'clicks' belong to a banana and not to a
piece of cheese further 'clicks' are required. These would be synchronously initiated or may even
respond in resonance (if the 'banana symphony' had been 'stored' before) through other sensory
systems including the retina and/or the hair cells in the basilar membrane of the cochlea.
In the sensory systems, the signals from the outside world reaching the respective primary sensory
cells likely affect much more than only a few receptive cell. As such, this gives rise to a multitude of
signals impinging in parallel at the same moment of time. This holds for the receptive cells of the retina
as well as for the hairs on the basilar membrane in the cochlea. Even the still picture of a landscape or
of a face is composed of many 'pixels'; and a piece of music consists of a multitude of tones and
sounds. One single flash of light or one single tone is a rather exceptional event. Accordingly, a
multitude of 'clicks' are produced synchronously.
A symphony of banana 'clicks' is characterized by the multitude of 'clicks' to be initiated or caused to
synchronously resonate at the same time but impinging on different primary sensory areas (nose,
eyes, ears, ), and subcortical areas (amygdala, ), and ultimately playing together a polyphonic
concert saved as the 'inner representation' of a banana. Now the banana occupies its place in our
memory, ready to be updated in further encounters with bananas.
The simultaneous, synchronous triggering of "clicks" in very different sensory systems with widely
different receptors and neurotransmitter populations may be mandatory only in the learning phase,

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during which the holograms (the interference trace) are formed. To retrieve the holographically stored
concert of waves and oscillations that represents our inner representation of a banana, one odor
molecule, or parts of a sickle-shaped yellow flash of light at the retina (or elsewhere) may be sufficient.
Obviously, endogenous 'clicks' are sufficient to trigger recall or 'representations' of objects and
experiences albeit in strange combinations as evidenced by our dreams. In holographic memory
hypothesis, dreams are not really enigmatic, but rather self-evident.

The elephant in my brain


While my banana example shows why and how multisensory inputs are required for building up an
'internal representation', my second example is focused on showing its timely development, updating,
and adaption to changing environmental conditions. I thank Stefanie, a young mother, for this idea.
How does an elephant get into a brain?
How does a brain build the 'inner representation' of an elephant? How does it build its holograms?
Let's start with a baby and imagine a soft toy elephant dangling at the railing of his crib. The baby can
see it hanging quietly or moving sometimes, and as soon as the baby begins to grasp, it will try to
reach the toy. The baby has no idea that it is an 'elephant'. It is fun for the baby to touch and move the
soft toy, to cause it to dance or even to pull it down. What a challenge! And a starting point to build up
a hologram of an elephant that will be updated lifelong and adapted to changing environments.
First step to build a hologram of an elephant
Light, diffusely scattered at the toy, reaches the retina of the baby. The retina is sending actions
potentials (APs) along the visual nerve. Nothing other than APs! No information like "Look my dear, an
elephant!"
But at this very moment a first 'encoding' will be taking shape in the retina. The retina uses a Cartesian
coordinate system which can mark the coordinate of adjacent light spots relative to each other. These
adjacent diffuse light spots are dictated by the spatial resolution of the retina. (The special distances of
retinal cells are in micron range). Hence, each AP is equipped with spatial coordinates. These
coordinates can be compared to the baton of an athlete in a relay race. The APs will hand out their
'batons' (their coordinates) to the next generation of APs like runners in the race.
The APs (the 'clicks') are getting their characteristic attributes by dispatching them via the parallel
retinofugal axons cables along the visual nerve into the sequenced visual areas Vi up to the visual
cortex. At the visual cortex and, prior to that, in all intermediate visual relay stations a picture will
be built which is a one-to-one-pixel copy of the light spots that initially reached the retina. The APs
which are 'coded' with an 'identity stamp' marking their places in the retinal coordinate system and
particularly their position relative to each other are forwarded retinofugal and can be identified
analogue to the torch-bearers in a torch relay. The APs are keeping their coordinates all along the
visual cortex and as I guess up to the entorhinal cortex, which shows cell coordinate systems that
remind me strongly to those of the retina.

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The retinal cells and cell layers are in a perfect distance (m) to allow constructive and destructive
interference of the elementary oscillations induced by the input light in adjacent cells (analogue to the
Huygens-Fresnel-principles) as long as the wavelength period is within the order of magnitude of
microns. And this is the very case for the vibrational modes of the biomolecule binding oscillations.
Hence, in the retina the interference of waves induced by input light occur already at the cellular level.
Each movement of the soft-toy elephant will cause a new 'picture' on the cells of the retina drawn and
'encoded' as new patterns and coordinates.
Further steps to build a hologram of an elephant
The soft-toy is a very small elephant compared to size of a real elephant. An improvement is reached
when the child recognizes an elephant in a picture book. The elephant is drawn much larger than the
mouse near the elephant's big feet. The child is learning that the mother calls this big 'object' in the
picture book an 'elephant' whereas its small neighbor she calls a 'mouse'. Years later, the child sees a
living elephant in the zoo or in the circus and appreciates the size of the animal. And he senses its
odor, sound, trunk, rough skin, big feet, for the first time, the child feels fear when seeing this large and
loud animal, and realizes the differences with the soft toy he loved years ago. And in that instant, the
childs old holograms have been updated. The olfactory system, the cochlea, and even the amygdala
became active and participated in the shaping of the hologram.
To build a hologram that unites and stores all experiences of the child, as many as possible sensory
systems need to be available and participating. They all follow the same rules: APs are generated by
the input signals (light, sound, music, temperature, ) in their respective first sensory area, and
proceed topically (e.g. retinotopic in the visual or tonotopic in the auditory system). In fact, all sensory
systems work 'topically' until they reach the cortex, including as I guess the entorhinal cortex,
and/or the cerebellum if appropriate. (For the olfactory system, we already know, that the topic paths
of the single neurons reaction reaches the entorhinal cortex).
The brain hologram, which we built up in our brain, is a great and impressive copy of the genuine
elephant! We can recall it from our memory reliably even if only partial or poor sensory inputs are used
tens of years later. A washed-out poster of a circus showing an elephant shape can easily help recall
the shape of the soft toy 50 years ago. Similarly, the elephant can easily be recalled in our dreams.
In comparison, one could argue that a photo, or even the optical holograms of the elephant are poor
copies of our own inner representation of the elephant! We see an elephant, but we can't smell it, we
can't hear it, can't touch it. The only thing a photo or even an optical hologram is good for, is to recall
the personal holograms in your brain, which you built as a child.

Genes as seed capital of knowledge


The memory of the individual, at the beginning of his life quasi his evolutionary start-up capital is
stored in its genes. Where else?

The memory of the individual is modified and extended from the time of fusion of ovum and sperm.
Today, scientists can show that it is not just the random mutations that alter our genes during

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evolution. Even our genotype can change when we learn. Our individually acquired memory can thus
be passed, under certain boundary conditions, to our descendants.

Feelings and Emotions


My soul is like a hidden orchestra; I do not know which instruments grind
and play away inside of me, strings and harps, timbales and drums. I can
only recognize myself as a symphony.
FERNANDO PESSOA, The Book of Disquit
(Found in Antonio Damasio's Book cited below.)

Probably the most courageous venture in this essay is my reference to Antonio Damasio. And yet, this
appears to me as both necessary and appropriate. His books are so famous that it is completely
unnecessary to list them. Therefore, I will limit myself to referencing his book Self comes to mind
Constructing the Conscious Brain, published in 2010. In his text, there is not a single idea that I cannot
endorse in principle! Feelings and emotions are inseparably linked with many (not to say with most, or
all) subcortical areas. In my hypothesis, there is no memory storage possible without waves and
oscillations coming from subcortical areas and playing a role as reference waves.
Antonio Damasio has felt the magnitude of feelings and emotions very early in his career and he
obviously never doubted its impact. Just as I. This has helped me tremendously while searching for
the neural correlates of the metaphor of optical holography. Neither esotericism nor obscure,
inappropriate quantum physics ever unsettled or frightened me. The only quantum physics I need in
my holographic hypothesis does not exceed that any biophysicist uses to describe spectroscopic
observations and investigations.
Consequently, Damasio's remarks, for which I love him the most, are the following:
"Viewing the mind as a non physical phenomenon, discontinuous with the biology that creates
and sustains it, is responsible for placing the mind outside the laws of physics, a discrimination
to which other brain phenomena are not usually subject. The most striking manifestation of
this oddity is the attempt to connect the conscious mind to heretofore undescribed properties
of matter and, for example, explain consciousness in terms of quantic phenomena. The
rationale for this idea appears to be as follows: the conscious mind seems to be mysterious;
because quantum physics remain mysterious, perhaps the two mysteries are connected."
(Here Damasio refers to the Penrose-Hameroff 'Orch OR' Model of Consciousness and to the
philosopher David Chalmers.)

One of my next tasks will be to bring my holographic hypothesis in line with Damasio's views
concerning 'The Architecture for Memory'.

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What is consciousness?

"What you want to understand


you have to invent by yourself."
Heinz von Foerster (1911-2002)

Everyone has his own vision of what constitutes consciousness, if he or she ever reflects about it! This
is o.k. and will remain so forever. For some people, it is the soul, given by God(s), while for others, it is
provided by the matrix or from the universe. Not only Arthur Schopenhauer, but also Erwin
Schrdinger has sought refuge in the Upanishads. Thomas Metzinger is living in his EGO Tunnel. For
me, it is sufficient to consider and perceive my consciousness as the respective current oscillation
patterns of my neurons. I never had strange, supersensory experiences that I would not be able to
explain on the basis of this view. If consciousness is lost (at least in one of its many forms), so are the
oscillation patterns. Indeed, the depth of anesthesia, and more recently also brain death, are defined
by the EEG.
Scanning the neuroscience literature for definitions of consciousness, I found many noteworthy
results. A very simple and pragmatic one, presented by Gerald Edelman: (freely translated back from
German): Consciousness is simply that, what gets lost when we fall asleep, and what is back
in the morning. Nothing to add!
Though, the idea I like most, I have freely deviated from a small booklet, documenting a dialogue of
Wolf Singer and Matthieu Ricard, Hirnforschung und Meditation. (I carefully analyzed this dialog in a
German essay two years ago. If you are interested and able to read German, just let me know.)
Accordingly, for me consciousness is the prattling omnipresent in my brain. And this prattling
can be explained by the rhythms of the brain. If I were able to reproduce with high fidelity the
vibration pattern of my brain at one given moment, and deliver it in a second moment, trivially, I could
not distinguish between these two moments. Of course, it is impossible to reproduce someones
oscillation patterns. This is because not only the external inputs, but also the endogenous oscillations
are constantly changing. The great similarity between these two moments might just be enough,
however, to allow for memories to emerge.

How and to whom could the holographic hypothesis be useful?


How and to whom could the brain hologram hypothesis be useful? Is it just another principle of
explanation? What can we improve when using it?
First of all, it is the explanation for "Binding by Synchrony" which we are getting for free. (Unless I have
totally misunderstood this issue!) The input waves and oscillations from the outside world arrive
coincidently in various sensory systems, create synchronous resonance in sensory systems, and
specific holograms are built up in the brain. Holograms are built by a cooperation of all sensory
systems, the visual system, the auditory system and the olfactory system, etc.. In former consecutive
learning processes corresponding inputs have been received together, were stored together and now
they resonate together. The 'internal representations' are sets of holograms synchronously stored by
the various sensory systems, and linked to each other by the coincident arrival of their inputs from the

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outside world. (See Chapter 'Internal Representations') But this is only a principle of explanation, as
Gregory Bateson (1904-1980) would have said. It does not create usefulness.
How could this theory become clinically relevant? According to my model, the brain can recognize and
reproduce only those vibrations that are stored as holograms. If these holograms are destroyed, then
the entire structure is affected. Not only what we refer to as spatial or visual memory, but also motor
memory. This is the case in many diseases where white matter is gradually destroyed. (In my
hypothesis, white matter distribution is shaping some of the rhythms of the brain and vice versa.
Hence, it is part of the photo paper.)
May be the hologram hypothesis can be a challenge to improve the design of the present retina-chip
devices. It is a mystery for me how the present design should work. How can the brain be supposed to
recognizes and responds to the electrical signals of an artificial retinal chip, which does not supply the
vibrational patterns that the brain is able to resonate with, because it has stored them as holograms?
It makes even less sense to me to desynchronize the highly synchronized oscillations, as one can
measure in Parkinson's disease by means of electric current, instead of offering vibrational partners
with whom they can interfere in a practiced manner and can form the appropriate interference pattern.
Babies born prematurely who have learned nothing, except that which is provides by their mothers
womb, show highly synchronized oscillations. No one would (hopefully!) get the idea of
desynchronizing these oscillations by electric current. If the child gets older and learns more and more,
its oscillations will be more and more desynchronized. The hologram hypothesis can plausibly explain
this. Here, 'desynchronized oscillations' are a sign of complex wave and oscillation patterns as they
arise in brains the structures of which were significantly modified by synaptic plasticity that occurs
through learning.
The benefit of my hypothesis should be given wherever coherent oscillations regardless of whether
they come from the outside world or are produced endogenously can not build up or reproduced
their usual interference pattern because one of the partners no matter which one is no longer
available.

What will be next?


My challenge is not only to develop a plausible model of memory that is not helpful to anyone. My
intentions are to prove the usefulness of this model. And here I see a number of good options as
already mentioned above. Of course, I cannot do this alone. I can only hope to find scientists who
approve of my analogies. That is the reason why I am active on ResearchGate.

Acknowledgment
Since more than three years Almut Schuez is motivating me enormously! She has helped me a lot and
opened many doors for me. I am very grateful to her! (Braitenbergs vehicles have made the contact.)
Almut introduced me to Gnther Palm who gave me valuable references concerning holographic
memory in computational neuroscience. Thank you both!
A couple of month ago Bernhard Sabel and his team gave me the opportunity to give a talk and have
an extended workshop with him and his team in Magdeburg. It was a great discussion that improved

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this paper significantly. Thanks! There are some more people who spent a lot of time helping me
significantly during the past years, some even though they were skeptic.
This recent English version of my essay on holographic memory is strongly influenced and
substantially improved by Olivier Thibault. He did not only correct my English, he has provided me with
crucial questions about my statements and forced me to be more precise. He particularly requested
more quotes, which is sometimes difficult since my hypothesis is not documented in textbooks. I am
rather using my references as arguments (Indizien in German) than as proof. This applies especially
for my interpretation of Hermann Hakens enslaving principle. It took me three month to implement all
his suggestions. I am deeply grateful to Olivier! And I am grateful to Gyrgy Buzski who drew my
attention to the publication of Phil Landfield and Olivier Thibault. I have also to thank Phil for his kind
response.
Just recently, I came across Dorian Aur on ResearchGate. We are having many fruitful discussions
since then. His metaphors are sometimes different from mine and, hence, not easy to understand. I
have to get used to by reinventing them by myself. His ideas are a further enrichment for my
hypothesis. Dorian also got involved with considerably improving my essay! Many thanks to him!
While trying to improve my text following Oliviers and Dorians advices, I made many new mistakes.
Both are not responsible for this fact!

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Ursula Ehrfeld, July 19, 2014, revised November 9, 2014

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