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56. Психофизиология, конвергирующие процессы и изменения сознания С. Криппнер (Psychophysiology, Converging Operations, and Alterations in Consciousness. Stanley Krippxer)

56. Psychophysiology, Converging Operations, and Alterations in Consciousness. Stanley Krippxer

(This paper was prepared for presentation at an International Congress on the Unconscious, sponsored by the Georgian Academy of Sciences, Tbilisi, U.S.S.R., 1978)

Humanistic Psychology Institute, San Francisco, California, USA

When we think of psychophysiology - the investigation of relationships of psychological to physiological states, we usually date the field back to the construction, in 1895, of a rudimentary lie detector by Cesare Lombroso. We also associate this field of study with the development, in the early twentieth century, of polygraphic equipment which made it possible to monitor electrical brain activity through electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings.

However, these developments are only the latest milestones in a long history of science's curiosity with the relation between "mind" and "body", or "psyche" and "soma". The Roman historian, Plutarch, related an incident occurring 300 years before Christ, which demonstrated that psychophysiology was put to practical use in the days of Alexander the Great.

Plutarch wrote about the strange events which befell the household of one of Alexander's ablest generals, Seleucus. Shortly after General Seleucus married a woman named Stratonice, his young son, Prince Antiochus, fell ill. Many physicians attended the young prince, but to no avail; indeed, Antiochus announced repeatedly that he was about to die.

Finally, the celebrated Greek physician, Erasistratos, was summoned. After examining the prince and finding no bodily disease, Erasistratos concluded that Antiochus was suffering from an affliction of the mind - one which the physician tentatively diagnosed as "love-sickness". Since Erasistratos held the position that mind and body are closely related, he decided to observe the prince's physiological reactions to the people who came to visit him. Plutarch described how Erasistratos would

...spend day after day in the young man's chamber, and if any of the beauties of the court came in, male or female, he would study the countenance of Antiochus and watch those parts and movements of his person which nature has made to sympathize most "with the inclinations of the soul. Accordingly, when anyone else came in, Antiochus showed no change, but whenever Stratonice came to see him, as she often did, either alone or with Seleucus, lo, those tell-tale signs... were all there in him-stammering speech, fiery flashes, darkened vision, sudden sweats, irregular palpitations of the heart, and finally, as his soul was taken by storm, helplessness, stupor, and pallor.

When the physician t old his diagnosis to Seleucus, the general reluctantly dissolved his marriage to Stratonice, sent her away, and his son recovered.

Four centuries later, this tale came to the attention of Galen of Pergamum, the founder of modern medicine. Galen suspected that Erasistratos had taken the young prince's pulse regularly to detect the "irregular palpitations of the heart" noted in Plutarch's account. Galen incorporated Erasistratos' techniques into his own practice.

One of Galen's most celebrated cases involved a woman who was suffering from insomnia. While Galen was interviewing her, a neighbor entered the room and told of a theatrical performance featuring Pylades-a celebrated dancer. Upon the mention of his name, the expression and color of Galen's patient altered dramatically. Galen took her pulse and noticed an irregularity. During subsequent interviews, Galen asked friends of his to drop by and casually mention the names of various dancers during the conversation. When Pylades' name came up, his patient would show signs of excitement and her pulse would again become irregular. Once Galen brought this discovery to his patient's attention, and after she confessed her secretive infatuation for the dancer, the insomnia subsided. In the case of both the prince and the insomniac, a desire was being concealed verbally which adversely affected bodily processes and was eventually revealed through bodily functioning.

Galen's work remained largely unexplored until the tenth century, when ibn-Sina, the Persian physician, discovered Galen's journals and began to use similar techniques. Specific advice was given by ibn-Sina to physicians attempting to diagnose "love-sickness"; he noted that the major symptom

...is a fluctuating pulse without any regularity whatever.... Moreover, the patient's pulse and disposition are altered when mention is made of the person he loves, and especially when this event occurs suddenly. It is possible in this way to ascertain who he loves, even when he will not reveal it himself.... Let several names be pronounced, repeating them many times and place your finger on the patient's pulse. When it varies by a large fluctuation and returns to normal..., then the name of the one he loves will be known.

The therapy devised by ibn-Sina was often quite direct. He wrote of one case in which after a patient "experienced union with the person he loved, his illness left him directly in a short while".

In the thirteenth century, Frederick II, monarch of the Holy Roman Empire, developed an interest in psychophysiology and performed a number of experiments, some of which were extremely bizarre. On one occasion, Frederick treated two men to an elegant luncheon, then had both of them severely beaten. One of them was ordered to go directly to bed while the other was sent outside, spending an active afternoon with a hunting party. In the evening, Frederick had both men defecate in his presence as he wanted to know which of them had digested his food more thoroughly. The attending physicians examined the feces and proclaimed that food had been more completely digested by the man who had been sent to bed.

Mind-Body Relationships

In 1893 Hans Berger, a student of astronomy at the University of Berlin, had an experience which inspired him to study the interaction between mental phenomena and physiological processes. He later recalled:

As a 19-year-old student, I had a serious accident... near Wurzburg and barely escaped certain death. Riding on a narrow edge of a steep ravine through which a road led, I fell with my rearing, tumbling horse down into the path of a mounted battery and came to lie almost beneath the wheel of one of the guns. The latter, pulled by six horses, came to a stop just in time, and I escaped, having suffered no more than fright. This accident happened in the morning hours of a beautiful spring day.

In the evening of the same day, I received a telegram from my father, who inquired about my well-being. It was the first and only time in my life that I received such a query. My oldest sister, to whom I had always been particularly close, had occasioned this telegraphic inquiry, because she had suddenly told my parents that she knew with certainty that I had suffered an accident... This is a case of spontaneous telepathy in which at a time of mortal danger, and as I contemplated certain death, I transmitted my thoughts, while my sister, who was particularly close to me, acted as the receiver.

Berger left astronomy for medicine and psychiatry, directing his activities toward identifying measurable physiological properties of the brain that represented mental activity. He was convinced that mind-body relationships would ultimately be explainable in terms of the basic laws of physics. While working with veterans of the First World War, Berger made his first successful recording of the human electroencephalogram in 1924. He devoted much attention to alpha waves, noting that they disappeared when his subjects began to engage in intellectual activities such as solving arithmetic problems.

For several years, Berger's work with the electrical activity of the brain was ignored, due to the popularity of Freudian psychoanalysis among psychiatrists. In 1938, the Nazis ousted him from his university and dismantled his laboratory.

Perchance to Dream

The use of the EEG and other psychophysiological techniques have proved to be especially useful in identifying bodily changes which accompany dreaming (Stoyva and Kamiya, 1969.) Usually, the nighttime dream will be associated with irregularities of pulse, blood pressure, and respiration; with rapid eye movement (REM) activity and arousal of the sexual organs, with sporadic activity of certain muscles of the body, but a near absence of tonic antigravity muscle potential (or muscle tonus), with a high brain temperature and metabolic rate, and with a low voltage desynchronized EEG pattern from the brain cortex.

The areas of the brain below the cortex also appear to be important in dreaming. The dream state appears to be triggered by the pontile-limbic system, a very old and primitive portion of the brain, and one characteristic only of mammals. Indeed, periods of rapid eye movement appear in all mammals that have been studied - cats, dogs, sheep, goats, monkeys, chimpanzees, donkeys, opossums, mice, rats, elephants, and humans. A few rapid eye movements can be detected in other forms of life, such as birds, but they account for only a tiny fraction of these organisms' sleep time.

Measurement of eye movements by electro-oculography takes advantage of the fact that the retina is positively charged and that the choroid that lies behind it is negatively charged - even under resting conditions. The charges are kept separate by the external limiting membrane that lies between the retina and the choroid. As a result, the resting eye acts as a dipole in which the cornea is some 10 to 30 millivolts positive with respect to the back of the eye. One's eye position can be recorded by placing a pair of electrodes on the inner and outer corner of each eye (for measuring horizontal eye movements) or above and below each eye (for vertical eye movements). When the eyes are aimed straight ahead, the potentials between similarly placed pairs of electrodes are balanced. Any rotation of the eye, however, brings the more positive cornea closer to one electrode of each pair than to the other. The resulting difference in potential serves as an index of eye position.

Humans and other mammals have a clearly defined sleep-dream cycle. Why do mammals dream? The newborn kitten spends more time in stage REM then in other stages of sleep or in wakefulness. The newborn human infant spends half of his or her sleep time in the rapid eye movement stage; this percentage decreases to 40 by the age of two, 30,by the age of five, about 25 by adolescence, 20 by adulthood, and about 15 in old age. Prematurely born infants spend about 75 per cent of their sleep time in the REM stage. These developmental changes demonstrate to some scientists that the rapid eye movement activity provides a mechanism for establishing binocularly coordinated eye movements, without which we would not be able to focus the eyes for depth perception. Once binocular skills are established, dreaming is still necessary to clear the nervous system of its residue of daily activities, to stimulate growth and maintenance of the brain's cortex, to keep the brain stimulated and functioning when there is little external sensory input, and to process information, engage in problem-solving, and to fantasize about unfulfilled wishes.

Dreams and Creative Problem-Solving

Freud (1899) considered dreams to be a special form of thinking which occurs without reference to abstract verbal concepts, instead of using sensory images as units of communication. Although other sensory modalities can be involved, dreams most commonly consist of visual metaphors.

Freud rejected the possibility that dreams could sometimes carry out the same mental operations as waking consciousness. He did not conceive of the dream as being involved with heightened capacities such as creativity. Nevertheless, dreams have been recorded which do demonstrate that, on rare occasions, dreams can serve a creative function. Mendeleyev, for example, had a dream in which the periodic table of the elements appeared to him. He only needed to make one minor revision when awake to complete this formulation.

Jean Cocteau once dreamed he was watching a play about King Arthur, an epoch about which he had never read and had no documentary information. The characters were so vivid and the details so rich that he was led to write The Knights of the Round Table. He concluded, "The poet is at the disposal of his night. He must clean his house and await its visitation".

The naturalist, Louis Agassiz, attempted to transfer the image of a fossilized fish from a stone, but found the image too blurred. He gave up the project only to dream, a few nights later, of an entire fossilized fish. He hurried to the laboratory the next morning, but the image was as obscure as before. The dream returned the next night. When he examined the slab the next morning, the vague image appeared unchanged. Hoping to have the dream a third time, Agassiz put a pencil and paper by his bed. The dream returned and he drew the image. The next morning when he looked at what he had drawn, he was surprised that he had produced so many details in total darkness. He returned to his laboratory and used the drawing as a guide to chisel the slab. When the stone layer fell away, Agassiz found the fossil in excellent condition and identical to the image he had seen in his dream. He also realized that if he had chiseled the slab in any other way, he would have ruined the fossil.

Sriniwasa Ramanujan, a self-taught mathematician from India, claimed that the goddess Namakkal inspired him with mathematical formulae in his dreams. After awakening in the morning, Ramanujan frequently wrote down and verified mathematical ideas which had come to him during the night.

H. V. Hilprecht, an archaeologist working at the Imperial Museum of Constantinople, was attempting without success to decipher two small fragments of agate which had cuneiform writing on them from theCassite period in Babylonian history. After midnight one evening, he fell asleep from exhaustion. In a dream, a tall, thin priest appeared to Hilprecht, announced that he had lived in 1300 B.C-, and led the archaeologist to a treasure chamber. Later, Hilprecht recalled the priest's remarks:

The two fragments... belong together.... King Kurigalzu once sent to the temple of Bel... an inscribed votary cylinder of agate. Then we priests suddenly received the command to make for the statue of the god Nimib a pair of earrings of agate. We were in great dismay, since there was no agate as raw material at hand. In order to execute the command, there was nothing for us to do but cut the votive cylinder into three parts, thus making three rings, each of which contained a portion of the original description. The first two rings served as earrings for the statue of the god; the two fragments which have given you so much trouble are portions of them. If you will put the two together you will have confirmation of my words. But the third ring you have not found in the course of your excavations and you never will find it.

Hilprecht awakened and verified the message by putting the fragments together. And true to the information from the priest of Nippur, Hilprecht never found the third fragment.

The experiences of Ramanujan and Hilprecht demonstrate how unconscious knowledge can take the form of a personal "guide" as the dreamer works toward a solution of the problem (Krippner, Dreistadt, and Hubbard, 1972).

Converging Operations and Biofeedback

Patanjali, in the ancient Yoga Sutras, wrote, "Just as pure crystal takes color from the object which is nearest to it, so the mind, when it is cleared..., achieves sameness or identity with the object of its concentration". For most of its history, Western science has scoffed at the claims of Zen masters and yogis, including their psychic abilities (such as those described by Patanjali) as well as voluntary control over internal states.

Suspecting that these attributes of Zen practice and Yoga could be measured by EEG techniques, investigators persuaded meditators to allow scientists to connect electrodes to their brains. The adept practitioners of both forms of meditation showed an almost continuous pattern of alpha wave production while meditating. This was particularly startling in the case of Zen masters, who meditated while their eyes were open, because the alpha rhythm (associated with a state of relaxed alertness) is almost never seen in the eyes-open condition among ordinary subjects.

Akira Kasamatsu and Tomio Hirai (1972), who studied the Zen masters, tried to interrupt the flow of alpha waves with a noisemaker which made a clicking sound. The alpha stopped, as expected, but resumed once the clicking ceased " However, the Zen meditators did not adapt to the clicks, as would ordinary subjects. In other words, each click brought a similar blockage of alpha instead of a lesser blockage which would have indicated that the subjects had adapted to the noise. This finding probably relates to the goal of Zen meditators to exist in the "here and the now", and to be a full part of each phenomenal event, no matter how often that event is repeated.

B.K. Anand, G.S. Chhina, and Baldev Singh (1972), who studied yogis, also used clicking sounds in an attempt to interrupt the flow of alpha waves. The yogis showed no response to the clicks at all; their alpha continued to be uninterrupted. This phenomenon may relate to the transcending of the external world stressed by yogic meditation. Therefore, the philosophical outlooks and the subjective experiences of the two groups of subjects (Zen meditators and yogis) matched what was observed on the EEG.

This utilization of EEG and other psychophysiological data in conjunction with subjects' experiences has been referred to as "converging operations" by Johann Stoyva and Joe Kamiya (1969). The utilization of converging operations uses both a person's verbal reports of an internal experience along with the EEG recording (and other psychophysiological measures) of that experience. The two records do not always converge exactly, but the correspondence is close enough to yield more information than if one technique alone were used. The employment of converging operations has been a favorite scientific approach for humanistic psychologists. It combines the verbal reports of the psychoanalysts with the observable events so critical to the behaviorists, producing information about states of consciousness.

What of the yogis' claims to control their blood pressure, skin temperature, and muscle tension? These are all functions of the involuntary nervous system and thought to be outside voluntary control. Yet, scientists such as Barbara Brown (1974), Joe Kamiya (1972), and Elmer and Alyce Green (1974) discovered that many people could be taught these skills through "biofeedback" procedures (Biofeedback was used by Lisina in the U.S.S.R. as far back as 1957 to control a vascular response by acting through the orienting reflex. A response which could not be formed through ordinary conditioning became possible when a light signaled when the blood vessels in the fingers were dilating). The psychophysiological correlate of a brain rhythm, a pulse rate, a certain degree of skin temperature, or a certain amount of muscle tension can be identified (Davidson and Krippner, 1972). A machine can be instructed to identify these indices of involuntary nervous system - and to feed them back to a subject. Thus, when subjects want to relax the frontalis muscle on the forehead, an electromyogram could be attached that would make a "beeping" sound whenever the muscle becomes tense. As long as the "beeps" do not occur, the subjects know that their frontalis muscles are relaxed.

State Reports and Biofeedback

In our attempts at theMaimonides Medical Center to inaugurate additional studies with converging operations and to initiate studies involving biofeedback, Charles Honorton taught his subjects a self-report scale. Based on a procedure described by Charles Tart (1970), the scale was designed to measure one's state of consciousness as well as shifts or transitions between two different states.

Tart found that his subjects produced reports which correlated with objective tests of hypnotic depth (Electrometric correlates of hypnosis have been reported by L. J. Ravitz (1950)). Honorton taught his subjects this self-report scale by telling them:

During the course of this experiment, we will be interested in the degree to which your state of mind stays the same or changes. That is, at various times we are going to want to know what state of mind we are in. In order to make it easy and convenient for you to tell me this, I am going to teach you a rating scale. This way, when you are asked "State?" you will just call out a number to indicate your state of mind, instead of having to explain it.

Here is what the numbers are to represent: Zero indicates that you are normally alert just as you are now. One indicates that you feel especially relaxed. In this state, you may feel more at ease, and the tension in your muscles may yield to a more peaceful state. Do you know what I mean? Two indicates that your attention is being focused more on internal feelings and sensations. This may be associated with a shift from your surrounding environment to your internal bodily feelings. If this shift is not only recognizable but strong, you should report three, and if it is strong and very impressive to you, report four. A report of four indicates that you feel more or less oblivious to your external surroundings. Do you get the idea?

Okay. Now, whenever I ask "State"? you should call out the first number that pops into your mind. We've found this generally to be more accurate than if you stop and think about what the number should be. Of course, if you feel that the number you've called out is way off, you may call out a correction. It is important that your state reports reflect - as accurately as possible - your internal state.

Honorton then asked for a state report at critical times during an experiment, enabling us to detect shifts in consciousness. A formal experiment involving converging operations was designed by Honorton and two student research assistants, Richard Davidson and Paul Bindler (1971) (Another experiment utilized the self-report scale to measure alterations in consciousness involved with electrosleep (Krippner and Hubbard, 1973). These findings might be pertinent to the therapeutic use of electrosleep (Khromchenko, 1970)).

They located 23 volunteer subjects who wanted to learn how to produce alpha waves. They had the subjects close their eyes and participate in 20 two-minute alpha feedback trials, interspersed with ten rest periods. For half the feedback trials, subjects were instructed to "keep the tone on" while, for the other half, they were told to "keep the tone off". They called the first set of trials "аlpha generation" and the second half "alpha suppression". The order of the instructions differed in that one half of the subjects started by generating alpha, the other half by suppressing alpha.

A state report was requested from the subjects on half of their trials, the order being determined randomly for each subject. The subject's room was darkened during each session; the experimenter communicated with the subject by an intercom system.

Three measures were taken of each subject's physical activity. Brain waves were recorded on an electroencephalogram (EEG), eye movements through an electro-oculogram (EOG), and muscle tension with an electromyogram (EMG). Honorton took what is called a "monopolar" EEG measurement from the left occipital lobe of the brain to the ear lobe. The EOG was monitored from two different areas around the eyes. The EMG was measured by placing an electrode on the forehead's frontalis muscle.

It required one alpha wave to produce a tone in the subject's room- When the subjects heard the tone, they knew that alpha was present; no tone meant that alpha was absent. When all subjects had completed their trials, Honorton compared the percentage of alpha in the alpha generation condition with that in the alpha suppression condition. The differences between the obtained percentages of 32 per cent for generation and 16 per cent for suppression were statistically significant, indicating that the group had learned to generate or suppress alpha waves through the biofeedback technique. The difference between alpha suppression and the subjects' rest periods was also significant.

Results of the Experiment

On the EEG, alpha generation was associated with an average state report of about "two" (2.01, to be exact) as compared to an average of less than "one" (actually, 0.63) for the suppression condition. There was only one chance in 200 that this difference could have been coincidental. Furthermore, those subjects demonstrating the greatest shifts in consciousness from generation to suppression (for example, from "four" to "one") obtained significantly larger differences in percentage of alpha than those subjects with little evidence of a shift (say, from "three" to "two").

Honorton then counted the number of rapid eye movements (REMs) per minute and found that lew state reports ("zero" and "one") were associated with greater REM activitiy than high state reports ("two", "three", and "four"). The difference was so highly significant that there was only one chance out of 1,000 that coincidence could have accounted for it.

Muscle tension, as measured by the EMG, was associated with low state reports. The difference between the state reports associated with presence and absence of muscle tension was so great that there was only one chance out of 10, 0C0 that it could have been due to coincidence.

Honorton also interviewed the subjects, finding that their reports fell into three groups. The first group of subjects reported unusual bodily feelings (such as a "floating-in-space sensation") and experiences that were almost hallucinatory in nature (such as "hearing voices"). Other subjects had dreamlike responses including vivid visual imagery. The third group of subjects reported no unusual experiences. When he examined these responses statistically he found that members of the first group obtained significantly larger shifts in alpha than the group reporting no unusual experiences. The group reporting dreamlike imagery had more of an alpha shift than the third group but less than the first group.

The results of this study indicated that the validity of our state report scale had been demonstrated by EEG-EOG-EMG measurements. The results also indicated that psychophysiological measurements can tell scientists a great deal about altered states of consciousness. The biofeedback experts Elmer Green and Alyce Green have gone so far as to claim that for every psychological state there is a characteristic psychophysiological response and that for every psychophysiological pattern of responses there is a characteristic psychological state.

The relationship Honorton found between state reports and alpha suggest that increments in alpha are associated with a decrease in externally-directed attentive activity and an increase in relaxation. Furthermore, one out of every three of the subjects entered into altered states of consciousness in which they experienced unusual bodily feelings and hallucinatory-type experiences (Honorton, Davidson, andBindler, 1972). Such effects occurred most frequently with subjects producing relatively large shifts in the alpha brain rhythm.


The relationships between physiological and psychological states can be demonstrated by the converging operations approach. The data emerging from research with sleep, dreams, meditation, hypnosis, and biofeedback confirm Pavlov's assertion that the human organism is an integrated whole. Furthermore, it is apparent that the entire human organism is conscious, and not a small section of the cerebral cortex. Therefore, scientific explorations of altered states of consciousness need to determine how the various bodily systems work together to provide those shifts in thinking, feeling, and perception which can often release the latent reserves of human potential.


Anand, B. K.. Chhina, G. S., and Singh, B. "Some Aspects of Electroencephalographs Studies in Yogis". Altered States of Consciousness. Second edition (Tart, С. Т., ed.). New York: Anchor, 1972, pp. 515-518.

Brown, B. New Mind, New Body. New York: Harper and Row, 1974.

Davidson, R., and Krippner, S. "Biofeedback Research: The Data and Their Implications". In: Biofeedback and Self-Controb 1971 (Stoyva, J., et al., eds.). Chicago: Aldine/Atherton, 1972, pp. 3-34.

Freud, S., The Interpretation of Dreams. New York: Basic Books, 1953. (Originally published in 1899).

Green, E. E., and Green, A. N. "Regulating our mind-body processes". Fields within Fields, 1974, 7:16-24.

Honorton, C, Davidson, R., and Bindler, P. "Feedback-augmented EEG alpha, shifts in subjective state, and ESP card-guessing performance". Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 1971, 65:308-323.

Honorton, C, Davidson, R., and Bindler, P. "Shifts in subjective state associated with feedback-augmented EEG alpha". Psychophysiology, 1972, 9:269-270.

KAMIYA, J. "Operant control of the EEG alpha rhythm and some of its reported effects on consciousness". In: Altered States of Consciousness. Second edition (Tart, С. Т., ed.). New York: Anchor, 1972, pp. 519-529.

Kasamatsu, A., and Hirai, T. "An electroencephalographs study of the Zen meditation". In: Altered States of Consciousness. Second edition (Tart, С. Т., ed.). New York: Anchor. 1972, pp. 501-514.

Khromchenko, M. "Medicinal electrosleep". Ogonyok, 1970, 20:20-21.

Krippner, S., and Hubbard, С. С. "Clairvoyance and alterations in consciousness: An experiment involving electrosleep". International Journal of Paraphysics, 1973, 7:5-17.

Krippner, S.: Dreistadt, F., and Hubbard, С. С. "The creative person and non-ordinary reality". Gifted Child Quarterly, 1972, 16: 203-234.

Ravitz, L. J. Electrometric correlates of the hypnotic state. Science, 1950, 112:341-342.

Stoyva, J. and Kamiya, J. "Electrophysiological studies of dreaming as the prototype of a newstrategy in the study of consciousness". Psychological Review, 1969, 75:192- 205.

Tart, С. Т. "Self-report scales of hypnotic depth". International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 1970, 18: 105-125.

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