From: Steven Lehar
To: Dr. Stephen W. Kercel
Date: May 11 2005
In response to this review of my paper by the Journal of Integrative Neuroscience.

Dear Dr. Kercel,

I saw nothing in the review of my paper that offers any hope of this particular reviewer ever seeing any merit in it no matter how extensively the paper is revised. His statements that "Gestalian psychology is archaic" and that he sees no need for neuroscience to account for the holistic global aspects of perception, indicate that this reviewer is unqualified to review a paper that proposes a neurophysiological mechanism exactly to account for the holistic global aspects of perception.

The author is not the only one to recognize the significance of Gestalt phenomena. Far from being "archaic", there is growing recognition of the profound significance of the Gestalt aspects of perception. The great questions of perception raised by Gestalt theory remain largely unanswered to this day. Gestalt illusions demonstrate that perception involves a constructive, or generative function, because visual experience contains more explicit spatial information than the retinal stimulus on which it is based. And there is a holistic, global aspect to that constructive function that simply demands a neurophysiological explanation.

The reviewer complains that resonance theory is "nonsense if no physiological mechanism is described". But resonances in brain tissue are a well known phenomenon, from the rhythmic spiking of individual neurons, to synchronous oscillations between groups of neurons, to global resonances across the whole brain as recorded in EEG. The idea of resonances in the brain is not new. What is novel in the present proposal is that spatial standing waves in the neural substrate serve as a representation of spatial structure in perception. The physical phenomenon of resonance is real, as is its ability to express spatial patterns by way of an orthogonal basis set of spatial primitives. As to whether the theory of resonances in the brain is "nonsense", surely this is a question that should be opened to consideration by the community at large, who can judge for themselves based on the evidence presented in the paper. This reviewer would deny others the opportunity to decide the question for themselves.

The reviewer complains that since the theory is a "paradigm", then it can't be a theory, and thus it should not be published. But even paradigmatic theories are theories. The difference is that paradigms involve theories about foundational issues, such as whether the brain operates principly on atomistic or holistic principles; discrete signals communicated along fixed transmission lines between discrete computational elements, or analogical field-like computations of spatial logic. Surely foundational issues should be open to discussion in peer reviewed journals.

The reviewer complains that harmonic resonance exhibits a Gestalt-like nature beyond quantitative understanding, and that this represents a dangerous move towards holism and metaphysics, and for this reason the manuscript should be rejected. But besides the holistic Gestalt-like nature of harmonic resonance, there is no mystery in resonance itself, it is a well known physical property of physical matter, and resonances are experimentally repeatable, so there is no mystical mumbo-jumbo involved. The fact that holistic Gestalt properties appear spontaneously in this well known dynamic phenomenon of physical matter is itself a profoundly significant finding, whether or not this reviewer has the vision to recognize it as such.

It comes down to a question of vision, or how we understand the larger issues of perception. Whether or not to publish this paper is an editorial judgment, a balance of risk against promise. And that depends on whether the journal favors safe but dry pedantic papers, or bold new hypotheses on the foundational issues of perception.

I hope the Journal of Integrative Neuroscience will seize the opportunity to publish something interesting, different, and controversial.

A variation on the harmonic resonance theory has already been published recently in Perception which is available at:


And a paper on the necessity for a volumetric representation in the brain has also been published in The Behavioral & Brain Sciences which is available at:


Steve Lehar