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At Big Think: Brain experiment suggests that consciousness relies on quantum entanglement

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Elizabeth Fernandez writes:

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  •  Most neuroscientists believe that the brain operates in a classical manner. 
  • However, if brain processes rely on quantum mechanics, it could explain why our brains are so powerful. 
  • A team of researchers possibly witnessed entanglement in the brain, perhaps indicating that some of our brain activity, and maybe even consciousness, operates on a quantum level.

Supercomputers can beat us at chess and perform more calculations per second than the human brain. But there are other tasks our brains perform routinely that computers simply cannot match — interpreting events and situations and using imagination, creativity, and problem-solving skills. Our brains are amazingly powerful computers, using not just neurons but the connections between the neurons to process and interpret information.

And then there is consciousness, neuroscience’s giant question mark. What causes it? How does it arise from a jumbled mass of neurons and synapses? After all, these may be enormously complex, but we are still talking about a wet bag of molecules and electrical impulses.

Some scientists suspect that quantum processes, including entanglement, might help us explain the brain’s enormous power, and its ability to generate consciousness. Recently, scientists at Trinity College Dublin, using a technique to test for quantum gravity, suggested that entanglement may be at work within our brains. If their results are confirmed, they could be a big step toward understanding how our brain, including consciousness, works. 

Quantum processes in the brain

Amazingly, we have seen some hints that quantum mechanisms are at work in our brains. Some of these mechanisms might help the brain process the world around it through sensory input. 

Despite such intriguing findings, the brain is largely assumed to be a classical system. 

If quantum processes are at work in the brain, it would be difficult to observe how they work and what they do. Indeed, not knowing exactly what we are looking for makes quantum processes very difficult to find. 

Seeing entanglement in the brain may show that the brain is not classical, as previously thought, but rather a powerful quantum system. If the results can be confirmed, they could provide some indication that the brain uses quantum processes. This could begin to shed light on how our brain performs the powerful computations it does, and how it manages consciousness. 

Complete article at Big Think.

As a physicist whose research involved computational nano-electronics, for which the entire physical schema relied upon quantum mechanical transport of electrons through molecular structures, it would seem to be a “no-brainer” that quantum processes (including entanglement) are prevalent in brain activity.

9 Replies to “At Big Think: Brain experiment suggests that consciousness relies on quantum entanglement

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    As to:

    Some scientists suspect that quantum processes, including entanglement, might help us explain the brain’s enormous power, and its ability to generate consciousness.

    First and foremost in regards to quantum entanglement and consciousness,,,, quantum entanglement, due to the fact that it is now proven to be a ‘non-local’, beyond space and time, effect, completely rules out the material brain, all by its lonesome, ever being the explanation of consciousness.

    Looking beyond space and time to cope with quantum theory – 29 October 2012
    Excerpt: “Our result gives weight to the idea that quantum correlations somehow arise from outside spacetime, in the sense that no story in space and time can describe them,”
    http://www.quantumlah.org/high.....uences.php

    In short, quantum entanglement is an immaterial effect that requires and immaterial cause to explain its ‘non-local’ existence. And, of course, Darwinian materialists, (especially with the falsification of hidden variables), have no immaterial, beyond space and time, cause to appeal to, whereas Christian Theists do have one, and have been postulating just such a ‘non-local’ beyond space and time cause for a few thousand years now.

    Colossians 1:17
    He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

    As to:

    Brain experiment suggests that consciousness relies on quantum entanglement – Nov. 2022
    Excerpt: As the heart beats, it generates a signal called the heartbeat potential, or HEP. With each peak of the HEP, the researchers saw a corresponding spike in the NMR signal, which corresponds to the interactions among proton spins. This signal could be a result of entanglement, and witnessing it might indicate there was indeed a non-classical intermediary.
    “The HEP is an electrophysiological event, like alpha or beta waves,” Kerskens explains. “The HEP is tied to consciousness because it depends on awareness.” Similarly, the signal indicating entanglement was only present during conscious awareness, which was illustrated when two subjects fell asleep during the MRI. When they did, this signal faded and disappeared.
    – per big think

    Of related note, quantum states have already been observed in a ‘wide range of important biomolecules’,

    Quantum criticality in a wide range of important biomolecules – Mar. 6, 2015
    Excerpt: “Most of the molecules taking part actively in biochemical processes are tuned exactly to the transition point and are critical conductors,” they say.
    That’s a discovery that is as important as it is unexpected. “These findings suggest an entirely new and universal mechanism of conductance in biology very different from the one used in electrical circuits.”
    The permutations of possible energy levels of biomolecules is huge so the possibility of finding even one (biomolecule) that is in the quantum critical state by accident is mind-bogglingly small and, to all intents and purposes, impossible.,, of the order of 10^-50 of possible small biomolecules and even less for proteins,”,,,
    “what exactly is the advantage that criticality confers?”
    https://medium.com/the-physics-arxiv-blog/the-origin-of-life-and-the-hidden-role-of-quantum-criticality-ca4707924552

    That quantum principles must be at play, (not only at the microscopic level of biological molecules, but also at the macroscopic level of organisms), is most easily, and clearly, demonstrated by the fact that we can detect a single photon,

    Study suggests humans can detect even the smallest units of light – July 21, 2016
    Excerpt: Research,, has shown that humans can detect the presence of a single photon, the smallest measurable unit of light. Previous studies had established that human subjects acclimated to the dark were capable only of reporting flashes of five to seven photons.,,,
    it is remarkable: a photon, the smallest physical entity with quantum properties of which light consists, is interacting with a biological system consisting of billions of cells, all in a warm and wet environment,” says Vaziri. “The response that the photon generates survives all the way to the level of our awareness despite the ubiquitous background noise. Any man-made detector would need to be cooled and isolated from noise to behave the same way.”,,,
    The gathered data from more than 30,000 trials demonstrated that humans can indeed detect a single photon incident on their eye with a probability significantly above chance.
    “What we want to know next is how does a biological system achieve such sensitivity? How does it achieve this in the presence of noise?”
    http://phys.org/news/2016-07-humans-smallest.html

    Of related note to quantum entanglement in the brain, Stuart Hameroff received fairly strong support for his hypothesis that quantum mechanics was at play in the microtubules of the brain,

    Consciousness Depends on Tubulin Vibrations Inside Neurons, Anesthesia Study Suggests – 5-Sep-2017
    Excerpt: The results provide a marked improvement to the Meyer-Overton correlation by discriminating anesthetics from non-anesthetics, and suggest that anesthetics block consciousness by altering terahertz oscillations in tubulin.,,,
    Senior co-author Jack Tuszynski said:
    “Scientific luminaries from Erwin Schrödinger to Sir Roger Penrose have proposed that consciousness requires quantum coherent processes, but skeptics have asserted such processes would suffer ‘decoherence’ in the ‘warm, wet and noisy’ biological milieu. Our study supports growing evidence that non-polar, pi resonance regions in microtubules and other biomolecules maintain these coherent states, and that a ‘quantum underground’ pervades the brain’s neurons.”
    https://www.newswise.com/articles/consciousness-depends-on-tubulin-vibrations-inside-neurons-anesthesia-study-suggests

    Also of note, at the 1:55 minute mark of the following video, Dr. Stuart Hameroff talks about long range quantum entanglement in the brain:

    Long Range Entanglement in the Brain – Stuart Hameroff – video (1:55 minute mark)
    https://youtu.be/uo9CtOuogqA?t=113

    A few more notes that strongly suggest long range quantum entanglement is at play in our brain.

    The Puzzling Role Of Biophotons In The Brain – Dec. 17, 2010
    Excerpt: It’s certainly true that electrical activity in the brain is synchronised over distances that cannot be easily explained. Electrical signals travel too slowly to do this job, so something else must be at work.,,,
    ,,, It’s a big jump to assume that photons do this job.
    http://www.technologyreview.co.....the-brain/

    ,,, zero time lag neuronal synchrony despite long conduction delays – 2008
    Excerpt: Multielectrode recordings have revealed zero time lag synchronization among remote cerebral cortical areas. However, the axonal conduction delays among such distant regions can amount to several tens of milliseconds. It is still unclear which mechanism is giving rise to isochronous discharge of widely distributed neurons, despite such latencies,,,
    Remarkably, synchrony of neuronal activity is not limited to short-range interactions within a cortical patch. Interareal synchronization across cortical regions including interhemispheric areas has been observed in several tasks (7, 9, 11–14).,,,
    Beyond its functional relevance, the zero time lag synchrony among such distant neuronal ensembles must be established by mechanisms that are able to compensate for the delays involved in the neuronal communication.
    Latencies in conducting nerve impulses down axonal processes can amount to delays of several tens of milliseconds between the generation of a spike in a presynaptic cell and the elicitation of a postsynaptic potential (16). The question is how, despite such temporal delays, the reciprocal interactions between two brain regions can lead to the associated neural populations to fire in unison (i.e. zero time lag).,,,
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pm.....MC2575223/

    Moreover, when we go to sleep the ‘long range’ quantum coherence displayed by the waking brain disappears.

    Researchers: Deep sleep short-circuits brain’s grid of connectivity – September 29, 2005
    Excerpt: Tononi and his team observed the disconnect when brief, magnetically generated pulses of electricity were directed to specific regions of the brain. The pulses stimulated an electrochemical response from the targeted cells, which, when the subject was awake, rippled across the brain, traveling along networks of nerve fibers to different cerebral destinations. But when the subject was in deep sleep, the same response was quickly extinguished and did not travel beyond the stimulated cells.
    When consciousness fades, according to Tononi, “the brain breaks down into little islands that can’t talk to one another.”
    https://news.wisc.edu/researchers-deep-sleep-short-circuits-brains-grid-of-connectivity/

    Verse:

    Isaiah 50:4 – KJV
    “The Lord God hath given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary. He wakeneth morning by morning; He wakeneth Mine ear to hear as the learned.

  2. 2
    Fasteddious says:

    One confusion here is with the term “quantum effects”. Since every cell involves transfers of electrons and other atomic or molecular pieces, then of course quantum effects are active: in electron energy levels, enzyme activity to lower energy thresholds for chemical reactions, transfer of calcium ions, etc. Whether any of this involves entanglement and other strange quantum effects is a different question that would be more difficult to investigate and answer. Given how fragile entanglement is in the lab, any such effects going on in the wet, warm brain, with its active chemistry and packed in atoms, would presumably have to be either very quick, or else very cleverly shielded and maintained by some biological process.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    Fasteddious at 2, this may interest you:

    In the following video, at the 22:20 minute mark, Dr. Elisabeth Rieper shows why the high temperatures of biological systems do not prevent DNA from having quantum entanglement and then at 24:00 minute mark Dr Rieper goes on to remark that practically the whole DNA molecule can be viewed as quantum information with classical information embedded within it.

    “What happens is this classical information (of DNA) is embedded, sandwiched, into the quantum information (of DNA). And most likely this classical information is never accessed because it is inside all the quantum information. You can only access the quantum information or the electron clouds and the protons. So mathematically you can describe that as a quantum/classical state.”
    Elisabeth Rieper – Classical and Quantum Information in DNA – video (Longitudinal Quantum Information resides along the entire length of DNA discussed at the 19:30 minute mark; at 24:00 minute mark Dr Rieper remarks that practically the whole DNA molecule can be viewed as quantum information with classical information embedded within it)
    https://youtu.be/2nqHOnVTxJE?t=1176

  4. 4
    PyrrhoManiac1 says:

    @2

    . Given how fragile entanglement is in the lab, any such effects going on in the wet, warm brain, with its active chemistry and packed in atoms, would presumably have to be either very quick, or else very cleverly shielded and maintained by some biological process.

    Agreed, though I don’t think that shielding by biological process can be ruled out, either.

  5. 5
    Paxx says:

    “consciousness…. What causes it?”

    Good question, but that’s a secondary question. The primary question is: what is it? Nobody knows. Neuoscientists sure as heck don’t know. Whatever it is, it’s the primary fact of my existence, and not dependent on mere reason. The “I Am”.

  6. 6
    Sir Giles says:

    And then there is consciousness, neuroscience’s giant question mark. What causes it

    A very good question. An approach that has been successfully used in researching other phenomena is to investigate what things can halt or stop the phenomenon in question. We know that brain damage can interrupt consciousness. As can certain chemicals. We also know that things like aneurisms, strokes and drugs can alter our perception of consciousness.

  7. 7
    Alan Fox says:

    We know that brain damage can interrupt consciousness.

    Indeed. There is the Glasgow Coma Scale that used to be called the Glasgow consciousness scale. Level of consciousness is an assessment of brain activity and the word “consciousness” should be reserved for that or dispensed with altogether. “Awareness” and “self-awareness” are more than adequate alternatives.

  8. 8
    Alan Fox says:

    The primary question is: what is [consciousness]? Nobody knows. Neuoscientists sure as heck don’t know.

    Well, there I agree. Certainly, neuroscientists will readily confirm the gap in knowledge between our first-person experience of our conscious selves and how brain activity is observed and interpreted by neuroscientists as third-persons.

    Has ID some help, input, suggestions to offer?

  9. 9
    William J Murray says:

    Consciousness/awareness is not something that can be known, it is that by which other things can be known. It is not caused; it is that which causes.

    Testing others for their apparent level of consciousness or awareness says absolutely nothing about that person’s level of consciousness; all it says anything about is what the consciousness/awareness of the person conducting the test is observing.

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