Functional roles for quantum physics in biological activities relevant to consciousness have been proposed, for example in microtubules in the Penrose-Hameroff theory of ‘orchestrated objective reduction’ (‘Orch OR’). If feasible, quantum computation, entanglement and unitary coherence of states of microtubules and other components, suggested in Orch OR, can account for enigmatic features of consciousness. These include the ‘cognitive binding’ problem (via non-local entanglement among separated brain regions), action of anesthetic gases and psychoactive molecules, temporal non-locality required for language processing and real-time conscious action (free will), the origin of EEG rhythms, and an approach to the ‘hard problem’ of conscious experience.
In this workshop, Jack Tuszynski will discuss recent discoveries regarding the quantum biophysics of microtubules. Andrew Adamatzky will describe cytoskeleton-dependent problem-solving and oscillatory behavior in the single-cell giant amoeba slime mould. Christian Kerskens will address quantum nuclear spin in the brain, as seen in MRI images in awake subjects. Stuart Hameroff will point to non-polar ‘quantum-friendly’ regions within microtubules where anesthetics act (the ‘Meyer-Overton quantum underground’) as the biological origin of consciousness, and provide an overview of the current debate on quantum brain biology and consciousness.
Unconventional Computing Laboratory
University of the West of England, Bristol
Center for Consciousness Studies
University of Arizona at Tucson, USA
Jack Tuszynski (chair)
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Politecnico di Torino, Italy
Construction of an Integrated Model of Neuronal Bioelectric Circuitry
The Hodgkin-Huxley model of action potential propagation has been the corner stone of neuroscience for over half a century. Mounting evidence from microscope and nanoscale experiments indicates a deeper-level of electric conduction behaviour involving various constituents of living cells including neurons. I will provide an overview of the recently revealed non-trivial conductive properties of microtubules, actin filaments, ionic species and, of course, ion channels. I will attempt to provide the outlines of an integrated bioelectronic model of neuronal circuitry.
Jack Tuszynski received a PhD in theoretical physics from the University of Calgary and a D.Sc. in biocybernetics and biomedical engineering from the Technical University of Silesia. He holds the Allard Research Chain in experimental oncology and full professorship in physics at the University of Alberta. He is also a part-time professor at the Turin Polytechnic University. His research interests center on computational drug discovery and theoretical biophysics.
From Cerebral Circulation to Quantum Consciousness
Long-range quantum coherence is potentially important for the realisation of quantum computing. In this talk, I will report on our findings in the human brain where we showed that the cardiac pressure pulse evoked zero spin echoes (ZSEs) in brain parenchyma. ZSEs are thought to be generated by long-range intermolecular zero-quantum coherence (iZQC). From our experimental results, we could conclude that the observed quantum coherence originated from an underlying unknown physiological mechanism. In further observations, we linked this unknown mechanism to consciousness because, firstly, only sporadic ZSE signals were detected during sleep and secondly, it was evoked by the pressure wave which in turn is also essential for consciousness. In the discussion, I will focus on the coherence’s possible physiological origin.
Christian Kerskens studied physics at the University of Cologne where he received his Ph.D. in 1997. He has worked at the Max-Planck Institute for Neurological Research in Cologne, the Humboldt University in Berlin and the Donders Center in Nijmegen. He is currently at the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience in Ireland where his research focuses primarily on cerebral dynamics from blood flow to tissue diffusion.
Cytoskeleton-dependent problem solving and oscillatory behaviour of slime mould
Slime mould Physarum polycephalum is a large single cell capable for distributed sensing, parallel information processing and decentralised actuation. Having no nervous system the slime mould is capable for making optimal decisions while met with complex tasks. The slime mould's “nervous system” is a spatially distributed pool of biochemical oscillators and networks of tubulin microtubules and actin filaments. Using results of our laboratory experiments and computational models we uncover mechanisms of the slime mould's awareness, perception of its surroundings, and optimal responses to chemical, mechanical and optical stimuli. We illustrate our findings with prototypes of the slime mould morphological processors for approximation of Voronoi diagrams, planar shapes and solving mazes and overview a range of electronic components—memristor, chemical, tactile and colour sensors—made of the slime mould.
Andrew Adamatzky is Professor of Unconventional Computing and Director of the Unconventional Computing Laboratory, Department of Computer Science, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK. He does research in molecular computing, reaction-diffusion computing, collision-based computing, cellular automata, slime mould computing, massive parallel computation, applied mathematics, complexity, nature-inspired optimisation, collective intelligence and robotics, bionics, computational psychology, non-linear science, novel hardware, and future and emergent computation. He authored seven books, mostly notable are `Reaction-Diffusion Computing’, `Dynamics of Crow Minds’, `Physarum Machines’, and edited twenty-two books in computing, most notable are `Collision Based Computing’, `Game of Life Cellular Automata’, `Memristor Networks’; he also produced a series of influential artworks published in the atlas `Silence of Slime Mould’. He is founding editor-in-chief of ‘J of Cellular Automata’ and “ J of Unconventional Computing’ and editor-in-chief of “J Parallel, Emergent, Distributed Systems’ and ‘Parallel Processing Letters’.
Quantum Biology and Consciousness - The State of the Debate
Recently, functional quantum states and entanglement have been discovered in photosynthesis, among bacteria, bird navigation, microtubule resonances and anesthetic action. The quantum states originate in non-polar solubility regions inside proteins including microtubules where anesthetics act to specifically erase consciousness. Evidence in this direction has diversified with biological experiments, quantum optics, computer modeling of microtubule quantum states, anesthesia action, microtubule information processing, temporal nonlocality in language and cognition, nuclear spin and quantum coherent MRI. Implications for the Orch OR theory and understanding of consciousness will be discussed.
Stuart Hameroff earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Pittsburgh, and received his MD at Hahnemann in Philadelphia in 1973. He then moved to Tucson, where in 1975 he became the sixth resident in the Department of Anesthesiology at the University of Arizona, and joining the faculty in 1977. He is currently Professor Emeritus of Anesthesiology and Psychology, and Director of the Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona.