Come leggere un'antica pergamena senza sro- tolarla? Semplice, basta illuminarla con i raggi X di un sincrotrone (foto). L'analisi al sincro- trone ha svelato i segreti di alcuni manoscritti sigillati del Mar Morto, risalenti al XII secolo, così fragili da non poterli aprire senza rischiare di danneggiarli. Per decifrare un prezioso roto- lo di sottilissima pelle animale, lo strumento lo..
Anesthetic gas molecules are recognized to act by van der Waals (London dispersion) forces in hydrophobic pockets of select brain proteins to ablate consciousness. Enigmatic features of consciousness have defied conventional neurophysiological exp lanations and prompted suggestions for supplemental occurrence of macroscopic quantum coherent states and quantum computation in the brain. Are these feasible? During conscious (non-anesthetic) conditions, endogenous Van der Waals London dispersion forces occur among non-polar amino acid groups in hydrophobic pockets of neural proteins and help regulate their (...) conformation/function. London forces are weak instantaneous couplings between pairs of electron induced dipoles (e.g. between adjacent non-polar amino acid groups), and are quantum mechanical effects capable of supporting quantum superposition/computation and macroscopic quantum coherence. Quantum effects mediated by endogenous London forces in hydrophobic pockets of select neural proteins may be necessary for consciousness. The mechanism of anesthetics may be to inhibit (by exogenous London forces) the necessary quantum states. (shrink)
Hameroff: I became interested in understanding consciousness as an undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh in the late 60's. In my third year of medical school at Hahnemann in Philadelphia I did a research elective in professor Ben Kahn's hematology-oncology lab. They were studying various types of malignant blood cells, and I became interested in mitosis-looking under the microscope at normal and abnormal cell division. I became fascinated by centrioles and mitotic spindles pulling apart the chromosomes, doing this little dance, (...) dividing the cytoplasm, establishing the daughter-cell architecture, and beginning differentiation. I remember wondering to myself how these centrioles and mitotic spindles "knew" where to go and what to do. What kind of intelligence was running the show at the cellular level? (shrink)
A recent paper by Rieper, Anders and Vedral (arxiv.org/abs/1006.4053: The Relevance Of Continuous Variable Entanglement In DNA) suggests that quantum entanglement among base pairs in the DNA double helix stabilizes the molecule. A summary of their paper is reported in MIT Technology Review (http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/25375/) is below..
The 'Conscious Pilot' is a new model of the neural correlate of consciousness (NCC) consistent with the Orch OR model. The basic idea is that spatiotemporal envelopes of dendritic gamma synchrony move through the brain's neuronal networks. The movement is sideways to neurocomputational flow, occurring via dendritic dendritic gap junction electrical synapses. A conscious pilot moving around an airplane while it flies on auto pilot is used as a metaphor for dendritic synchrony moving through the brain's neurocomputational networks, conveying conscious (...) experience and choice to otherwise non conscious cognitive modes. (shrink)
Stuart Hameroff, M.D., is a doctor of medicine, a professor of anesthesiology and psychology, as well as associate director of the Center for Consciousness Studies at University of Arizona. Through a collaboration with mathematical physicist, Prof Sir Roger Penrose, Prof Hameroff is leading the assault on mainstream thinking about the human mind and how it is that we come to be. Forget space exploration. Forget biotechnology. Forget nanobots. Forget sea monkeys. The final frontier of science is reading this article right (...) now - and there's a very good reason why physicists call it "the hard problem".. (shrink)
Consciousness defines our existence and reality. But how does the brain generate thoughts and feelings? Most explanations portray the brain as a computer, with nerve cells ("neurons") and their synaptic connections acting as simple switches, or "bits" which interact in complex ways. In this view consciousness is said to "emerge" as a novel property of complex interactions among neurons, as hurricanes and candle flames emerge from complex interactions among gas and dust molecules. However this approach fails to explain why we (...) have feelings and awareness, an "inner life". So we don't know how the brain produces consciousness. (shrink)
As an explanation for order and long range correlations in living systems, Fröhlich (1968; 1970; 1975) proposed certain biomolecules pumped by metabolic processes could exhibit coherent phonon dynamics, perhaps even macroscopic quantum coherence akin to Bose Einstein condensation or lasers. The biomolecular requirements, according to Fröhlich, were: 1) a geometric array or lattice of dipoles constrained in a common voltage gradient, and 2) ample, non coherent biochemical energy. Eligible proposed candidates included membrane proteins, nucleic acids and cytoskeletal microtubules.
Dynamical activities within living eukaryotic cells are organized by microtubules, main structural components of the cytoskeleton and cylindrical polymers of the protein tubulin. Evidence and theoretical models suggest that states of tubulin may play the role of “bits” in classical microtubule computational automata. The advent of quantum information devices, key roles played by quantum processes in protein dynamics, and coherent ordering in the cell cytoplasm further suggest that microtubules may function as quantum computational devices, and that mesoscopic and macroscopic quantum (...) states are characteristic of living systems. In this paper new results from molecular dynamics simulation based on recently obtained atomic structure of tubulin are presented which provide support for classical and quantum modes of microtubule information processing. (shrink)
Today we’re talking with Stuart Hameroff, Professor Emeritus at the Departments of Anesthesiology and Psychology, and Director of the Center for Consciousness Studies, at the University of Arizona. Dr Hameroff is best-known for his research on 'quantum consciousness', an alternative model to the accepted view of how consciousness arises. With Sir Roger Penrose, Dr Hameroff has proposed that consciousness arises at the quantum level within structures inside neurons, known as microtubules.
_Figure 1. Dendrites and cell bodies of schematic neurons connected by dendritic-dendritic gap junctions form a laterally connected input_ _layer (“dendritic web”) within a neurocomputational architecture. Dendritic web dynamics are temporally coupled to gamma synchrony_ _EEG, and correspond with integration phases of “integrate and fire” cycles. Axonal firings provide input to, and output from, integration_ _phases (only one input, and three output axons are shown). Cell bodies/soma contain nuclei shown as black circles; microtubule networks_ _pervade the cytoplasm. According to the (...) Orch OR theory, gamma EEG-synchronized integration phases include quantum computations in_ _microtubule networks which culminate with conscious moments. Insert closeup shows a gap junction through which microtubule quantum_ _states entangle among different neurons, enabling macroscopic quantum states in dendritic webs extending throughout cortex and other_ _brain regions._. (shrink)
1. Introduction: The problems of time and consciousness What is time? St. Augustine remarked that when no one asked him, he knew what time was; however when someone asked him, he did not. Is time a process which flows? Is time a dimension in which processes occur? Does time actually exist? The notion that time is a process which "flows" directionally may be illusory (the "myth of passage") for if time did flow it would do so in some medium or (...) vessel (e.g. minutes per what?) . But if time is a dimension in which processes occurred, e.g. as one component of a 4 dimensional spacetime, then why would processes occur unidirectionally in time? Yet we perceive time as an orderly, unidirectional process. An alternative explanation is that time does not exist as either a process or dimension, but that reality is a collage of discrete, disconnected and haphazardly arranged configurations of the universe, e.g. as described in Julian Barbour's "The end of time" . In this view our perception of a unidirectional flow of time occurs because each moment, or "Now" as Barbour terms them, involves memory of other conceptually relevant moments, and the orderly flow of time is an illusion. Barbour's deconstruction of time contrasts the Newtonian reality of objects moving deterministically through 4 dimensional spacetime. Newton's contemporary (and rival) Leibniz  viewed the world in a manner consistent with Barbour (and with Mach's principle that the spatiotemporal structure of the universe is dependent on the distribution of mass, a foundation of Einstein's general relativity). According to Leibniz the world is to be understood not as matter/mass moving in a framework of space and time, but of more fundamental snapshot-like entities that momentarily fuse space and matter into single possible arrangements or configurations of the entire universe. Such configurations, which can be fabulously rich and complex considering the vastness of the universe, are the ultimate "things" of reality, which Leibniz termed "monads".. (shrink)
_dualism_ (consciousness lies outside knowable science), _emergence_ (consciousness arises as a novel property from complex computational dynamics in the brain), and some form of _panpsychism_, _pan-protopsychism, or pan-experientialism_ (essential features or precursors of consciousness are fundamental components of reality which are accessed by brain processes). In addition to 1) the problem of subjective experience, other related enigmatic features of consciousness persist, defying technological and philosophical inroads. These include 2) the “binding problem”—how disparate brain activities give rise to a unified sense (...) of “self” or unified conscious content. Temporal synchrony—brain-wide coherence of neural membrane electrical activities—is often assumed to accomplish binding, but _what_ is being synchronized? What is being coherently bound? Another enigmatic feature is 3) the transition from pre-conscious processes to consciousness itself. Most neuroscientists agree that consciousness is the “tip of an iceberg”, that the vast majority of brain activities is. (shrink)
Proposals for quantum computation rely on superposed states implementing multiple computations simultaneously, in parallel, according to quantum linear superposition (e.g., Benioff, 1982; Feynman, 1986; Deutsch, 1985, Deutsch and Josza, 1992). In principle, quantum computation is capable of specific applications beyond the reach of classical computing (e.g., Shor, 1994). A number of technological systems aimed at realizing these proposals have been suggested and are being evaluated as possible substrates for quantum computers (e.g. trapped ions, electron spins, quantum dots, nuclear spins, etc., (...) see Table 1; Bennett, 1995; and Barenco, 1995). The main obstacle to realization of quantum computation is the problem of interfacing to the system (input, output) while also protecting the quantum state from environmental decoherence. If this problem can be overcome, then present day classical computers may evolve to quantum computers. (shrink)
What is consciousness? Conventional approaches see it as an emergent property of complex interactions among individual neurons; however these approaches fail to address enigmatic features of consciousness. Accordingly, some philosophers have contended that "qualia," or an experiential medium from which consciousness is derived, exists as a fundamental component of reality. Whitehead, for example, described the universe as being composed of "occasions of experience." To examine this possibility scientifically, the very nature of physical reality must be re-examined. We must come to (...) terms with the physics of spacetime-as described by Einstein's general theory of relativity, and its relation to the fundamental theory of matter-as described by quantum theory. Roger Penrose has proposed a new physics of objective reduction: "OR," which appeals to a form of quantum gravity to provide a useful description of fundamental processes at the quantum/classical borderline.hz Within the OR scheme, we consider that consciousness occurs if an appropriately organized system is able to develop and maintain quantum coherent superposition until a specific "objective" criterion (a threshold related to quantum gravity) is reached; the coherent system then self-reduces (objective reduction: OR). We contend that this type of objective self-collapse introduces non-computability, an essential feature of consciousness which distinguishes our minds from classical computers. Each OR is taken as an instantaneous event-the climax of a self-organizing process in fundamental spacetime-and a candidate for a conscious Whitehead "occasion of experience." How could an OR process occur in the brain, be coupled to neural activities, and account for other features of consciousness? We nominate a quantum computational OR process with the requisite characteristics to be occurring in cytoskeletal microtubules within the brain's neurons. In this model, quantum-superposed states develop in microtubule subunit proteins ("tubulins") within certain brain neurons, remain coherent, and recruit more superposed tubulins until a mass-time-energy threshold (related to quantum gravity) is reached.. (shrink)
As presently implemented, the neuron doctrine (ND) portrays the brain's neurons and chemical synapses as fundamental components in a computer-like switching circuit, supporting a view of brain = mind = computer. However, close examination reveals individual neurons to be far more complex than simple switches, with enormous capacity for intracellular information processing (e.g., in the internal cytoskeleton). Other poorly appreciated factors (gap junctions, apparent randomness, dendritic-dendritic processing, possible quantum computation, the living state) also suggest that the ND grossly oversimplifies neuronal (...) functions. In the quest to understand consciousness, the presently implemented ND may throw out the baby with the bath water. (shrink)
When and where did consciousness emerge in the course of evolution? Did it happen as recently as the past million years, for example concomitant with language or tool making in humans or primates? Or did consciousness arrive somewhat earlier, with the advent of mammalian neocortex 200 million years ago (Eccles, 1992)? At the other extreme, is primitive consciousness a property of even simple unicellular organisms of several billion years ago (e.g. as suggested by Margulis and Sagan, 1995)? Or did consciousness (...) appear at some intermediate point, and if so, where and why? Whenever it first occurred, did consciousness alter the course of evolution? (shrink)
Age-old battle lines over the puzzling nature of mental experience are shaping a modern resurgence in the study of consciousness. On one side are the long-dominant "physicalists" who view consciousness as an emergent property of the brain's neural networks. On the alternative, rebellious side are those who see a necessary added ingredient: proto-conscious experience intrinsic to reality, perhaps understandable through modern physics (panpsychists, pan-experientialists, "funda-mentalists"). It is argued here that the physicalist premise alone is unable to solve completely the difficult (...) issues of consciousness and that to do so will require supplemental panpsychist/pan-experiential philosophy expressed in modern physics. In one scheme proto-conscious experience is a basic property of physical reality accessible to a quantum process associated with brain activity. The proposed process is Roger Penrose's "objective reduction" (OR), a self-organizing "collapse" of the quantum wave function related to instability at the most basic level of space-time geometry. In the Penrose- Hameroff model of "orchestrated objective reduction" (Orch OR), OR quantum computation occurs in cytoskeletal microtubules within the brain's neurons. The basic thesis is that consciousness involves brain activities coupled to a self-organizing ripples in fundamental reality. (shrink)
In "Brainshy: Non-neural theories of conscious experience," (this volume) Patricia Churchland considers three "non-neural" approaches to the puzzle of consciousness: 1) Chalmers' fundamental information, 2) Searle's "intrinsic" property of brain, and 3) Penrose-Hameroff quantum phenomena in microtubules. In rejecting these ideas, Churchland flies the flag of "neuralism." She claims that conscious experience will be totally and completely explained by the dynamical complexity of properties at the level of neurons and neural networks. As far as consciousness goes, neural network firing patterns (...) triggered by axon-to-dendrite synaptic chemical transmissions are the fundamental correlates of consciousness. There is no need to look elsewhere. (shrink)
_Sonoran Desert, Stuart Hameroff and Alwyn Scott awoke from their_ _siestas to take margaritas in the shade of a ramada. On a nearby_ _table, a tape recorder had accidentally been left on and the following_ _is an unedited transcript of their conversation._.
Features of consciousness difficult to understand in terms of conventional neuroscience have evoked application of quantum theory, which describes the fundamental behavior of matter and energy. In this paper we propose that aspects of quantum theory (e.g. quantum coherence) and of a newly proposed physical phenomenon of quantum wave function "self-collapse"(objective reduction: OR -Penrose, 1994) are essential for consciousness, and occur in cytoskeletal microtubules and other structures within each of the brain's neurons. The particular characteristics of microtubules suitable for quantum (...) effects include their crystal-like lattice structure, hollow inner core, organization of cell function and capacity for information processing. We envisage that conformational states of microtubule subunits (tubulins) are coupled to internal quantum events, and cooperatively interact (compute) with other tubulins. We further assume that macroscopic coherent superposition of quantum-coupled tubulin conformational states occurs throughout significant brain volumes and provides the global binding essential to consciousness. We equate the emergence of the microtubule quantum coherence with pre-conscious processing which grows (for up to 500 milliseconds) until the mass-energy difference among the separated states of tubulins reaches a threshold related to quantum gravity. According to the arguments for OR put forth in Penrose (1994), superpositioned states each have their own space-time geometries. When the degree of coherent mass-energy difference leads to sufficient separation of space-time geometry, the system must choose and decay (reduce, collapse) to a single universe state. In this way, a transient superposition of slightly differing space-time geometries persists until an abrupt quantum classical reduction occurs. Unlike the random, "subjective reduction"( SR, or R) of standard quantum theory caused by observation or environmental entanglement, the OR we propose in microtubules is a self-collapse and it results in particular patterns of microtubule-tubulin conformational states that regulate neuronal activities including synaptic functions. (shrink)
Grush and Churchland (1995) attempt to address aspects of the proposal that we have been making concerning a possible physical mechanism underlying the phenomenon of consciousness. Unfortunately, they employ arguments that are highly misleading and, in some important respects, factually incorrect. Their article ‘Gaps in Penrose’s Toilings’ is addressed specifically at the writings of one of us (Penrose), but since the particular model they attack is one put forward by both of us (Hameroff and Penrose, 1995; 1996), it is appropriate (...) that we both reply; but since our individual remarks refer to different aspects of their criticism we are commenting on their article separately. The logical arguments discussed by Grush and Churchland, and the related physics are answered in Part l by Penrose, largely by pointing out precisely where these arguments have already been treated in detail in Shadows of the Mind (Penrose, 1994). In Part 2, Hameroff replies to various points on the biological side, showing for example how they have seriously misunderstood what they refer to as ‘physiological evidence’ regarding to effects of the drug colchicine. The reply serves also to discuss aspects of our model ‘orchestrated objective reduction in brain microtubules – Orch OR’ which attempts to deal with the serious problems of consciousness more directly and completely than any previous theory. (shrink)
Features of consciousness difficult to understand in terms of conventional neuroscience have evoked application of quantum theory, which describes the fundamental behavior of matter and energy. In this paper we propose that aspects of quantum theory (e.g. quantum coherence) and of a newly proposed physical phenomenon of quantum wave function "self-collapse"(objective reduction: OR -Penrose, 1994) are essential for consciousness, and occur in cytoskeletal microtubules and other structures within each of the brain's neurons. The particular characteristics of microtubules suitable for quantum (...) effects include their crystal-like lattice structure, hollow inner core, organization of cell function and capacity for information processing. We envisage that conformational states of microtubule subunits (tubulins) are coupled to internal quantum events, and cooperatively interact (compute) with other tubulins. We further assume that macroscopic coherent superposition of quantum-coupled tubulin conformational states occurs throughout significant brain volumes and provides the global binding essential to consciousness. We equate the emergence of the microtubule quantum coherence with pre-conscious processing which grows (for up to 500 milliseconds) until the mass-energy difference among the separated states of tubulins reaches a threshold related to quantum gravity. According to the arguments for OR put forth in Penrose (1994), superpositioned states each have their own space-time geometries. When the degree of coherent massenergy difference leads to sufficient separation of space-time geometry, the system must choose and decay (reduce, collapse) to a single universe state. In this way, a transient superposition of slightly differing space-time geometries persists until an abrupt quantum classical reduction occurs. Unlike the random, "subjective reduction"(SR, or R) of standard quantum theory caused by observation or environmental entanglement, the OR we propose in microtubules is a self-collapse and it results in particular patterns of microtubule-tubulin conformational states that regulate neuronal activities including synaptic functions. Possibilities and probabilities for post-reduction tubulin states are influenced by factors including attachments of microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs) acting as "nodes"which tune and "orchestrate"the quantum oscillations.. (shrink)