Break down the main theory of quantum origin of consciousness

Break down the main theory of quantum origin of consciousness

Gran Sasso low radioactivity laboratory. Credits: Massimiliano De Deo, LNGS-INFN

The origin of consciousness is one of the greatest mysteries of science. One of the first solutions proposed by Nobel laureate and Oxford mathematician Roger Penrose and Stuart Hamerov, an anesthesiologist at Arizona State University Tucson, is to attribute consciousness to quantum computation in the brain. .. This then relies on the notion that gravity can play a role in how quantum effects disappear or “collapse”. However, a series of experiments in a laboratory deep in the Gran Sasso Mountains in Italy found no evidence to support a gravity-related quantum decay model, undermining the feasibility of explaining this consciousness.Results will be reported to the journal Review of physics of life..

“How consciousness develops in the brain is a big puzzle,” said a member of the physics think tank, a member of the Foundation Questions Institute of FQXi, and the chief physicist of the experiment at INFN in Frascati, Italy. Says Catalina Curceanu. “There are many competing ideas, but few can be tested experimentally.”

Quantum physics, at least in theory, famously teaches that cats can be alive and dead at the same time. But in reality, you never see a cat trapped in such an unfortunate state of limbo. One of the general explanations for why we don’t do this is if the system’s “wavefunction” (a quantum property that allows us to have two conflicting states at the same time) is “collapsed” or if it is larger. This is because it is more likely to be destroyed and remains one defined.State, one is dead Also They say they are alive, but not both at the same time. This model of gravity related to gravity acting on heavy objects such as cats was called by Penrose and Hameroff in the 1990s when he developed the model of consciousness “Orch OR Theory” (orchestrated objective reduction theory). It was done.

Quantum calculation in the brain

Curceanu was first interested in OrchOR theory when he met Penrose, who is also a member of FQXi, at a conference a few years ago. Consciousness is usually not associated with quantum properties, as quantum effects are fragile and difficult to maintain under highly controlled conditions in the laboratory or at low temperatures. Therefore, the warm and moist environment of the brain has long been thought to be too destructive for the quantum effect to survive. However, Penrose said he and Hameroff identified a small structure called microtubules in neurons in the brain that could potentially sustain short-term quantum effects long enough to perform quantum computation. explained. Ochi OR theory is attributed to the quantum computation (“Ochi”) organized by the electrical vibrations of these microtubules. “What I liked about this theory was that in principle it was testable and I decided to look for evidence that could help confirm or tamper with it,” says Curceanu.

“What I liked about this theory was that in principle it was testable and I decided to look for evidence that could help confirm or tamper with it.”

At the heart of the theory is the idea that gravity is associated with the collapse of the quantum wavefunction, which collapses faster in systems with more mass. This concept was developed in many models by various physicists in the 1980s. One of them was the Wigner Research Center for Physics in Budapest, Hungary and Lajos Diósi at Eötvös Loránd University. Also at INFN, and Kristian Piscicchia at CREF and INFN. Penrose worked on this idea independently a few years later, and it became the core of his theory of consciousness with Hameroff.

The two theories are often referred to by the comprehensive term “Diosi-Penrose theory”. But there is an important difference behind the joint name, Curceanu said. Dioshi’s approach predicts that decay is accompanied by spontaneous emission of a small amount of radiation large enough to be detected in state-of-the-art experiments.

Break down the main theory of quantum origin of consciousness

From left to right: Fabrizio Napolitano, Alberto Clozza, Catalina Curceanu, Marco Miliucci-all from INFN-LNF. Credit: Catalina Curceanu

Go underground

Curceanu’s Underground Institute is located within the Gran Sasso National Institute, 1.4 km below the Gran Sasso Mountains in Italy. The lab is on one side of a 10km long highway tunnel that crosses the Gran Sasso massif that connects L’Aquila and Terramo. “This place was chosen because there are basically no cosmic ray sources on the ground that could interfere with the experiment,” says Curceanu. The experiment uses a very sensitive cylindrical detector made from high-purity germanium, not as large as a mug. It is surrounded by a shield made of ultra-pure lead and copper layers to protect it from background radiation coming from the rock. After running the experiment for two months, the team did not measure spontaneous radiation signals, limiting the feasibility of gravity-related collapse. In 2020, the team Nature Physics Their negative results helped to rule out the simplest version of the Diósi-Penrose model.

In their new paper, they clarified the impact of their findings on Penrose and Hameroff’s Orch OR Consciousness Theory. After reanalyzing the most valid scenarios set by Hameroff and Penrose, they conclude that most scenarios are not valid in light of recent experimental constraints on particle decay. “This is the first experimental study of the pillars of gravity-related quantum decay in the Och OR consciousness model, and many others hope to follow suit,” says Curceanu. “I am very proud of our achievements.”

Interdisciplinary features

Experiments and analysis are partially funded by a grant from the FQXi Foundation Questions Institute. “Without it, we wouldn’t have been able to achieve this result,” says Curceanu. “It is difficult to fund such projects in any other way, based on their interdisciplinary characteristics.”

“It’s really exciting to connect what you can do in the lab to consciousness, which is probably the biggest mystery in the universe.”

But not everything is lost for Orch Or, Curceanu adds. “In fact, the actual work is just getting started,” she says. In fact, Penrose’s original decay model, unlike Dioshi’s model, was not excluded because it did not predict natural radiation. The new paper also briefly explains how to actually modify the gravity-related collapse model. “Such a revised model working within a FQXi-funded project could leave the door to OrchOR theory open,” says Curceanu.

Meanwhile, the team is preparing to test these sophisticated new collapse models to further investigate their impact on the OrchOR model. “It’s really exciting to connect what you can do in the lab to consciousness, which is probably the biggest mystery in the universe,” says Curceanu.

Schrodinger’s cat deconstruction

For more information:
Maaneli Derakhshani et al, at the intersection of spontaneous radiation exploration and Ochi OR consciousness theory, Review of physics of life (2022). DOI: 10.1016 / j.plrev.2022.05.004

Provided by FoundationalQuestions Institute

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