Thursday, May 20, 2010

Quantum Mechanics and the Brain

Quantum Mechanics and the Brain -- A NeuroQuantologic Perspective by Sultan Tarlaci, M.D.

[Dr. S. Tarlaci ( is a practicing Neurologist of Turkiye spearheading the new branch of science he calls NeuroQuantology. It is a marriage between (Cognitive) Neuroscience and Quantum Mechanics.

Dr. Tarlaci has been kind to let me highlight a few selected paragraphs from one of his latest articles (over 10,000 words) titled “A Historical View of the Relation Between Quantum Mechanics and the Brain: A NeuroQuantologic Perspective” published in the June 2010 issue of the peer reviewed Journal NeuroQuantology recently made available online. ( -- ramesam]

Quantum Mechanics and the Brain: A NeuroQuantologic Perspective
By Sultan Tarlaci, M.D.

ABSTRAT: Over the past decade, discussions of the roles that quantum mechanics might or might not play in the theory of consciousness/mind have become increasingly sharp. One side of this debate stand conventional neuroscientists who assert that brain science must look to the neuron for understanding, and on the other side are certain physicists, suggesting that the rules of quantum theory might influence the dynamics of consciousness/mind. However, consciousness and mind are not separate from matter. Submicroscopic world of the human brain give rise to consciousness and mind. We are never able to make a sharp separation between mind and matter. Thus, ultimately there is no “mind” that can be separated from “matter” and no “matter” that can be separated from “mind”. The brain as a mixed physical system composed of the macroscopic neuron system and an additional microscopic system. The former consists of pathway conduction of neural impulses. The latter is assumed to be a quantum mechanical many-body system interacting with the macroscopic neuron system.
[Select Paras from the article are reproduced below}

We do not know what the glue is that binds neural activity to sub-cellular molecular mechanisms, and the mind as a whole to the brain, but at the same time, in physics we more or less know the nature of gluons, which hold matter together.

Neurobiologists treat the brain and its parts as classical objects, and when they progress to smaller scales, give no importance to quantum mechanical effects. In this way, classical physics remains without mind or consciousness.

With the rise of quantum mechanics in the 1900s, the search in physics for a place for “something else” alongside matter began, and unfortunately, the searchers were physicists and not neuroscientists. Consciousness, which at first entered into the philosophical interpretations of quantum mechanics, was eventually incorporated into the equations. Classical physics contradicts the idea of free will, and connections were sought with quantum mechanics, which made random choices.

In 1963 computer scientist James Culbertson, in line with a long tradition of “panpsychism”, proposed that consciousness is an aspect of space-time, and all objects are to some extent conscious. According to relativity, our lives are in a region of space-time. Our brains show us a film of matter changing in time. All space-time events are consciousness and are in the consciousness of other space-time events.

Evan Harris Walker presented a model of synaptic tunneling between nerve cells [in] 1970.

[B]rain surgeon and researcher Karl Pribram (Pribram, 1971) and physicist David Bohm proposed that the brain worked like a hologram.
In 1977, the neuroscientist John C. Eccles suggested that the regions between the nerve cells of the cortex might operate in a quantum mechanical fashion.

According to Eccles, the interaction between mind and brain “is not by energy, but as if in a flow of information.”

[Penrose, 1989] claims that consciousness is created by quantum mechanical operations carried out in the brain cells by means of objective reduction. According to Penrose, the place in the brain where quantum mechanical operations take place is the microtubules found in concentration in the brain cells.

Hameroff devoted a large part of the next ten years to understanding how the microtubules could act like a computer network inside the brain cells (2001).

Penrose-Hameroff theory became one of the main foundations of the quantum mechanical theory of consciousness.

[I]t was postulated that conventional synaptic activity influences and is influenced by quantum state activity in the microtubules. This part of the process is referred to as 'orchestration' hence the theory is called Orchestrated Objective Reduction.

Stapp’s [1995] quantum model of consciousness has three bases. 1. The Schrödinger process, which is mechanical and deterministic, and predicts the state of the system; 2. Heisenberg’s process, which is a choice made consciously. According to the theory of quantum mechanics, we know a thing when we ask a question of nature. We affect the universe with the question. 3. The Dirac process is that an answer must be given to the question which we asked. The answer is totally random.

Yasue tried to prove that quantum mechanical effects had a function in recording memory, and that consciousness arose from an electromagnetic field interacting with the electric dipole field of water and protein molecules.

Physical Brain does Operate Quantum Mechanics

Quantum mechanics however turns man from an automaton into a personality with a mind that has an active role to play in wave function collapse.
Quantum mechanics must be brought into the working of the brain and human behaviour because they are related to ionic nerve transmitters and atomic operations. For example, when neural electrical stimuli reach a junction between nerve cells, calcium ions enter the cell and cause the release of neurotransmitters. Ions and ion channels have very small dimensions. The opening of the channels and the movement of ions, as with other movements of ionic atoms, is a quantum mechanical event. Thus, the ions that enter may or may not cause the release of neurotransmitters from the vesicles in the nerve cells. The released neurotransmitters may or may not affect the sensors. This behaviour can only be described in terms of quantum probabilities. Such a quantum effect at a single nerve ending may not be important, but when this happens in a brain with 1015 synapses between nerve cells, classical physics is incapable of explaining it.

For today, rather than hoping to find new molecules and brain structures to explain the working of the brain and consciousness, we need new ideas on the interaction of molecules that will help us more. In this sense, the quantum mechanical approach may open up new avenues.

If we can define the oscillation of neurotransmitters in the synapses as being quantum mechanical, the sum total of synaptic activity in the brain may give an integrated brain wave function. At any moment in time, the potential state of observed events may be subject to superposition. That is, in the brain all alternative choices exist together at any one time, which Gordon Globus called a “plenum of possibilia.”

Physical Brain does not Operate Quantum Mechanics

Quantum mechanics and the word “quantum” have been added to many money-making enterprises.

Quantum mechanics is necessary to understand the atoms of the brain, it is needed to understand the atoms of a stone in just the same way, but there is no need to make inferences using quantum mechanics about a stone’s consciousness.

The idea underlying these statements is that ‘inexplicable’ events are somehow connected to ‘inexplicable’ quantum mechanics.
Today, materialism has been replaced by psychology, and reductionism by a holistic view.

[Q]uantum mechanics works without involving consciousness; it fits in with all observations and all the principles of physics (Song, 2008). However, this is unfortunately ignored in the popular press, because it does not support their preference for mystical nonsense.

Quantum events according to the Schrödinger equation are linear. The nervous system however shows non-linear events at all levels.

The brain is not a closed system containing energy and information, it is an open system relating to meaning and thought.

The bottom line is that consciousness has been inserted into quantum mechanics, and this is an unnecessary complication. But it doesn’t end there. Afterwards, the place of consciousness becomes assured by creating answers to the wrong questions, whereas in fact quantum mechanics has nothing to say about the relationship between consciousness and matter.
The new quantum holism feeds our obsessions and tells us we are a part of the non-living cosmic mind. In this way, traditional religions are being modernized. A mystical physics is basically a wrong understanding of Hindu and Buddhist philosophy.

The main argument against the quantum mind proposition is that quantum states would decohere too quickly to be relevant to neural processing. Possibly the scientist most often-quoted in relation to this criticism is Max Tegmark. Based on his calculations, Tegmark concluded that quantum systems in the brain decohere quickly and cannot control brain function (Tegmark, 2000).

Since 2003, neuroscience and quantum physics have been growing together by examining two main topics. One of these is the problem of measurement in quantum mechanics. The measurement problem has brought many other still unanswered questions in its train. The other main topic of NeuroQuantology is quantum neurobiology:

NeuroQuantology provides the motivation to break down this resistance and open a new door to quantum neurobiology (Tarlaci, 2010).

Any new information that we have gained about consciousness and the brain will open up even bigger questions. If there is one thing we have learned from the course of science up until today, it is that in understanding completely our brain and consciousness, we cannot jump over our own shadows.


Steven Baughman said...

Agree with your comments. Quantum mechanics is useful for understanding matter at very small sizes. But not for consciousness.

Yet physics, not just quantum mechanics, but any physics which seeks to understand the essence of matter, is important for Hinduism and specially Advaita. "The importance of Advaita Vedanta is that it makes the claim that at the ultimate level, the universe will be seen to have as its origin, not discrete, multiple particles, but a single homogenous structure beyond time and space." Advaita Yoga and Quantum physics. So science does have relevance for Hinduism, and can prove or disprove its theories.

Dr Anudeep Reddy k said...

Physics whether empirical or quantum both limited by time n space. But advaitha is beyond it not limited by time n space... the sum total of energy is constant ... which is present in ur beyond ur senses mind n intellect but it cause of survival of all those when it goes away of ur body u body is died but not energy..its always first understand advaitha before speaking on it