Quantum Consciousness

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We have covered a basic definition of consciousness, and also the hard problem of consciousness.  These mechanisms help to explain awareness.  However, many scientists have acknowledged that there is a difficulty showing how these give rise to our experiences (qualia).

I have also found it troubling that the mechanism by which memories are stored and retrieved is still largely a mystery.  Whilst the arguments continue on possible explanations, including some who argue that the human mind is not capable of understanding consciousness, and others who argue that the problem is purely imaginary, some researchers have looked for a link with quantum mechanics.

At first quantum mechanics was used by physicists to explain phenomena that classical physics could not.  For most of our everyday experiences the two models produce identical results.  It is when dealing with atoms that classical physics theory starts to fail.  Quantum mechanics also demonstrated the uncomfortable notion that observation

Schrodingers Cat

changes the outcome of experiments (eg Schrodingers cat – which is both dead and alive at the same time).  Quantum mechanics is not restricted to atoms and inert physical matter.  Its affects also manifest in biological systems through chemical bonds and DNA structures.  A breakthrough came in 2014 when it was discovered that quantum effects in plant cells affected the efficiency of photosynthesis.  This was good experimental evidence to support Penrose and Hameroff’s theory called Orchestrated Objective Reduction (Orch-OR) that they proposed as a unifying theory of consciousness based on quantum interactions.  Many cells in both humans and animals, and particularly neurons in the brain, contain microtubule structures.  Vibrations within these structures are thought to allow quantum interactions, and the large number of such interactions in our brains gives rise to our conscious experiences solving the “hard problem”.  The Orch-OR theory has been around for over 20 years, and despite its critics it has gained some acceptance.  It may not ultimately be the correct theory, but quantum interactions does help to explain the unsolved mysteries around consciousness.  It also provides the linkage that many of us where looking for – that our existence is not the result of chemical activity inside the brain, but is linked in some way to the essence of the universe.  I recommend more research and reading on this topic, but a warning that the mathematics around quantum mechanics soon gets quite complicated.