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Year : 2014  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 74-75

Consciousness and quantum mechanics: State reductions, mental disorders and dimensions

Department of Psychiatry, Central Institute of Psychiatry, Ranchi, India

Date of Web Publication1-Feb-2014

Correspondence Address:
Sayantanava Mitra
Central Institute of Psychiatry, Ranchi - 834 006
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0971-9903.126265

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How to cite this article:
Mitra S, Kavoor AR. Consciousness and quantum mechanics: State reductions, mental disorders and dimensions. J Mahatma Gandhi Inst Med Sci 2014;19:74-5

How to cite this URL:
Mitra S, Kavoor AR. Consciousness and quantum mechanics: State reductions, mental disorders and dimensions. J Mahatma Gandhi Inst Med Sci [serial online] 2014 [cited 2023 Mar 29];19:74-5. Available from: https://www.jmgims.co.in/text.asp?2014/19/1/74/126265


Kurt Gödel has proposed, perhaps, the most basic and fundamental mathematical theorem that no formal system of sound mathematical rules of proof can ever suffice, even in principle, to establish the entire true propositions of ordinary arithmetic. In other words, all the sophisticated mathematics put together still cannot prove few simple truths. This impossibility is not only restricted to the current mathematical knowledge but also the hurdle would remain in forever, no matter how advanced our mathematics becomes or how much we improve our logical reasoning. [1]

Does this incompleteness hint at something else, something more pertinent to the understanding of human consciousness? Erwin Roy John [2] examined the neurophysical substrates of consciousness in his extremely useful review. He described the role of simultaneous activation of various brain regions in the production of the experience of consciousness, and stated that a "critical mass" of integrated neuronal activity causes the emergence of this phenomenon. When classical mechanics tries to describe this "mass" in terms of a conglomeration of mutually interacting independent neurons, it is found lacking without scope for an observer to observe "consciousness."

This is circumvented by an "integrated observer" in the quantum mechanical description of the brain. The Copenhagen interpretation of the theory, the most radical in terms of allowing for an active participation of an observer to the process, is one that beautifully integrates the observer with the "observed," The Schrodinger process 1 proposes that a quantum state reduction occurs only upon the participation of an observer, i.e., "something exists because the observer is there to observe it." Schwartz et al. [3] argue, with examples of the role of cognitive restructuring in obsessive compulsive disorder, that conscious mental processes are capable of changing the state of the neural substrates that apparently produce it. Similar studies have repeatedly demonstrated an active role of consciousness in shaping physical matter [4],[5] rather than it being a passive epiphenomenon of the neural substrates.

In quantum mechanics, Penrose and Hameroff [6] proposed the "Orch OR" (orchestrated objective reduction) model of consciousness, which states that the resting brain exists as a conglomeration of superimposed quantum states and that the emergence of a thought occurs whenever there is a reduction to a particular quantum state (quantum state reduction) by some event in the environment. The proposal suggests that the neuronal microtubule arrays act as quantum computers, with computations occurring within dendrites linked through gap junctions. [7] The state reductions lead to specific alterations in the tubulin conformation, triggering action potentials and hence the manifesting behaviors. These microtubule arrays maintain the quantum coherence in their vicinity for long enough to make the emergence of the thought-like products a possibility, being orchestrated by axonal firing patterns, synaptic inputs, memories and experiences. [7]

Thus, this model describes a thought as emerging out in totality, and de novo, from a particular solution of the wave function of the brain. This is in conformity with us experiencing a thought as being complete in it, and fresh; thus, maintaining the coherence of the various experiences that we have in our day-to-day life. Although critics of the quantum mechanical model have attacked such outlandish propositions, citing reasons like the presence of environmental interferences and thermal instability along with random motion of the surrounding structures, [8] can this be the reason behind the noncomputability of human thought?

In light of the foregoing discussion, we observe that same stimulus can, in fact, elicit different thoughts in different brains. There is a gross difference between what emerges in a "normal" brain and an "abnormal" brain. Further, a psychotic patient would experience things differently, more like other psychotic patients, compared with a "normal" person. So, how is it decided as to which state would emerge? In this letter, we propose that the chemical imbalances that have been described in psychotic disorders might actually alter the excitability of particular neurons, possibly altering their dendritic microtubule arrays thus altering the neuronal circuits and tilting the balance toward less-favorable, probably "evolutionary unsound," state reductions.

Returning to the implications of the Gödel's theorem, we would like to briefly discuss the phenomenon of "insight." All of us have had moments of sudden dawning in of "insight," the "aha" moments. What exactly happens to us during those moments? Where do the insights come from? Can consciousness be actually a manifestation of another dimension "wrapped up" in obscurity? [9] In 2003, Walling and Hicks [10] found that the fractal dimensions of the EEG recordings increased with an improvement in the evolutionary status of the organism, culminating at 4.85 dimensions in human beings. We propose that insight is actually gained by traversing another dimension during the aforementioned quantum state reductions. How this happens is, of course, in need of further research and elaboration.

In conclusion, we considered the implications of the incompleteness of Gödel's theorem, the fallacies of the classical mechanics in explaining the phenomenon of consciousness, the possible role of quantum mechanics in closing the gaps and its implications in psychiatry; and we propose a baffling possibility: Of the problem of consciousness being solvable in another dimension. [9]

  References Top

1.Penrose R. Shadows of the Mind. 1 st ed. Oxford University Press, London, 1994.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.John ER. The neurophysics of consciousness. Brain Res Rev 2002;39:1-28.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Schwartz JM, Stapp HP, Beauregard M. Quantum physics in neuroscience and psychology: A brain interaction−neurophysical model of mind. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 2005;360:1309-27.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Kohane MJ, Tiller WA. Biological processes, quantum mechanics and electromagnetic fields: The possibility of device-encapsulated human intention in medical therapies. Med Hypotheses 2001;56:598-607.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Pajunen GA, Purnell MJ, Dibble Jr WE, Tiller WA. Altering the acid/alkaline balance of water via the use of an intention-host device. J Altern Complement Med 2009;15:963-8.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Hameroff S. Quantum computation in brain microtubules: The Penrose-Hameroff model of consciousness. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 1998;356:1869-96.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Hameroff SR. The Brain Is Both Neurocomputer and Quantum Computer. Cogn Sci 2007;31:1035-45.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Litt A, Eliasmith C, Kroon FW, Weinstein S, Thagard P. Is the Brain a Quantum Computer? Cogn Sci 2006;30:593-603.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Kaku M. Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey through the 10 th Dimension. 1 st ed. Oxford University Press, London, 1994.  Back to cited text no. 9
10.Walling PT, Hicks KN. Dimensions of Consciousness. Proc (Bayl Univ Med Cent) 2003;16:162-6.  Back to cited text no. 10


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