Does Quantum Physics Explain Consciousness?

Scientists have long hypothesized that consciousness may be generated by quantum processes in the brain. Already in the 1990s, two renowned scientists, Stuart Hamerhoff together with Roger Penrose (who later received the Nobel Prize for physics), had put forward such an idea that might explain the mystery of consciousness. Their starting point was the observation that the neural system of the brain is composed of an intricate network of microtubules that might obey the laws of quantum mechanics.

Others dismissed the idea of quantum consciousness out of hand arguing that quantum events can only be observed at temperatures around -270 degrees C, ruling out the human body as an experimental site.

In a recent paper, two other scientists, Christiane de Morais Smith and a Chinese group led by Professor Xian-Min Jin at Shanghai Jiaotong University have demonstrated another way of showing in a lab setting how quantum particles could indeed move in a complex structure like the brain.

Since the Penrose and Hamerhoff hypothesis rests on the fact that the arrangement of microptubules in neuronal cells are structured in a fractal pattern, quantum processes could occur.

Fractals are structures that appear as beautiful pattern, repeating themselves infinitely, featuring a finite area with an infinite perimeter. While difficult to visualize, fractals occur frequently in nature and have been successfully applied in technology for decades. They occur in the structure of our lungs, of our blood vessels, and in our cells. Their presence, the new approach argues, may also explain the complexity of consciousness, but only at the quantum level (hence the term “quantum consciousness”).

Now, experiments with state-of-the-art photonics by de Morais Smith and Xian-Min Jin have revealed in extraordinary detail that quantum motion does occur within fractals providing a new basis for testing the theory of quantum consciousness in a lab setting, unconstrained by temperature limitations with vast implications for consciousness research.

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