Our brains use quantum computing
Summary: A study suggests that quantum processes are part of the cognitive and conscious functions of the brain.
Scientists from Trinity College Dublin believe our brains could use quantum computing after adapting an idea developed to prove the existence of quantum gravity to explore the human brain and how it works.
The measured brain functions were also correlated with short-term memory performance and conscious awareness, suggesting that quantum processes are also part of cognitive and conscious brain functions.
If the team’s findings can be confirmed – likely requiring advanced multidisciplinary approaches – they would improve our general understanding of how the brain works and potentially how it can be maintained or even cured. They can also help find innovative technologies and build even more advanced quantum computers.
Dr. Christian Kerskens, a senior physicist at the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience (TCIN), is the co-author of the research paper just published in the Journal of Physical Communications.
“We adapted an idea, developed for experiments to prove the existence of quantum gravity, where you take known quantum systems, which interact with an unknown system. If the known systems intertwine, then the unknown must also be a quantum system. It bypasses the difficulties of finding measuring devices for something we know nothing about.
“For our experiments, we used proton spins from ‘brain water’ as a known system. “Brain water” naturally accumulates as liquid in our brains and proton spins can be measured using MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Then, using a specific MRI design to look for entangled spins, we found MRI signals that resemble cardiac evoked potentials, a form of EEG signals. EEGs measure electrical currents in the brain, which some people can recognize from personal experience or simply by watching hospital dramas on television.
Electrophysiological potentials like heart rhythm evoked potentials are not normally detectable by MRI and the scientists believe they could only observe them because the nuclear spins of protons in the brain were entangled.
Dr Kerskens added:
“If entanglement is the only possible explanation here, that would mean that brain processes must have interacted with nuclear spins, mediating entanglement between nuclear spins. Therefore, we can infer that these brain functions must be quantum.
“Because these brain functions were also correlated with short-term memory performance and conscious awareness, it is likely that these quantum processes are an important part of our cognitive and conscious brain functions.
“Quantum brain processes could explain why we can still outperform supercomputers when it comes to unforeseen circumstances, making decisions or learning something new. Our experiments performed just 50 meters from the amphitheater, where Schrödinger presented his famous reflections on life, which can shed light on the mysteries of biology, and on consciousness which is scientifically even more difficult to apprehend.
Funding: This research was supported by Science Foundation Ireland and TCIN.
About this neuroscience research news
Author: Thomas Dean
Contact: Thomas Deane – TCD
Image: Image is in public domain
Original research: Free access.
“Experimental indications of non-classical brain functions” by Christian Kerskens et al. Journal of physical communication
Experimental indications of non-classical brain functions
Recent proposals in quantum gravity have suggested that unknown systems can mediate entanglement between two known quantum systems, if the mediator itself is non-classical. This approach may be applicable to the brain, where speculations about quantum operations in consciousness and cognition have a long history.
Bulk water proton spins, which most likely interfere with any brain function, can act like the known quantum systems. If an unknown mediator exists, then NMR methods based on multiple quantum coherence (MQC) can serve as an entanglement witness.
However, there are doubts that current NMR signals may contain quantum correlations in general, and specifically in the brain environment.
Here, we used a control protocol based on zero quantum coherence (ZQC) where we minimized classical signals to circumvent NMR detection limits for quantum correlation.
For short repetitive periods, we found evoked signals in most parts of the brain, the temporal appearance resembling heart rhythm evoked potentials (HEPs). We found that these signals had no correlation with conventional NMR contrast. Similar to HEPs, the evoked signal was consciously dependent.
Consciousness-related or electrophysiological signals are unknown in NMR. Remarkably, these signals appeared only if the local properties of the magnetization were reduced.
Our findings suggest that we may have witnessed entanglement mediated by consciousness-related brain functions.
These brain functions must then operate in a non-classical way, which would mean that consciousness is non-classical.