According to Trinity College Dublin scientists, our brains could use quantum computation after applying an idea created to prove the existence of quantum gravity to investigate the human brain and its workings.
Published in the Journal of Physics Communications on October 7, the study could provide information about consciousness, which is still a mystery for scientists.
As stated, the correlation between the measured brain functions and conscious awareness and short-term memory function suggests that quantum processes are also a part of cognitive and conscious brain functioning.
If the team's findings can be verified, which will probably need highly sophisticated multidisciplinary methods, it will improve the general understanding of how the brain functions and perhaps how it might be preserved or even repaired. They might potentially work to develop even more sophisticated quantum computers by discovering novel technologies.
“We adapted an idea, developed for experiments to prove the existence of quantum gravity, whereby you take known quantum systems, which interact with an unknown system," said Dr. Christian Kerskens, the lead physicist at the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience (TCIN), is the co-author of the research.
"If the known systems entangle, then the unknown must be a quantum system, too. It circumvents the difficulties to find measuring devices for something we know nothing about."
They used "brain water"
Dr. Kerskens continues:
“For our experiments, we used proton spins of ‘brain water’ as the known system. ‘Brain water’ builds up naturally as fluid in our brains, and the proton spins can be measured using MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). Then, by using a specific MRI design to seek entangled spins, we found MRI signals that resemble heartbeat-evoked potentials, a form of EEG signals. EEGs measure electrical brain currents, which some people may recognize from personal experience or simply from watching hospital dramas on TV.”
The researchers think they were only able to discover electrophysiological potentials—such the heartbeat-induced potentials—because the nuclear proton spins in the brain were entangled. Normally, electrophysiological potentials like these cannot be detected using MRI.
“If entanglement is the only possible explanation here then that would mean that brain processes must have interacted with the nuclear spins, mediating the entanglement between the nuclear spins. As a result, we can deduce that those brain functions must be quantum."
“Quantum brain processes could explain why we can still outperform supercomputers when it comes to unforeseen circumstances, decision making, or learning something new. Our experiments performed only 50 meters away from the lecture theatre, where Schrödinger presented his famous thoughts about life, may shed light on the mysteries of biology and on consciousness, which scientifically is even harder to grasp.”
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. Proton spins of bulk water, which most likely interfere with any brain function, can act as the known quantum systems. If an unknown mediator exists, then NMR methods based on multiple quantum coherence (MQC) can act as an entanglement witness. However, there are doubts that today's NMR signals can contain quantum correlations in general, and specifically in the brain environment. Here, we used a witness protocol based on zero quantum coherence (ZQC) where we minimized the classical signals to circumvent the NMR detection limits for quantum correlation. For short repetitive periods, we found evoked signals in most parts of the brain, whereby the temporal appearance resembled heartbeat-evoked potentials (HEPs). We found that those signals had no correlates with any classical NMR contrast. Similar to HEPs, the evoked signal depended on conscious awareness. Consciousness-related or electrophysiological signals are unknown in NMR. Remarkably, these signals only appeared if the local properties of the magnetization were reduced. Our findings suggest that we may have witnessed entanglement mediated by consciousness-related brain functions. Those brain functions must then operate non-classically, which would mean that consciousness is non-classical.
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