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Can physics shed light on the nature of human consciousness ?

  1. Dec 27, 2011 #1
    Hi, fellow curious minds,

    I believe that human neuro structures are microscopic and thus within the realm of QM.From my basic physics knowledge, it seems to me that QM's probability interpretation of micro-phenomena is related to human volition. Every moment our consciousness are choosing what to do among many possibilities and what is actually done is interpreted as the result of our volition or free will. As I see it, this process of free will is akin to the "collapse" of the wave function in QM, I think.

    Any research going on today to probe into the physical basis of human neuro activities, and even human consciousness? If the answer is affirmative, what direction these researches are pointing to ?

    Are physicist, or biologists, now trying to relate human neuro activities to quantum mechanics?

  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 28, 2011 #2
    "Neuro structures" are neurons, these are cells and thus certainly not in the realm of QM.
  4. Dec 28, 2011 #3
    Thanks Jhamm.

    To give you the right perspective, I'm just asking a probing question, hoping to be enlightened in the answers. I've very little knowledge in neurological science.

    Yes, Neurons are cells.To stretch our curiosity further, how do neurons communicate with each other? Is it a Micro-chemo-physical process? Does QM play a part in the process?

    We've encounter the interface of biology and physics (and chemistry). I believe a challenge in the 21st Century is the integratoin of various fields in science in order to understand a complex system, such as the neurological system.

    Anyone heard of the role of physics in neurological science?

  5. Dec 28, 2011 #4
    Neurons send signals between one another via the releasing of chemicals called neurotransmitters when stimulated by a strong enough electrical current, these chemicals then bond to the next neuron and stimulate the production of an electrical current which travels across this new neuron.
    All of this is explainable without QM.
  6. Dec 28, 2011 #5
    Thanks Jhamm.

    May be I've focused at the wrong system(neurological) due to ignorance.

    The human brain works in a "gestalt" (holistic)manner. But what mechanism causes sentience within arrangements of otherwise non-sentient particles/molecules within the human brain? Can physics theories/knowledge explain it to some extent?

    Our brain and sensory organs allow us to respond to our surroundings in a way that is not deterministic. If the functioning of the brain were not quantum mechanical, then would the future of human being be deterministic?

    Anyone knows about what physicists are working at regarding human consciousness?

  7. Dec 28, 2011 #6
    How do you know it is not deterministic? The fact that each person has a personality which allows us to assert which behaviors are "normal" for that person would suggest that a brain is deterministic, the reactions are predictable (albeit qualitatively and to a poor degree).
    Fortune tellers rely on a person's tendency to ignore misses and remember hits, sharp pain causes flinching, seeing or hearing somebody else yawns stimulates a sympathetic yawn, these behaviors show that solid predictions can be made about the nervous system.
  8. Dec 28, 2011 #7
    Thanks Jhamm.

    I think most of us, especially older ones, know at heart that our course of life is NOT deterministic. I am in my fifties and KNOW without the slightest doubt that I had made/am making my own history by making daily decisions in the face of tangible choices. I opted for various courses of action throughout my life and knew that I could have taken alternative courses realistically.

    I don't know your age but I suppose you could easily realize, when comparing your life with those of your contemporaries with similar/identical background and circumstances, that your life is different from theirs, because you have made your unique (and different) decisions at moments of life choices in various stages of life; hence the divergence in life histories. This effect of "free will" on life histories becomes increasingly more pronounced as one grows older and older.

    Our brain structures are too similar while our biographies too divergent to suggest that our brains are deterministic.

    Anyway, our understanding of the brain may be too simple/naive and any hint at a physical basis of consciousness could at most be guesswork?

  9. Dec 28, 2011 #8
    Artificial intelligence is probably the area that would be most likely to incorporate this type of approach.

    The difference between a collapsed field and a decision though is important....as one assumes that essentially that the decision was in the end, decided with a coin toss....

    ...and the other as a result of processing the information and CHOOSING a conclusion.

    There is evidence that the PROCESS is somewhat predictable, but that the conclusion is the result of too many variables to be a simple prediction.

    So, there are patterns that are predictable, but individual outcomes can vary based upon life experiences, nature/nurture, etc.

    So an algorithm that mimics the PROCESS can be made, albeit w/o the intricate variations an evolved system can have.

    I would think a system that can learn from experience is doable, and which would improve the intricacy, but perhaps at the expense of accuracy/bias, which is typically the reason people are WRONG sometimes, or, intuitively RIGHT even when flying in the face of data to the contrary, etc.

    Is this related to QM per se? - Probably not, as its occurring on a larger scale.
  10. Dec 28, 2011 #9

    Doc Al

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