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Study Favors Q-Mind - Support for quantum consciousness?

  1. Dec 3, 2014 #1
    I've read a lot of posts talking about quantum consciousness, and it seems the general consensus is that it is crack, woo, psuedoscience etc. But then I found a news feed that pointed to this,

    Travis John Adrian Craddock, Douglas Friesen, Jonathan Mane, Stuart Hameroff, and Jack A. Tuszynski. The feasibility of coherent energy transfer in microtubules. J. R. Soc. Interface, 2014; 11(100): 20140677; DOI:10.1098/rsif.2014.0677 1742-5662

    It comes from Hameroff, the purveyor of the infamous Orch OR quantum theory of consciousness. However, it's published in a respectable journal. I'm not sure what to believe. If this is published work, why is quantum computing in microtubules considered woo?

    I've asked this elsewhere, but have not received a straight response. Any insight would be appreciated.

    Note: original newsfeed http://www.newswise.com/articles/new-study-favors-quantum-mind
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  3. Dec 3, 2014 #2

    Doug Huffman

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    I am intrigued by the quantization of entropy information at the root of the Holographic Principle and will attend to developments associating it with ego/consciousness.
  4. Dec 3, 2014 #3


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    It's important to make the distinction between a study that investigates the coherent energy transfer in microtubules and the implication that orchestrated objective reduction is the basis for consciousness.

    One is a small, incremental step. The other is a giant leap.

    Knowing the difference is very important when you're standing on a cliff.
  5. Dec 3, 2014 #4
    But this opens the door to it being a possibility, doesn't it? While it doesn't confirm quantum consciousness, it does provide a mechanism that could support quantum computation in the brain.
  6. Dec 3, 2014 #5
    Personally, I don't see where the link between quantum computation and consciousness is supposed to be. The quantum computation part is a reasonable scientific hypothesis which should be amenable to experiments and falsification, but I don't know whether quantum consciousness could be confirmed even in principle.
  7. Dec 3, 2014 #6


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    Well... it doesn't overcome the chief criticisms of Quantum Mind: namely that the processes associated with neural events are on time scales and over spatial distances too long and far for unique QM effects to be significant (I mean, obviously you can argue that all the classical things happening are actually QM underneath, but that's not what Quantum Mind is saying - it's saying that phenomena unique to QM is playing a role).

    Another objection is that there are plenty of classical based theories of consciousness that have been more fruitful:


    the fruit:

  8. Dec 4, 2014 #7
    I understand that this is the case. These effects would need to be propagated to timescales of milliseconds, and I'm not sure how this could be done. However, excited tryptophan can radiate by both fluorescence, and phosphorescence, with the later taking place on time scales of 1 ms or greater. There is no proof for this, but could this not provide a link between picosecond quantum calcs, and ms neuron firings?

    I'm new to the work of Tononi, but it looks intriguing. As far as I know it's based on the idea of integrated information, and depends on how the complexity of the system is defined i.e. where the "cruelest cuts" may be made. However, I don't think that spatio temporal scales are well defined. He makes a hypothesis that this is at the scale of neurons on the timescale of milliseconds, but why not the microtubule cytoskeleton in neurons?

    I would also like to see how PCI measures are affected by hallucinogens like psylocibin, a so-called consciousness enhancing drug. The following show decreased activity in brains under psylocibin in an fMRI study. This is not EEG, but if the trend holds it would suggest that the PCI value would be closer to unconscious.

  9. Dec 4, 2014 #8
    This is true for all theories of consciousness, isn't it (Tononi's work not excluded)? I think the link between quantum computation, and consciousness comes in the transition. While computing the quantum state would be unconscious (i.e. superpositions, unmeasured system etc.), the realization of a specific state of the system (through measurement, decoherence or some sort of objective collapse) would then be considered a conscious event.
  10. Dec 4, 2014 #9


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    I think it depends on context. The brain has break systems and accelerator systems. If you disable a break system, you could be enabling other systems. The paper you cite indicates as much (using the term "unconstrained cognition"). Other research has indicated enhancement of memory recall, which is useful for the reversal of cognitive biases:


    But "conscious-enhancing" the way a spiritual/recreational user might define it is different than how a neuroscientist like Tononi would define it. In meditation practices, taoism, and many sects of buddhist, conscious minimalism (emptying your mind of thoughts) is a step to enlightenment - (an enhanced cognitive state). To some extent, the loudness of your own consciousness is a distraction from development of that same consciousness. A person suffering a paranoid schizophrenic anxiety attack must be experiencing a high degree of consciousness, but that's not really helpful to them. Being overly self-conscious can inhibit development of your social cognition. So when we transcribe laymen claims like this, we have to be careful to separate a "consciousness" in general as measured by information complexity vs. the quality and kind of consciousness the laymen are talking about.
  11. Dec 4, 2014 #10
    To some extent, yes, but in some quite important ways, no. Tononi's theory has specific frameworks for predicting the degree of consciousness (phi) and the quality of consciousness (the "qualia complex"). I don't think theories of quantum computation do that at the moment. Of course, the fundamental question of "why?" still remains, just as it still remains in any scientific theory.
  12. Dec 4, 2014 #11
    Could you please describe the relevance of break systems and accelerator systems.

    The fMRI psylocibin seems to quiet the brain, would this not result in a lower PCI?
  13. Dec 4, 2014 #12


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    Less break may result in less activity measured, but is actually letting another system do more. Coffee, for instance, disables a break system.

    Not necissarily. Twenty violins all playing the same note are louder but less complex than two violins playing harmonic melodies.

    But my point was that even if it leads to a lower PCI, it's still erroneous to equate the recreationalist's "enhanced consciousness" with a higher consciousness score the way Tonini defines it.
  14. Dec 4, 2014 #13
    I'm assuming that two violins in discord would be less complex, while twenty violins in harmony be greater. So, does this mean that PCI/Integrated information relies on things being coordinated?

    I see your point regarding the recreationalist's "enhanced consciousness", however in the Sci Transl Med paper you link to they show that REM sleep has a PCI near equivalent to normal wakefulness. This suggests that we are conscious in our dreams (without necessarily being lucid). I don't see why psylocibin, which produces vivid hallucinations, would potentially lead to a lower PCI, if REM dreams result in PCI similar to being awake.
  15. Dec 4, 2014 #14


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    If you think in terms of the entropy in the state space of the violins, there's no reason discord would be more or less complex than harmony. In some aspects, it may be more complex (caused by beating between the notes).

    As noted in the paper you cited, psylocibin dissociates two regions of the brain that are normally not so dissociated. As I was saying about break systems, you're essentially removing a break (presumably the PFC). It changes the quality of the conscious experience in a dramatic way, but that doesn't indicate how the quantity of consciousness (here measured by PCI) might change. That's what I've been trying to explain, qualitative aspects of consciousness vs. quantitative aspects. PCI measures quantity, our subjective experience is all that can measure quality.
  16. Dec 4, 2014 #15
    Then why is PCI considered a good measure of consciousness? What does quantity of consciousness even mean? For arguments sake, let's say that PCI is reduced in psylocibin use, but subjectively a user has a profound experience, then PCI is not a good measure of consciousness. Equating integrated information with consciousness can be considered a semantic spook, if it does not reflect the subjective experience.

    Back to the OP, can this be interpreted in terms of quantum computation? If one considers unconscious experience the same as the quantum computation, and conscious experience as the measurable (i.e. experienced) end result, then I don't see why not.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2014
  17. Dec 4, 2014 #16
    I think that this would result in a loss of information overall. I mean if the signal is lost in the noise, then how is the information integrated?
  18. Dec 4, 2014 #17


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    That newsfeed article is greatly overstating the case - "Provides a mechanism" is a much weaker statement than "favors", and a more accurate headline would be "New study nether conforms nor denies quantum consciousness" This is fairly typical of bad science journalism, unfortunately.

    There's a related thread in the QM subforum: What are the problems with the Orch-Or Consciousness Theory?
  19. Dec 4, 2014 #18


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    There's two chief reasons why quantifying consciousness is important: 1) measuring consciousness in coma patients for medical purposes and 2) measuring consciousness of animals for ethical purposes in animal research. The point is to determine whether the subject of the test has a conscious experience at all, not the quality of it. The quality of consciousness is basically described (or rather, correlated with neural structures and dynamics) by the fields of cognitive neuroscience and neuropsychology.
  20. Dec 4, 2014 #19
    I'm not saying that knowing if a subject is conscious or not, is not important. In fact I believe that it is deeply important. However, I think that merely attributing consciousness to some measure that does not account for the subjective feel of an experience is dangerous ground. If my integrated information was through the roof, but inwardly I felt nothing, then who cares. Vice versa if my integrated information is near the floor, but I vivdly experience my own dissection that would be a downright shame.

    For a viewpoint on why integrated information is not a good measure of consciousness see:

    It's long, and gets in deep to some computational math, but I think his point is valid.
  21. Dec 4, 2014 #20
    I agree, the journalism is sensational. I took a look in the other post and saw a statement that said the Orch OR model could not be falsified as is therefore invalid. However, I thought that there were 20 testable predictions made by Hameroff that could invalidate it.
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