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Medical The Brain operates Quantumly

  1. Jan 27, 2012 #1
    I heard in psychology class today that the brain supposedly doesn't operate in a quantum way. Not sure what my teacher meant about that, but my class is stupid and so is she. The textbook and my teacher even claim that parts of the brain are highly specialized into areas for different tasks with little or no help from other parts. They claim mental tasks are highly isolated. The more you read research on the brain the more you realize this is not the case.

    Anyways, in this issue of Discover Magazine http://discovermagazine.com/2009/ma...ets-and-powers/article_view?b_start:int=1&-C=

    It basically says that your brain calculates all possible actions and outcomes then inhibits all of them with inhibitory neurons except for the chosen action. So basically the brain functions as a wave, then with certainty the wave function collapses with the help of the inhibitory neurons.

    Isn't this how quantum mechanics supposedly works? You know, the part about wave function, certainty, etc.? There are even studies trying to find quantum tunneling or entanglement in the brain, and glial cells are even involved in a complex process in which packets of individual atoms of calcium burst during mental processes.

    What do you guys think on this matter?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 27, 2012 #2


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    The brain of course operates in a quantum way, just like a chair or table. But for many purposes, like planning the seating arrangement at dinner, we can use "chair" and "table" as if they were classical objects, so we say that chairs and tables are "not quantum mechanical" for dinner seating plans. In the same way, how the brain makes descisions is "not quantum mechanical" if we are able to devise a classical theory that predicts the process to a useful degree of accuracy.

    Let's say you want to fly from San Francisco to New York, and via a route with the shortest flight time and fewest stops consistent with a price less than $500. You can write a program that looks up all the possible routes on Expedia, Travelocity, Cheap Tickets etc and chooses the best option. Although the semiconductors in the computer are quantum mechanical, we don't describe a Dell desktop as a quantum computer, since it implements classical logical operations, not quantum mechanical ones - a Dell desktop cannot carry out Grover's or Shor's algorithms. Thus with respect to decision making, your brain is just as classical as a Dell desktop.
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2012
  4. Jan 31, 2012 #3


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    atyy already answered the main part of your question. I'll just add that you shouldn't assume your teacher is stupid. There are functional areas of the brain. While there is communication among them, and integration of information from them, damaging any one of them is sufficient to produce a notable dysfunction, which may be what your teacher is talking about. She may also be keeping things simple for an introductory course, knowing that advanced courses will fill in the details if you pursue the subject further. We all lie to our students a bit in intro courses, because you can't always explain the details in either the time allotted to the class nor with the limited background of the majority of students. If you're curious about more detail, ask to meet with her outside of classtime before dismissing her competency in the subject.
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