Is The Brain a Quantum Computer?

To begin, I’d want to thank all of the excellent authors whose works I’ll be referencing during our conversation, especially the author of this piece!

However, I took the liberty of modifying the presentation in order to shorten and simplify it; I hope you learn something new!

Special thanks to the authors of the original paper: Christian Matthias Kerskens and David López Pérez 2022 J. Phys. Commun. 6 105001

The cover for this article was done by my good friend and artist — RegulLion. We know each other well so in case I disappear, he’ll have the exact details of me!

I — Quantum Brain

In a new study published in the Journal of Physics Communications in October 2022 (see Experimental indications of non-classical brain functions), a team of scientists from Trinity College Dublin suggests that our brains can indeed use quantum computing.

If confirmed — which would require extensive research — the discovery could help explain why our brains are still superior to supercomputers in some respects. The scientists’ conclusion is based on the idea of quantum entanglement:

Quantum entanglement is the phenomenon that occurs when a group of particles are generated, interact, or share spatial proximity in a way such that the quantum state of each particle of the group cannot be described independently of the state of the others, including when the particles are separated by a large distance. In other words, quantum entanglement is when two particles link together in a certain way no matter how far apart they are in space and, with it, their state remains the same.

Intriguingly, the researchers eventually identified a special kind of electrical signals in the brain called heartbeat-evoked potentials that, according to them, are typically undetectable by NMR.

And the researchers speculate that what made them able to identify these potentials was the quantum entanglement of proton spins in the brain!

As stated by the authors:

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.

In short, scientists believe that if entanglement is the only possible explanation here, it would mean that brain processes must have interacted with nuclear spins, mediating entanglement between them and as a result we can conclude that these brain functions must be quantum!

It is also important to mention that these quantum processes are probably a significant component of our cognitive and conscious processes because they are linked to short-term memory and awareness, <>.

More information: Christian Matthias Kerskens et al, Experimental indications of non-classical brain functions, Journal of Physics Communications (2022). DOI: 10.1088/2399–6528/ac94be

II — Thoughts

This is a fascinating idea overall, but there is still much more to show. After all, the work is based on just a few current quantum gravity theories. And, as the researchers confirm, quantum physics had a major role in their work:

Quantum gravity (QG) is a field of theoretical physics that seeks to describe gravity according to the principles of quantum mechanics; it deals with environments in which neither gravitational nor quantum effects can be ignored, such as in the vicinity of black holes or similar compact astrophysical objects, such as neutron stars.

In short, it would require considerable interdisciplinary effort for the international scientific community to prove their theory, especially given the complexity of the human brain, but it is nonetheless a tempting possibility!

The author of this article (me 🙂) would also consider a possible separation of consciousness and subconscious, where the conscious mind operates like a normal computer and the subconscious like a quantum computer.

I would also encourage you to read my article, I hope you enjoy its insights on topic:

III — Support

Support is very important to me, with it I can spend less time at work and do what I love — educating DeFi & Crypto users! ❤️

If you want to support my work, you can send me a donation to the address:

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