Quantum entanglement of K+ Ions

Multiple channel states & the role of noise in the brain – Bernroider, G. & Roy, S. (2005) – International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE) Vol. 5841


Gustav Bernroider of Salzburg University has proposed that quantum coherence and entanglement in the ion channels of neurons underlies information processing in the brain and ultimately consciousness (1&2.).

Function & Structure of the Ion Channels

Ion channels are a crucial component in the axonal spiking/synaptic firing model of neuronal signalling and information processing. The axonal signal starts from the body of the neuron and proceeds down an extension called the axon, by means of a fluctuation in the difference in electrical potential across the membrane that forms the exterior of the axon. The membrane is formed by a double layer of lipids. The ion channels consist of protein molecules inserted through the lipid bi-layer. The axon fires when sodium (Na+) ions flow in through one set of ion channels, and subsequently returns to its resting state when potassium (K+) ions flow out through another set of ion channels. This process continues down the length of the axon until it reaches the synapse, which it allows to fire, and thus communicate with other neurons. Ion channels are thus a key mechanism in the brain’s signalling and information processing.

Bernroider bases his theory on recent studies of ion channels. These have been made possible by advances in high-resolution atomic-level spectroscopy and accompanying molecular dynamics simulations. His theory was principally developed in a 2005 paper with co-author Sisir Roy (1.). In this work, they draw particularly on the work of the MacKinnon group, and on studies of the potassium (K+) channel, especially the closed state of this channel. (3-20.)

The functioning of the K+ channel occurs in two stages, firstly, the selection of K+ ions in preference to any other species of ion, and secondly voltage-gating that controls the flow of these favoured K+ ions. The authors say that the traditional understanding of both functions has been altered by the recent studies. In its closed state, the channel is now seen to stabilise three K+ ions, two in the permeation filter of the ion channel and one in a water cavity to the intracellular side of this permeation path. In the case of the channel’s voltage gating, the electrical charges involved which were previously thought to act independently of the surrounding proteins and lipids, are now seen to be coupled to these proteins and lipids, and are thus involved in the gating process.

Atomic-level spectroscopy has revealed the detailed structure of the K+ channel in its closed state. The filter region of the channel has a framework of five sets of four oxygen atoms, which are each part of the carboxyl group of an amino-acid molecule in the surrounding protein. These are referred to as binding pockets, involving eight oxygen atoms in total. Both ions in the channel oscillate between two configurations (1).

Bernroider and Roy’s calculations lead them to claim that ion permeation can only be understood at the quantum level. Taking this as an initial assumption, they go on to ask whether the resulting model of the ion channel can be related to logic states. Their calculations suggest that the K+ ions and the carboxyl atoms of the binding pockets are two quantum-entangled sub-systems, and they equate this to a quantum computational mapping. The K+ ions that are destined to be expelled from the channel could, in the authors hypothesis, encode information about the state of the oxygen atoms in the axon membrane (1.).

In a later paper, presented at the Quantum Mind 2007 conference (2.), Bernroider proposed that different ion channels could be non-locally entangled, thus proposing a quantum process over an extended area of the axon. Given the importance of the ion channels in brain functioning, this model would give quantum coherence and non-locality in the axon membrane an integral role in the brain’s signalling and information processing.

Further to this, Bernroider and Roy have pointed out a similarity between the structure of the K+ ion channel and some recent proposals for building quantum computers, in which ions are held in microscopic traps (20-27.).

The authors argue that their model is well protected against decoherence, which has always been the most cogent criticism of quantum consciousness proposals. In particular, they claim that Tegmark’s calculations do not apply to their model (28.). The authors agree that for ions moving freely in water, Tegmark’s coherence time of 10^20 seconds would apply. However, they argue that the situation of the ions held in the permeation filter of the ion channel is markedly different, with a temperature about half the prevailing level for the brain, and the ions protected from decoherence by the binding pockets and the adjoining water cavity (1).

A New Theory of Quantum Consciousness?

It may be debatable as to whether Bernroider’s proposals amount to a new theory of quantum consciousness. In a paper in Neuroquantology in 2003 (29.), Bernroider appeared to favour David Bohm’s concept of an underlying implicate order from which arises the explicate order of classical physics that we experience in everyday life. However, Bernroider and Roy’s 2005 paper and Bernroider’s extension of this at the 2007 conference propose a new system of quantum coherence in the brain that is distinct from any of the earlier quantum consciousness models.

Bernroider’s theory could potentially be a vehicle for transfering consciousness from the implicate into the explicate order of David Bohm. Bernroider differs from Penrose and Hameroff’s Orch OR model in his emphasis of the axons and membranes, as opposed to the dendrites and the cytoskeleton. However, there are similarities between the two models in that both of them propose quantum coherence, non-locality and subsequent wave function collpase linked to the brain’s macroscopic information processing activity. As it stands, Bernroider’s proposals only deal with information processing in the brain rather than consciousness as such. However, it appears possible that wave function collpase in the ion channels might link to Penrose’s proposed geometry of space time, just as readily as wave function collapse in the cytoskeleton.

Bernroider’s theory is distinct from all earlier quantum consciousness theories in locating its mechanism in structures that are central to mainstream theories of the brain’s information processing and production of consciousness. If future experimentation were to substantiate the Bernroider proposals, this would involve a revolution in neuroscience of the most profound kind.


1.) Bernroider, G. & Roy, S. (2005) – Quantum entanglement of K+ ions, multiple channel states and the role of noise in the brain – International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE), vol. 5841

2.) Bernroider, G. & Summhamer, J. (2007) – The role of quantum cooperativity in neural signalling – Quantum Mind 2007 Conference Abstracts

3.) MacKinnon, R. & Yellen (1990) – K channels

4.) Jiang, Y., MacKinnon, R. et al (2003) – X ray structure of a voltage-dependent K+ channel – Nature, 423, pp. 42-8

5.) Jiang, Y. MacKinnon, R. et al (2003) – The principle of gating charge movement in a voltage-dependent K+ channel – Nature, 423, pp. 42-8

6.) Zhou, Y., Morais-Cabral, A., Kaufman, A., & MacKinnon, R. (2001) – Chemistry of ion coordination and hydration revealed in K+ channel-Fab complex at 2.0 A resolution – Nature, 414, pp. 43-8

7.) Morais-Cabral, H., Zhou, H. & MacKinnon, R. (2001) – Energetic optimisation of ion conuction rate by the K+ selectivity filter – Nature, 414, pp. 37-42

8.) Doyle, D., MacKinnon, R. et al (1998) – The structure of the potassium channel: Molecular basis of K+ conduction and selectivity – Science, 280, pp. 69-76

9.) Perozo, E. (1999) – Structural rearrangements underlying K+ channel activation gating – Science, 285, pp. 73-78

10.) Garafoli, S. & Jordan, P. (2003) – Modelling permeation energetics in the KcsA potassium channel – Biophysical Journal, 84, pp. 2814-2830

11.) Miloshevsky, G. & Jordan, P. (2004) – Permeation in ion channels: the interplay of structure and theory – Trends in Neuroscience, 27, (6), pp. 308-314

12.) Armstrong, C. & Hille, B. (1998) – Voltage-gated ion channels and electrical excitability – Neuron, 20, pp. 371-80

13.) Guidoni, L. & Carloni, P. (2002) – Potassium permeation through the KcsA channel: a density functional study – Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, 1563, pp. 1-6

14.) Berneche, S. & Roux, B. (2001) – Energetics of ion conduction through the K+ channel – Nature, 414, pp. 73-7

15.) Ranatunga, K. et al (2001) – Side-chain ionisation states in a potassium channel – Biophysical Journal, 80, pp. 1210-19

16.) Chung, S. et al (2002) – Conducting state properties of the KcsA potassium channel from the molecular and Brownian dynamics simulations – Biophysical Journal, 82, pp. 628-45

17.) Bezanilla, F. (2000) – The voltage sensor in voltage-dependent ion channels – Physiology Review, 80, pp. 555-592

18.) Oliver, D. et al (2004) – Functional conversion between A type and delayed rectifier K+ channels by membrane lipids – Science, 304, pp. 265-70

19.) Roux, B. et al (2000) – Ion channels, permeation and electrostatics: insight into the function of KcsA – Biochemistry, 39, pp. 13295-13306

20.) Kuvucak, S. et al – Models of permeation in ion channels – Rep. Prog. Phys., 64, p.1427

21.) Cirac, J. & Zoller, P. (1995) – Quantum computation with cold trapped ions – Physical Review Letters, 74, pp. 4091-4094

22.) Di Vicenzo, D. (1995) – Two bit gates are universal for quantum computation – Physical Review, A, 51, pp. 1015-22

23.) Cirac, J. & Zoller, P. – A scalable quantum computer with ions in arrays of microtraps – Nature, 404, pp. 579-81

24.) Carlaco, J., Cirac, J. & Zoller, P. – Entangling ions in arrays of microscopic traps – arXiv:quant-ph/00105vl

25.) Monroe, C. (2002) – Quantum information processing with atoms and photons – Nature, 416, pp. 238-46

26.) Milburn, G. et al (2002) – Ion trap quantum computing with warm ions – Fortschr. Phys., 48, pp. 801-10

27.) Duan, L. et al (2004) – Scalable trapped ion computation with a probalistic ion-photon mapping – arXiv:quant-ph/01401020vl

28.) Tegmark, M. (2000) – Importance of quantum coherence in brain processes – Physical Reviews, E61, pp. 4194-4206

29.) Bernroider, G. (2003) – Quantum neurodynamics and the relationship to conscious experience – Neuroquantology, 2: pp. 163-8

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5 Responses

  1. Imogene says:

    This is my first time visit at here and i am really impressed to read everthing
    at single place.

  2. The project Quantum Creativity need to reply to the mission of FET OPEN 1 project

    The mission of Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) need to present a large and long term coppetative activityes by uncovering radically new technological possibilities. In order to succeed in this mission FET focusses on research beyond what is known, accepted or widely adopted and supports novel and visionary thinking to open promising paths towards powerful new technologies. Thus, research in FET is multidisciplinary and multiactoral collaborative research open projects in promising fields or research and development . Loking to reply to FET program the Quantum Creativity Project do nor pursue criteria to the old incremental scientific excellent research of single groups but ask to the partners to participate for developing a convergence from different approach both in science and innovation able to supports conceptual change based on of Quantum Brain Theory by improving novel and visionary thinking and to open promising paths towards powerful new technologies.

    One of the mai aim of the Quantum creativity project is to amplify the extension of advanced quantum science (including entangled enabled quantum technology ) to the life-sciences of the future knowledge society This will be made in order o overcome the general culture of the industrial society generated by the obsolete classic reductionism of mechanical science .
    see in the dialog on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1557903417770268/?fref=ts

    So I think that the Quantum Creativity project is open to all the contribution that believes to the scientific but also the social need to promote a deep change of the cassic parading of mechanical science.

    Therefore I appreciate all the proposal that would be oriented to the above aim of paradigmatic change in scince and society.

    In particular I like very muh the approach of NED approach in computation by interaction, this because NED affirm that during biophysical interaction information from multiple sources ( as Genetics and Ephygenetics ) can be easily instantaneously integrated.

    Probably this is the work developent into the nano-syapses if we will be able to apply the quantum entanglement effect that trasforms different codex of information in an informational field, working at distance as signals based on simultaneity properties of communication .

    Also I believe in the contribution to the Quantum Creativity project for developing the isues OPTOGENESIS & CREATIVITY.

    Optogenetics in general regard the combination of genetics information and information coming from optic’s processes

    Starting from this approach I believe that the integration with quantum sience will be able to deevlop a better understanding by tacking an advantage through quantum properties to creatively approaching the quantum evolution of our perception in relation to both kind of information genetics and ephygenetics.

    In conclusion I think and I ask to Niki as University of Patras coordinator of the Quantum Creativity Project , that we need to write the project proposal for: http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/portal/desktop/en/opportunities/h2020/topics/1153-fetopen-1-2014.html , exacly in order to start the submission of the 16 preliminary pages of the the proposal .

    In order to avoid that our proposal will be not innovative I suggest to see in the Europa Search :


    About similar projects in order to learn about the effective possibility to be original to our shared proposalon Quantum Creativity.

    My best regards . Very cordially Paolo Manzelli 2014/12/09 ;


  3. FET program ask us to set a long-term strategy and therefore it is necessary to act in a wide search of international consent to cthe change from theobsolete logic of mechanics interpretation to the extension of a strategy conceptually and culturally innovative of modern quantum science which includes the “entanglement” as a system of interpretation of the fundamental structures of life.


    The mechanical model sees chemical synapses as a system of linear transmission that is conceived to overcome the electrical breack-of electrical circuit generated from the synaptic’s cracks . In this old model the synaptic neuro-transmitter acts as a connecting bridge between the action potential of a neuron with that of ‘another so as to slide a flux of uni-directionally information. This model becomes obsolete in the context of the concepts of Quantum Brain, whose general theory, through the ‘entanglement in synaptic nanostructures , allows us to understand the simultaneous communication of signals that allow consistent synergistic activity between large areas of neurons. This will be the ‘conceptual innovation, to be defined in the’ context of a Project FET -Open .This approch will be possible hoping to find multidisciplinary partners of the Quantum Creativity Project, that are able to share the ‘need to formulate a “visionary” new hypothesis “quantum-brain function, to become also capable to highlight the social and economic needs that willbe consquent to such a change and that will be ‘crucial to definitively overcome the reductionist model and mechanical scence of the common reference in’ scope of obsolete industrial societ

    I ask for your comments. My best Paolo 31th AUG-2014

    Director of LRE/EGO-CreaNet – University of Florence
    50019 -SESTO F.no- 50019 Firenze-
    Via Madonna dl Piano ,06
    -room: d.132: Phone: +39/055-4574662 Fax: +39/055 2756219
    Mobile: +39/335-6760004; SKIPE “manzelli3”
    posta certificata :
    E-mail.1: EGOCREANET2012@gmail.com

  4. The Synapses strength are vibrating and their dynamic modulation it is excited through a newwork of complex postsynaptic nano-dimensioned filaments composed that extend ∼100 nm into the cytoplasm from the postsynaptic membrane. see http://www.jneurosci.org/content/31/17/6329.full.pdf

    In the Nano-dimension of this structural a cluster state is a type of highly entangled state of synapses and we can hypothize that the Quantum Entanglement my generate a coherent resonance effect extending the simultaneity of excitation in a vaste area of neurons generating an holistic quantum communication .

    So that the nano-dimensioned quantum entanglement through a coherent resonance will be , trasformed into a macroscopic entanglement to interpret the binding and/or holistic functions of quantum brain communication .

    I think that the above hypothese can be a section of the resarch of Quantum Creativity Project .https://www.facebook.com/groups/1557903417770268/?fref=ts

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