Quantum Brain Dynamics

The basic concept in quantum brain dynamics (QBD) is that the electrical dipoles of the water molecules in the brain constitute a cortical field. The quanta of this field are described as corticons. The field interacts with quantum coherent waves propagating along the neuronal network. There is more than one view within QBD as to how this system supports or instantiates consciousness.

The ideas behind quantum brain dynamics (QBD) derived originally from the physicists, Hiroomi Umezawa and Herbert Frohlich in the 1960s. In the last 20 years, these ideas have been elaborated and given greater prominence by the combined efforts of Japanese physicists, Mari Jibu and Kunio Yasue and the Italian physicist, Giuseppe Vitiello.

Umezawa along with Iain Stuart and Yasushi Takahashi (12.) proposed the idea of a cortical field in the brain. Water comprises 70% of the brain, and QBD proposes that rather than providing a passive background, water could be an active player in brain processes. Water molecules have a constant electric dipole, and are considered in QBD to be capable of interacting with waves generated by biomolecules that are also electrical dipoles.

In QBD, the totality of the water molecules in the brain is viewed as the best candidate for a cortical field, with the water’s electrical dipoles binding both to one another and to the biomolecules of the neuronal network. There are also suggested to be long-range waves within the cortical field. The quanta of the cortical field are given the name of corticons, and in Jibu and Yasue’s version of the theory, the interaction between the cortical field and the neuronal network, particularly the dendritic part of that network, is the basis of consciousness.

The other half of the theory refers to biomolecules propagating through the neuronal network, an idea deriving from the work of Frohlich in the 1960’s. Frohlich argued that it was not clear how order was sustained in living systems, given the likely disrupting effect of the fluctuations in biochemical processes (3., 4. & 13.). His ideas relate mainly to the ordering of the neuronal network, on which the proposed cortical network of Umezawa is proposed to act.

Frohlich saw the electric potential across the cell membrane as the macroscopic observable of an underlying quantum order. Frohlich’s studies claim to show that with oscillating electrical charges in a thermal bath, a large number of quanta may become condensed into a single state, known as a Bose condensate, allowing long-range correlations amongst the dipoles involved. He also proposed that biomolecules with a high electric dipole moment line up along the actin filaments, and that electric dipole oscillations propagate along these filaments in the form of quantum coherent waves. There is some support for these ideas, in the form of experimental confirmation that biomolecules with high electric dipole moment have a periodic oscillation (14. Gray & Singer, 1989).

Vitiello agrees with Frohlich in arguing that living systems constitute ordered chains of chemical reactions, which could normally be expected to collapse in the random chemical environment of biological tissue. In Vitiello’s view stable ordering comes from the quantum level, but this is described by quantum field theory rather than quantum mechanics. He also claims that the folding of protein, which is fundamental to the activity of cells, cannot be described by classical physics, but could be quantum ordered.

Vitiello provides citations, which he feels support a quantum dynamical view of biological tissue, notably studies of radiation effects on cell growth by (15. Grundler & Kaiser, 1992) & (16. Pohl, 1988), on electromagnetic fields and stress by (17. Gutzeit, 2000), on dynamical response to external stimuli by (18. Kaiser, 1988), on non-linear tunnelling by (19. Huth et al, 1984), on coherent nuclear motion in membrane proteins by (20. Vos et al, 1993), on optical coherence in biological systems by (21. Li et al, 1983), on weak radiation fields and biological systems by (22. Popp, 1986) & (23. Jerman et al, 1996) and on energy transfer via solitons and coherent excitations by (24. Huth, Gutman & Vitiello, 1989) & (25. Christiansen, Pagano & Vitiello, 1991).

QBD proposes that the cortical field not only interacts with, but also to a good extent controls the neuronal network. It suggests that biomolecular waves propagate along the actin filaments, an important part of the cytoskeleton, particularly in the vicinity of the cell membrane and dendritic spines. The waves derive energy from ATP molecules stored in the membrane, and these in turn are controlled by calcium ions. These waves are also suggested to control the action of ion channels, which are crucial in the transmission of signals to the synapses.. The neurons membrane is further suggested to act as a Josephson junction providing insulation between two layers of superconductivity. The superconductivity current across the membrane can be controlled by the electrical potentials across the same membrane.

Vitiello also discusses the question of quantum decoherence. He claims that QBD only requires quantum oscillations to last 10-14 picoseconds, which should be much shorter than the period required for decoherence (26. Del Giudice, Preparata & Vitiello, 1988b). In common with Stuart Hameroff, he additionally argues that ordered water around protein molecules may shield them from the surrounding thermal bath.

Jibu & Yasue appear to see consciousness as simply a function of the interaction of the corticons, the energy quanta which are proposed to arise in the cortical field, with the biomolecular waves of the neuronal network. Vitiello, while thinking in terms of much the same quantum systems as Jibu and Yasue, proposes that these quantum states produce two poles, first a subjective representation of the external world and secondly a self, which opens itself to this representation of the external world. According to Vitiello’s version of the theory, consciousness is not strictly speaking in either the self or the external representation but between the two, in the opening of one to the other.

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2 Responses

  1. James Lake says:

    I have been reviewing the early foundations of both QBD and Vitiello’s dissipative quantum brain theory and it is not clear how they overlap or represent different theoretical viewpoints. Can someone recommend a current review article that discusses both theories describing their common points as well as their differences.

    Thank you,


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