Quantum Brain Dynamics and Consciousness
Mari Jibu & Kunio Yasue
John Benjamins ISBN 90 272 5123 1 (Eur)
The concepts behind this book derive from the Japanese physcist, Hiroomi Umezawa, who speculated that understanding the processes of memory in the brain would involve quantum field theory. This led onto the idea that understanding consciousness would also involve quantum field theory.
The first four chapters of the book provide a standard background to quantum theory and neuroscience. Those without some grounding would be better advised to look at more standard text books or popularisations, as the style of the book is generally difficult and unecessarily repetitive. The first four chapters of the book deal with quantum theory. For those not familiar with this, there are many much more comprehensible descriptions. This is followed by some descriptive passages on the brain, which is again better described elsewhere.
Getting beyond these introductory stages, the authors make the same point as others in strssing the estrangement between physics, where fundamental new views of nature emerged during the last hundred years and neuroscience which has remained largely wedded to 19th century physics. In particular physics has tended to think dynamically, in terms of controlled changes. Physics deals primarily with the inanimate, but the concepts of dynamics can be applied to living organisms, as they also undergo controlled changes.
The authors suggest that the functions of the cortex might be better understood through the dendritic network, by which information enters cells. They stress that many neurons in the cortex do not have axons but only dendrites. They think that the conventional processing system described in the axon-neurotransmitter-dendrite system may overlook other networks in the brain. Neurons without axons are the majority in the cortex and the authors see these as the likely basis of consciousness.
The authors discuss the dendritic network at length. They point out that it is much more sophisticated than the axonal network. The dendritic membrane comprises biomolecules with electric dipoles, the positive poles of the membrane are aligned on the inner surface and the negative poles on the outer surface.. Th negative poles on the outer surface attract positive ions, while the positive poles on the inner surface attract negative ions. The regions where these interactions occur are called Debye layers. The dendrites of several neurons are often entangled in a network. Chemical synapses are located on the tips of dendritic spines and there are ephases on the dendritic membranes.
There is experimental confirmation that biomolecules of high electric dipole moment have a periodic oscillation (Fröhlich, 1968), (Gray & Singer, 1989) (1&2) The authors suggest that these oscillations are crucial to the functioning of the brain. This can be called wave cybernetics, because the wave or biomolecule oscillation is seen as the controlling factor in the brain.
Frohlich proposed a theory where biomolecules with high electric dipole moment line up along the actin filaments immediately below the cell membrane, while electric dipole oscillations propagate along each filament as coherent waves. These are maintained by electrons trapped in and moving along the protein molecules. This is now known as a Frohlich wave. These waves exchange energy with the electromagnetic field. There is some experimental support for Frohlich waves (Genberg et al, 1991), (Genzel et al, 1976), Webb & Stoneham, 1977), (Webb, 1980).
Umezawa, Stuart and Takahashi proposed the idea of a cortical field. This interacts with the macroscopic dynamics of the main neural network, which in turn transmits signals to the body tissues. The filamentous strings found in the cells also extend outside the cells forming an extracellular matrix that is also linked to the cell membrane. So the membrane proteins are linked both to the cytoskeleton and the extracellular matrix.
The authors propose that Fröhlich waves propagate along the filamentous strings. The waves are produced by energy stored in ATP molecules at membrane protein sites, which are in turn controlled by calcium ions. The waves also effect the operation of ion channels, which control neural impulses. The authors suggest that this structure can give rise to a macroscopic quantum phenomena, similar to superconductivity. They also regard the cell membrane as an insulating layer between two areas of superconductivity, otherwise known as a Josephson junction. This means that superconductivity current across the Josephson Junction can be controlled by electric potential differences in the insulating layer.
The authors suggest that this quantum activity may facilitate the functioning of the brain and in particular an interface between the proposed cortical field and the neurons network. The cortical field is proposed to contain energy quanta behaving as particles, which the authors call corticons. Corticons are suggested to exist everywhere in the cerebral cortex. The interface between the cortical field and the neuron network takes place in the waves propagating along the filamentous strings in the cytoskeleton and the extracelular matrix.
The authors emphasise the nature and importance of water within the brain. They suggest that water is not just a background substance, but is an active component in cell assemblies. This idea lies behind the original concept of the cortical field and corticons. The water molecule has a constant electrical dipole. It also has a symmetrical form that is invariant under reflection. The molecule rotates around its symmetry axis, which is the electrical dipole. Thus the molecule is a quantum mechanical spinning top, which interacts with the fields generated by biomolecules.
The totality of water molecules in the brain is seen as the best candidate for the sought for cortical field. In water, one side of the molecule becomes negatively charged, and one side positvely charged creating an electric dipole. This is an attraction between molecules known as hydrogen bonding. The attraction is both between water molecules and between water molecules and other molecules with electrical dipoles. Biomolecules such as proteins have constant electric dipoles and connect to water molecules.
The cortical field is identified with the water rotational field, created by the spinning dipoles of the water molecules. The field on the cytoskeleton and extracellular matrix is proposed to be a Bose field, and the interaction between this Bose field and the corticons of the cortical field is seen as the basis of consciousness. Corticons are identified with the energy quanta of the water rotational field of the brain. The corticons interact with each other by emitting and absorbing the exchange bosons of the bose field, and are themselves the energy quanta of the warer rotational field. The water rotational field is a dipole field andtherefore interacts with an electromagnetic field. There are also suggested to be long-range correlation waves in the water rotational field of the brain.
The brain structures described here are thought to be sensitive to and to modify themselves in responses to information coming into the brain. The combined dynamics of the cortical field and the electromagnetic field comprise what the authors describe as quantum brain dynamics (QBD). The dynamics of the corticons is thought to be capable of controlling the dendritic and neural networks. The authors think that the creation and annilihation of corticons in the QBD is what is called consciousness.
Unfortunately the authors do not explain why they think this, and therefore like more mainstream theories of consciousness, the actual consciousness seems to be created by fiat. There is no more apparent reason why consciousness should arise from this physical interaction than from the physical interaction of electrical potentials and chemical in the synapses. The authors could have suggested that consciousness was a fundamental property of photons or of the proposed corticons or of particular fields but they do not do this.
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