Independent view contributed by Melissa Telling
Back in 1900 Freud, father of modern psychology, classified mental processes such as dreams: flashes of insight and parapraxis as illogical processes, echoes of the unconscious mind working through everyday consciousness, which then struggles to make sense of the messages of the ‘illogical’ unconscious mind. Today the seeming incompatibility of the workings of the conscious and unconscious individual minds is perhaps reminiscent of the equally incompatible classical physics, or the laws which adequately describe the workings of everyday phenomena, and emerging observations of the quantum world, which seem to be vastly at odds with the very world that has arisen from the quantum underpinnings. Perhaps our minds are indeed but microcosms of this (en)tangled universe, with our seemingly disordered unconscious somehow supporting and giving life to our rational, everyday minds. Recent empirical evidence (Kennedy, 2010) indicates that the processes of the unconscious mind operate much faster than our conscious experience can assimilate, which can give rise to both dazzling flashes of creative genius and disordered and disturbing thinking. Interestingly, the super fast processing of the unconscious mind is consistent with the processes of quantum computation.
The Logic of Quantum Information
In the average human mind the transition between ‘logical’ conscious thinking and ‘illogical’ unconscious thinking is enabled, according to Penrose and Hameroff (1996) by decoherence of tubulin qbits – or in laymans terms, ultra fast switches between the two modes of consciousness. An understanding of the workings of the apparently illogical unconscious as being governed by quantum processes may help give researchers greater insight into those who suffer from seemingly irrational thinking. For as our unconscious minds seem irrational to our conscious thought processes, so do the processes of quantum computation fly in the face of everything the laws of classical physics tell us. Yet the quantum computer is exponentially more efficient than its classical built counterpart, due in part to the collective effect of both superposition and entanglement. Similarly although our unconscious mind may seem scattered and illogical, this is only when viewed through the lens of the quantum mind. As Penrose illustrates with the Orch OR model, when we ‘solve’ a problem with our conscious mind, this is in fact brought about by a distillation of what our unconscious mind has already computed via quantum processes.
Are Mental Disorders In Fact Governed by Quantum Logic?
This quantum understanding of the unconscious mind has led researchers to postulate a new way of looking at mental disorders and disordered thinking and psychosis, most notably as demonstrated by sufferers of schizophrenia. As far back as 1911 Bleuler observed a strong relationship between the workings of the unconscious mind and the psychopathology of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is often characterised by illogical associations and mental processes – the sufferer is attempting to engage with the world through their unconscious thought processes, as it were. According to the aformentioned Orch OR model of Penrose and Hameroff, in a ‘healthy’ mind the switches between the two modes of thought, conscious and unconscious, happen swiftly and without mishap. In a schizophrenic mind however, Zizzi and Pregnolato (2012) argue that these switches do not happen quickly enough, leaving the schizophrenic, for want of a better word ‘trapped’ in the quantum logic of the unconscious mind for too long, leaving the individual struggling to make sense of the world around them – which is of course governed at an observational and societal level by classical physics and conscious thought processes. This model may give new understanding to the arising of the hallucinations and delusions suffered by the schizophrenic mind.
This quantum model of the schizophrenic pathology, it is hoped, may work alongside neuroscience and psychiatry to offer a fuller and more complete understanding of the arising schizophrenic thought processes in the individual. This would perhaps help communication between the therapist and the patient in the context of severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia, enhancing the dignity and safety of mentally disordered patients and facilitating greater empathy towards them. Zizzi and Pregnolato suggest that further scientific research in this field should perhaps focus on the study of the quantum brain, as understanding of this model is crucial to both the fields of quantum logic and quantum physics in general.