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The argument that biological systems are too "warm and wet" to support quantum effects is becoming increasingly antiquated as research in the field of quantum biology progresses. In fact, not only is it becoming apparent that quantum processes may regularly take place in biological systems, but these processes may underlie the mechanisms of consciousness and propel our models of conceptualizing the human brain into the next era of scientific understanding. The phenomena of consciousness have allured scientists and philosophers for thousands of years, while a precise technical understanding has remained elusive. If possible, developing this understanding will likely be one of humanity's greatest achievements. Knowing the fundamental processes that create conscious experience has far-reaching implications, from the potential birth of true artificial intelligence to a better
Coherent Energy Transfer and the Potential Implications for
J. Tory Toole1,2, P. Kurian3,4, T. J. A. Craddock2,5
College of Psychology, Nova Southeastern University, Ft. Lauderdale,
FL 33328, USA1
Clinical Systems Biology Group, Institute for Neuro-Immune Medicine,
Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33328, USA2
Department of Medicine, Howard University College of Medicine,
Washington, DC 20059, USA3
Quantum Biology Laboratory, Howard University, Washington, DC
20059, USA4
Departments of Psychology & Neuroscience, Computer Science, and
Clinical Immunology, Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale,
FL 33314, USA5
The argument that biological systems are too “warm and wet” to support
quantum effects is becoming increasingly antiquated as research in the field
of quantum biology progresses. In fact, not only is it becoming apparent that
quantum processes may regularly take place in biological systems, but these
processes may underlie the mechanisms of consciousness and propel our
models of conceptualizing the human brain into the next era of scientific
understanding. The phenomena of consciousness have allured scientists and
philosophers for thousands of years, while a precise technical understanding
has remained elusive. If possible, developing this understanding will likely
be one of humanity’s greatest achievements. Knowing the fundamental
processes that create conscious experience has far-reaching implications,
from the potential birth of true artificial intelligence to a better
Journal of Cognitive Science 19-2:115-124, 2018
2018 Institute for Cognitive Science, Seoul National University
116 J. Tory Toole, P. Kurian, T. J. A. Craddock
understanding of mental health disorder etiologies and treatments. One
major challenge in the mental health professions, and, ultimately, in
empathy of any kind, is being able to see from and appreciate another
person’s unique, subjective experience. Discoveries in the field of
consciousness could help bridge this gap.
Keywords: Consciousness; Coherent energy transfer; Quantum biology
Consciousness has proven to be one of the most elusive ideas for scientists
and philosophers to fully understand. The primary reason for this lack of
understanding lies in the tension between the personalized and subjective
nature of consciousness, on the one hand, and the scientific belief that
observable phenomena constitute an objective external reality, on the other.
We may, for example, be able to agree on the number of people in a room,
but it is quite another matter to assess how the people in a room make one
feel. While consciousness can be described as the subjective experience of
any one person, the fundamental limit to knowing another person’s unique
first-person experience creates a gap in truly understanding the phenomena
of consciousness. This seemingly unbridgeable gap between first-person
subjective “qualitative” experience and third-person “objective” reality has
placed conscious awareness just beyond the reach of traditional quantitative
scientific observation. While some believe consciousness and subjective
experiences (i.e. qualia) to be human constructs to describe a series of
mental processes with physiological correlates, others believe this concept
transcends our classical understanding of the inner workings of the brain,
with notions suggesting that qualia are physically real but beyond physical
observation (Beshkar, 2018). However, since the creation of the computer,
the brain has been reduced to a machine of inputs and outputs, effectively a
biological computer that follows the deterministic rules of classical physics.
Certain aspects of the brain, however, have challenged this concept, with
consciousness chief among them.
As such, in the early 1990s Sir Roger Penrose, a mathematical physicist,
Coherent Energy Transfer and the Potential Implications for Consciousness
made the conjecture that consciousness may be related to quantum
phenomena, just beyond the reach of our current understanding and models
of the brain (Penrose 1991). This work, furthered by collaboration with the
anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff (Penrose, 1994; Hameroff & Penrose,
1996; 2014), suggested that quantum processing may occur in the network
of protein structures maintaining the architecture of brain cells, namely
within neuronal microtubules. This idea that consciousness occurs on a
quantum level, while commonly attributed to Penrose and Hameroff, is not
an isolated discovery, beginning in germinal form with the founders of
quantum mechanics (Bohr, Schrödinger, Wigner, etc.) and continuing in the
recent past with Satinover (2001), Woolf et al. (2009), Reimers (2009),
Vaziri and Plenio (2010), Lowenstein (2013), Craddock et al. (2014),
Al-Khalili and McFadden (2014), Fisher (2015), and Jedlicka (2009; 2017)
and others theorizing in one way or another that quantum processes have
something to do with the workings of the mind.
The double-slit experiment informs us that a conscious observer can alter
the outcome of a quantum measurement. But what does “quantum” have to
do with the brain? The unique conjecture of Penrose rests on the idea that
human understanding, subjective experience, and conscious awareness are
in and of themselves non-algorithmic, and therefore they require a
biological substrate capable of supporting non-algorithmic processes.
Quantum mechanics describes such a set of laws that govern nature on the
microscopic scale. Trivially, these laws determine the energy levels of
electrons, the properties of atoms, and the behavior of photons, among other
things, and in this sense they apply in a straightforward manner to all matter,
including the brain. But these quantum laws also predict more “exotic”
properties of matter, which are observed to stem from coherent quantum
states formed from entanglement (multiple particles that cannot be
described independently even at large distances), superposition (a single
particle simultaneously existing in multiple states), and tunneling (a particle
passing through a classically insurmountable barrier). These properties of
quantum systems are directly responsible for much of the digital
technological growth of the last century, and they have led to the harnessing
and use of electricity, the creation of the computer, and the development of
cell phones. However, these same non-trivial quantum phenomena afford a
118 J. Tory Toole, P. Kurian, T. J. A. Craddock
biological system like the brain a degree of non-deterministic (i.e.
non-algorithmic) behavior.
The connection between large-scale and small-scale physics has been
another elusive quest for modern physicists, manifesting most notably in the
irreconcilability between general relativity and quantum mechanics. Strides
have been made to use quantum understanding to better human life in a
myriad of ways, from the light bulb and the early computer to quantum
processing, imaging, and cryptography. Biology, the study of life and its
dizzying array of complex systems, has traditionally been described by
physicists as large-scale and without quantum effects, with proponents
arguing that biological systems are too “warm, wet, and noisy” for quantum
processes to take place. This mainly stems from the difficulty in setting up
and maintaining a system in a stable quantum state, which often requires
near-complete isolation from the environment at extremely cold
temperatures (~-273) and shielded from stray electromagnetic fields.
Recent research, however, is suggesting that this is not the case. Quantum
coherent transport in photosynthesis, magnetoreception in birds, olfaction
(Lambert et al., 2013), and single-photon effects in vision (Fleming et al.,
2011) are just a few examples of how quantum effects in biology are
possible. For example, in 2007, quantum oscillations attributed to electronic
coherence were observed in the Fenna-Matthews-Olsen (FMO)
photosynthetic light-harvesting complex (LHC) at the relatively warm
temperature of -196, challenging the idea that quantum phenomena and
biology do not mix (Engel et al., 2007). This experiment was then conducted
at 4, nearing physiological temperature, and observed not only in the
FMO complex but in LHCs in plants (LHCII), bacteria (LH2), and
phycobiliproteins (Chenu et al., 2007; Hildner et al., 2015).
Many quantum biological systems currently known seem to be comprised
of a pigment (or small, non-protein molecule such as a ligand, odorant, or
flavin) in a protein environment (Brookes, 2017). The theoretical basis of
the coherent energy transfer in photosynthesis involves the unique
light-capturing nature of chlorophyll and the elegant geometrical
arrangement of these pigments in the LHCs of plants and bacteria. Due to
these characteristics, light energy can be efficiently captured and funneled
from the environment to reaction centers within the cell. This light
Coherent Energy Transfer and the Potential Implications for Consciousness
harvesting depends on the quantum mechanism through which
light-induced excitations hop between pigments (also known as
chromophores). The structure of chlorophyll molecules allows energy to be
transferred from an excited group of atoms to a neighboring group of atoms
via the resonance between their energy levels. This is analagous to the
phenomenon that occurs when striking a tuning fork and placing it near a
second tuning fork. The sound waves from the struck tuning fork resonate
with the second fork, causing it to vibrate as well. This phenomenon,
however, is not unique to photosynthesis, and is simply attributable to the
specific structure and arrangement of chromophores within a protein.
One potential site of interest for understanding how quantum processes
may occur in the human brain is the microtubule, a hollow cylindrical
polymer of the protein tubulin. These structures are among the most
abundant in the cytoskeleton of the cell and are responsible for maintaining
cell morphology, trafficking cell cargo, cell motility, and possibly playing a
role in signal transduction. They are essential to maintaining the complex
architecture and inner workings of brain cells. Tubulin, the microtubule
constituent protein, possesses a network of chromophoric tryptophan (Trp)
amino acids. These aromatic chromophores, with their specific structure
and arrangement in tubulin, may also support coherent quantum effects.
Craddock et al. (2014) investigated the biological feasibility of this type of
coherent energy transfer in tubulin and found that it is theoretically possible
for energy to be transferred via this quantum process. This suggests that the
structure of microtubules in the brain can feasibly use coherent energy
transfer, similar to photosynthesis, as a mechanism for signaling and
information processing.
The spatial distribution and orientation of the Trp amino acids in tubulin
are shown to be comparable to that of chromophores found in other
light-harvesting biological systems (e.g., cryptophyte marine algae), which
have also been shown to support quantum-coherent transfer of electronic
excitation. As mentioned, spatial distribution and orientation of
chromophores are key hallmarks of this quantum process. Craddock et al.
(2014), using modeling and simulations, found that the electronic
characteristics and spatial orientation of Trps within microtubules are
comparable to light-harvesting structures in plants and bacteria, and that it
120 J. Tory Toole, P. Kurian, T. J. A. Craddock
is very feasible that the quantum processes experimentally observed to
occur in these plant/bacteria structures may take place within the Trp
network in tubulin. This is indeed noteworthy, as it suggests that not only
can quantum-coherent energy transfer occur in photosynthetic systems, but
it may happen more generally in eukaryotic cells, including cells in the
human brain.
The possibility of coherent energy transfer occurring in the human brain
carries with it many exciting implications. For one, these underlying
quantum phenomena could be an important clue in better understanding the
mechanisms of neurodegenerative tauopathic disorders such as
Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease-related dementia. These
specific types of disorders are characterized by altered forms of the
microtubule-associated protein (MAP) tau, which is a key protein in
stabilizing the microtubule architecture that regulates neuron morphology
and synaptic strength. It is this uniquely elegant architecture that gives rise
to the possibility of coherent energy transfer. MAP tau is a very important
protein in neuronal axons. It acts to stabilize the microtubule cytoskeleton
and, when compromised, allows the cytoskeleton to disintegrate. This type
of neurodegeneration is the hallmark of these tauopathic diseases.
Understanding the mechanisms by which the microtubule cytoskeleton
becomes destabilized may lead to new diagnostics and therapies for these
One prominent early event in tauopathy, or the pathological aggregation
of the MAP tau protein, is oxidative stress. In a biological context, reactive
oxygen species (ROS) are chemically reactive chemical species containing
oxygen. They are the natural byproduct of oxygen metabolism and play
important roles in the functioning of the cell (Wilson et al., 2015). While the
production of ROS is a natural part of aerobic life, a surplus can be
detrimental. Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between the
amount of ROS being naturally produced and the bo dy ’s ab il ity to d etoxify
the reactive intermediates or repair resulting damage. While these ROS
reactions can interact in a variety of ways throughout the body, certain
chemical processes result in excited-state molecules that release photons
(particles of light) of specific energies ranging from the ultraviolet through
the visible to the infrared (Cifra and Pospisil, 2014; Van Wijk, 2014; Mei,
Coherent Energy Transfer and the Potential Implications for Consciousness
1994; Slawinska and Slawinski, 1983). Exposure to light in the
near-ultraviolet range causes absorption by proteins, primarily mediated by
the aromatic amino acids tryptophan, tyrosine, and to a lesser extent
phenylalanine. Therefore, it is possible that as ROS reactions cause the
emission of photons in the cell, these photons are absorbed and transferred
through the microtubules via amino acids such as tryptophan. The degree
and extent of this process, and whether or not this absorption and emission
involves coherent energy transfer, however, remains an open question. Yet,
as we have discussed, this process appears to be theoretically possible and
achievable under biological conditions, meaning that energy transfer within
cells could occur, at least in part, through quantum coherence. Furthermore,
because ROS reactions can be a catalyst for this energy transfer, oxidative
stress can cause destabilizing effects in tubulin and the microtubules of the
cell due to disruptions of such coherent energy transfer.
In very recent work, Kurian et al. (2017) modeled the effects of
ROS-induced excitonic propagation via coherent energy transfer in
aromatic networks of linear tubulin polymers. They found that this process
is significant on at least the micron scale, suggesting the physiological
relevance of such coherent dynamics. This finding also alludes to the
possibility that such excitations resulting from metabolic activities may
influence neural firings, which are dictated by rates of ion flow through
sodium, potassium, and other channels via changes in the microtubule
cytoskeleton. This coherent energy transfer in any one instant may be
inconsequential behaviorally. However, coherent energy transfer across
multiple microtubules in a neuron and across many brain cells via
synchronous neuron firing may have implications in brain activity,
behavior, and even consciousness.
Yet, while this mechanism in and of itself is not tied to a specific theory
of consciousness, it is consistent with propositions made by others regarding
the quantum nature of conscious processes. In regards to the study of
subjective consciousness, if such a system is capable of generating
physically real but physically unobservable properties (Beshkar, 2018), or if
it can be considered as an indefinite causal structure (Hardy, 2009), this may
provide room for a physical description of unmeasureable (i.e. subjective)
qualia, and therefore consciousness. Just as the discovery of quantum
122 J. Tory Toole, P. Kurian, T. J. A. Craddock
mechanics was a paradigm shift for our understanding of matter, the
possibility of quantum biology not only occurring in the brain, but being
responsible for the manifestation of consciousness, could be a major
paradigm shift in the way we conceptualize the mind, the brain, psychiatric
disorders, and neurodegenerative diseases. Furthermore, understanding the
connections between the mechanisms of the brain and the underlying
quantum phenomena could lead to new questions and answers about the
connections between macroscale phenomena and quantum physics. As we
further our understanding of the various roles quantum processes can play in
human experience, we take steps towards a potentially more complete
understanding of consciousness.
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... There are controversial models of the emergence of consciousness (E-consciousness) through quantum effects arising from MTs 230 with the original proposals 63,64 being questioned. 231,232,233 However there is also serious ongoing supportive research for both quantum effects 234 and possible mechanisms for MT involvement in energy transfer and information processing generally. 235,236,237,238,239 Mainstream studies have found that MT based activity does play a role in learning and memory 240,241,242 (reviewed: 243) and we usually consider E-consciousness to include memory retrieval. ...
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TASK-1/3 K+ channels in the carotid body sense PO2 decreases (hypoxic conditions) which close the channels initiating the hypoxic ventilatory response (HVR) pathways, including automatic "breath-taking." Adequate PO2 and volatile anesthetics (VA) activate TASK-1/3. How these important effects occur is poorly understood. It is shown that both O2 and VA weakly H-bond to an uncharged Arginine (Arg-245) in the X-gate. The involved molecular mechanisms are explored and supported using molecular electrostatic potentials (MEP). The problems in sorting this out included the assumption that Arg-245 is + charged which would prevent hydrophobic O2 and VA from entering this region and remove all possible VA binding sites. However, similar to TASK-2 channels, Arg-245 is uncharged due to the very hydrophobic X-gate environment. The gate region is both a classic VA binding site and a typical O2 binding site.
... Craddock et al. performed a computational investigation of energy transfer between chromophoric amino acids (tryptophan) in tubulin subunit proteins 397,398 and provided plausible arguments in favor of the quantum mechanism of signal propagation along a microtubule by establishing that coherent energy transfer in tubulin and microtubules is biologically feasible. Particularly, it was determined that coherent beatings last from ∼300 to 600 fs depending on the excitation start in the tryptophan cluster and it has a pure dephasing rate of 50 cm −1 . ...
... p0520 Stuart Hameroff [175] has hypothesized that anesthetics are caused by binding in nonpolar hydrophobic regions of cytoskeletal proteins, dispersing endogenous London forces by inhibiting delocalized π-electron clouds. Hameroff [176] further postulated that London forces bound dipoles in nonpolar hydrophobic regions of cytoplasmic proteins couple and oscillate coherently and that this correlation suggested the bearing of consciousness, where synchrony conjures a sub-molecular basis for a quantum understanding of consciousness [176,177,178]. ...
It is a century-old view that experiential philosophies are not compatible with materialism. In the contextual inconsistency with the reality, that matter is inertly acquiring only a single physical state, philosophers have gained ground in metaphysical beliefs, including dualism, monism, and idealism. We show that a new foundational self-referential identity theory of the mind is needed to bridge the explanatory gap. Panexperiential materialism is a new materialistic framework originating in the spectral domain of matter-wave energy quanta transcending the barrier of thermoquantal information, isomorphically aligning with consciousness. The holistic nature of its instantiation is panexperiential due to the composite states of non-inert matter, depending crucially on their interrelations without embracing essentialist ontology, further entwined with epistemic teleofunctionalism and informational relationalism, and based on the research agenda, concepts, and shared values of quantum chemistry. Panexperiential materialism is characterized by a spectral matter-wave structure, which is conjugate to the prescriptive structural properties of the spacetime domain. Yet panexperiential materialism is not contrary to ordinary materialism, although the latter may be fundamentally grounded in molecular networks. The phenomenology of consciousness is not merely a mental reification in the first-person perspective. The proper guideline should be the reduction of conscious processes to nonreductive physical correlates in the brain. The wet and hot environment of the brain affords quantum-thermal correlations in a transcending energy processing zone where quantum and classical fluctuations are fused to thermoquantal information. The quantum chemical basis incorporates non-self-adjoint analytic extensions in Liouville space and associated Fourier-Laplace transforms that conjoin energy, time, entropy, and temperature. The transformation across hierarchical thermodynamical domains is caused by the negentropic gain wholly implicated by the entropy production arising in the energy exchange resulting in the transformation of information forming informational holarchies, driven by nonlocal teleological mechanisms. The information transformation from the objective to the subjective is a process that is quantum in nature. The process of non-integrated information, actualizing the information-based action as a teleological process of cognition in the entailment of preconscious experientialities, should not be conflated with the experience itself, but rather as an isomorphic connection between mind and brain via the Fourier-Laplace transformation. Our holistic viewpoint denies the existence of integrated information as an emergentist ontology, instead advocating the canonical transformations B and B† as the syntax or universal grammar for intrinsic information (proto-communication). The irreducible character of an informational holarchy where the whole is affected non-synergistically by the non-integrated information is how intrinsic information encapsulates the energy transformation from fusing thermal and quantum fluctuations that result in long-range correlations (phase wave) that constitutes the fundamental dynamics of physical feelings. In panexperiential materialism, there is no issue dividing holists and reductionists, concerning the issue whether the whole or the discrete parts are primary, but rather their interrelations. This relationalism is pivotal in understanding how non-integrated information holistically concresce. Although we consider matter waves to be fundamental, one might say, avoiding the trap of eliminative materialism, that the brain is conjugate to the mind and vice versa.
... Actinfilaments are found along the plasma membrane of neurons and profusely fill dendritic spines (see Hotulainen and Hoogenraad (2010) for a review). As a result, macroscopic description of subneuronal dynamics that can provide a novel physical attribution to 'long-range' coherence in biological systems (Preto, 2016) where synchrony has been invoked as a neural basis for emergent consciousness (Hamerroff et al., 1982;Hameroff, 1994;Tory Toole et al., 2018) as well as a precedence for unitary binding of consciousness (Crick, 1994a) resulting in a unified conscious field (Searle, 2017). ...
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This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC 4.0 license ( The physicality of subjectivity is explained through a theoretical conceptualization of guidance waves informing meaning in negentropically entangled non-electrolytic brain regions. Subjectivity manifests its influence at the microscopic scale of matter originating from de Broglie 'hidden' thermodynamics as action of guidance waves. The preconscious experienceability of subjectivity is associated with a nested hierarchy of microprocesses, which are actualized as a continuum of patterns of discrete atomic microfeels (or "qualia"). The mechanism is suggested to be through negentropic entanglement of hierarchical thermodynamic transfer of information as thermo-qubits originating from nonpolarized regions of actin-binding proteinaceous structures of nonsynaptic spines. The resultant continuous stream of intrinsic information entails a negentropic action (or experiential flow of thermo-quantum internal energy that results in a negentropic force) which is encoded through the non-zero real component of the mean approximation of the negentropic force as a 'consciousness code.' Consciousness consisting of two major sub-processes: (1) preconscious experienceability and (2) conscious experience. Both are encapsulated by nonreductive physicalism and panexperiential materialism. The subprocess (1) governing "subjectivity" carries many microprocesses leading to the actualization of discrete atomic microfeels by the 'consciousness code'. These atomic microfeels constitute internal energy that results in the transfer intrinsic information in terms of thermo-qubits. These thermo-qubits are realized as thermal entropy and sensed by subprocess (2) governing "self-awareness" in conscious experience.
... A further link is by way of a 'conscious pilot' that itself may reflect upon a finer-scale process extending within neuronal interiors originating from nonpolar hydrophobic regions where London force dipoles oscillate coherently [7][8][9]. This of course differs from the neuroscience of consciousness where consciousness is believed to involve firing dynamics of action potentials in neural networks [10] or embodied spatial cognition through the minimization of the energy-difference between model prediction and data [11] or coherent energy transfer [12]. ...
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A macro-quantum model is developed to describe spontaneous processes in terms of computable equations. The resultant macro-quantum wave equation (Schrödinger-type equation) is solved via a Madelung transformation to yield a complex-valued solution whose real part gives the macro-quantum potential energy. We show that the mechanism responsible for spontaneous phase differences is a pilot-wave force attributed to the internal thermo-quantum energy. Its functionality contributes to the phase synchrony in the emergence of ‘long-range order’ occurring by means of the actualized phase differences of the spontaneous processes. Macroscopic pilot-wave theory is used to describe how informational patterns carry ‘meaning’ via a‘consciousness code’ arising from thermo-quantum fluctuations. The resultant negentropic entanglement of the actualized phase differences according to panexperientialism acts as a ‘conscious pilot’ that provides stability through a pilot-wave guided negentropic action emerging from macro-quantum potential energy. In view of the above, the thermo-quantum consciousness is a process based on Aristotelian doctrine of causes. The material cause as uncertainty in the brain expressed through the wave function, naturally leads to pilot-wave guided negentropic action as the efficient cause of conscious recall that actualizes spontaneous potentiality as its formative cause, with inner experiences as the final cause. It is the final cause that is expressed in memory after consciousness and their interrelationship with uncertainty in the brain, that forms a relational holon.
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The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has added new urgency to the study of viral mechanisms of infection. But while vaccines offer a measure of protection against this specific outbreak, a new era of pandemics has been predicted. In addition to this, COVID-19 has drawn attention to post-viral syndromes and the healthcare burden they entail. It seems integral that knowledge of viral mechanisms is increased through as wide a research field as possible. To this end we propose that quantum biology might offer essential new insights into the problem, especially with regards to the important first step of virus-host invasion. Research in quantum biology often centres around energy or charge transfer. While this is predominantly in the context of photosynthesis there has also been some suggestion that cellular receptors such as olfactory or neural receptors might employ vibration assisted electron tunnelling to augment the lock-and-key mechanism. Quantum tunnelling has also been observed in enzyme function. Enzymes are implicated in the invasion of host cells by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Receptors such as olfactory receptors also appear to be disrupted by COVID-19. Building on these observations we investigate the evidence that quantum tunnelling might be important in the context of infection with SARS-CoV-2. We illustrate this with a simple model relating the vibronic mode of, for example, a viral spike protein to the likelihood of charge transfer in an idealised receptor. Our results show a distinct parameter regime in which the vibronic mode of the spike protein enhances electron transfer. With this in mind, novel therapeutics to prevent SARS-CoV-2 transmission could potentially be identified by their vibrational spectra.
In the mid-1990s, it was proposed that quantum effects in proteins known as microtubules play a role in the nature of consciousness. The theory was largely dismissed due to the fact that quantum effects were thought unlikely to occur in biological systems, which are warm and wet and subject to decoherence. However, the development of quantum biology now suggests otherwise. Quantum effects have been implicated in photosynthesis, a process fundamental to life on earth. They are also possibly at play in other biological processes such as avian migration and olfaction. The microtubule mechanism of quantum consciousness has been joined by other theories of quantum cognition. It has been proposed that general anesthetic, which switches off consciousness, does this through quantum means, measured by changes in electron spin. The tunneling hypothesis developed in the context of olfaction has been applied to the action of neurotransmitters. A recent theory outlines how quantum entanglement between phosphorus nuclei might influence the firing of neurons. These, and other theories, have contributed to a growing field of research that investigates whether quantum effects might contribute to neural processing. This review aims to investigate the current state of this research and how fully the theory is supported by convincing experimental evidence. It also aims to clarify the biological sites of these proposed quantum effects and how progress made in the wider field of quantum biology might be relevant to the specific case of the brain.
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The nervous system is a non-linear dynamical complex system with many feedback loops. A conventional wisdom is that in the brain the quantum fluctuations are self-averaging and thus functionally negligible. However, this intuition might be misleading in the case of non-linear complex systems. Because of an extreme sensitivity to initial conditions, in complex systems the microscopic fluctuations may be amplified and thereby affect the system’s behavior. In this way quantum dynamics might influence neuronal computations. Accumulating evidence in non-neuronal systems indicates that biological evolution is able to exploit quantum stochasticity. The recent rise of quantum biology as an emerging field at the border between quantum physics and the life sciences suggests that quantum events could play a non-trivial role also in neuronal cells. Direct experimental evidence for this is still missing but future research should address the possibility that quantum events contribute to an extremely high complexity, variability and computational power of neuronal dynamics.
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Oxidative stress is a pathological hallmark of neurodegenerative tauopathic disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease-related dementia, which are characterized by altered forms of the microtubule-associated protein (MAP) tau. MAP tau is a key protein in stabilizing the microtubule architecture that regulates neuron morphology and synaptic strength. The precise role of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the tauopathic disease process, however, is poorly understood. It is known that the production of ROS by mitochondria can result in ultraweak photon emission (UPE) within cells. One likely absorber of these photons is the microtubule cytoskeleton, as it forms a vast network spanning neurons, is highly co-localized with mitochondria, and shows a high density of aromatic amino acids. Functional microtubule networks may traffic this ROS-generated endogenous photon energy for cellular signaling, or they may serve as dissipaters/conduits of such energy. Experimentally, after in vitro exposure to exogenous photons, microtubules have been shown to reorient and reorganize in a dose-dependent manner with the greatest effect being observed around 280 nm, in the tryptophan and tyrosine absorption range. In this paper, recent modeling efforts based on ambient temperature experiment are presented, showing that tubulin polymers can feasibly absorb and channel these photoexcitations via resonance energy transfer, on the order of dendritic length scales. Since microtubule networks are compromised in tauopathic diseases, patients with these illnesses would be unable to support effective channeling of these photons for signaling or dissipation. Consequent emission surplus due to increased UPE production or decreased ability to absorb and transfer may lead to increased cellular oxidative damage, thus hastening the neurodegenerative process.
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Despite certain quantum concepts, such as superposition states, entanglement, 'spooky action at a distance' and tunnelling through insulating walls, being somewhat counterintuitive, they are no doubt extremely useful constructs in theoretical and experimental physics. More uncertain, however, is whether or not these concepts are fundamental to biology and living processes. Of course, at the fundamental level all things are quantum, because all things are built from the quantized states and rules that govern atoms. But when does the quantum mechanical toolkit become the best tool for the job This review looks at four areas of 'quantum effects in biology'. These are biosystems that are very diverse in detail but possess some commonality. They are all (i) effects in biology: rates of a signal (or information) that can be calculated from a form of the 'golden rule' and (ii) they are all protein-pigment (or ligand) complex systems. It is shown, beginning with the rate equation, that all these systems may contain some degree of quantum effect, and where experimental evidence is available, it is explored to determine how the quantum analysis AIDS in understanding of the process. © 2017 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.
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The nervous system probably cannot display macroscopic quantum (i.e. classically impossible) behaviours such as quantum entanglement, superposition or tunnelling (Koch and Hepp, Nature 440:611, 2006). However, in contrast to this quantum ‘mysticism’ there is an alternative way in which quantum events might influence the brain activity. The nervous system is a nonlinear system with many feedback loops at every level of its structural hierarchy. A conventional wisdom is that in macroscopic objects the quantum fluctuations are self-averaging and thus not important. Nevertheless this intuition might be misleading in the case of nonlinear complex systems. Because of a high sensitivity to initial conditions, in chaotic systems the microscopic fluctuations may be amplified upward and thereby affect the system's output. In this way stochastic quantum dynamics might sometimes alter the outcome of neuronal computations, not by generating classically impossible solutions, but by influencing the selection of many possible solutions (Satinover, Quantum Brain, Wiley & Sons, 2001). I am going to discuss recent theoretical proposals and experimental findings in quantum mechanics, complexity theory and computational neuroscience suggesting that biological evolution is able to take advantage of quantum-computational speed-up. I predict that the future research on quantum complex systems will provide us with novel interesting insights that might be relevant also for neurobiology and neurophilosophy.
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A proper balance between chemical reduction and oxidation (known as redox balance) is essential for normal cellular physiology. Deregulation in the production of oxidative species leads to DNA damage, lipid peroxidation and aberrant post-translational modification of proteins, which in most cases induces injury, cell death and disease. However, physiological concentrations of oxidative species are necessary to support important cell functions, such as chemotaxis, hormone synthesis, immune response, cytoskeletal remodeling, Ca(2+) homeostasis and others. Recent evidence suggests that redox balance regulates actin and microtubule dynamics in both physiological and pathological contexts. Microtubules and actin microfilaments contain certain amino acid residues that are susceptible to oxidation, which reduces the ability of microtubules to polymerize and causes severing of actin microfilaments in neuronal and non-neuronal cells. In contrast, inhibited production of reactive oxygen species (ROS; e.g., due to NOXs) leads to aberrant actin polymerization, decreases neurite outgrowth and affects the normal development and polarization of neurons. In this review, we summarize emerging evidence suggesting that both general and specific enzymatic sources of redox species exert diverse effects on cytoskeletal dynamics. Considering the intimate relationship between cytoskeletal dynamics and trafficking, we also discuss the potential effects of redox balance on intracellular transport via regulation of the components of the microtubule and actin cytoskeleton as well as cytoskeleton-associated proteins, which may directly impact localization of proteins and vesicles across the soma, dendrites and axon of neurons.
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Ultrafast energy transfer is used to transmit electronic excitation among the many molecules in photosynthetic antenna complexes. Recent experiments and theories have highlighted the role of coherent transfer in femtosecond studies of these proteins, suggesting the need for accurate dynamical models to capture the subtle characteristics of energy transfer mechanisms. Here we discuss how to think about coherence in light harvesting and electronic energy transfer. We review the various fundamental concepts of coherence, spanning from classical phenomena to the quantum superposition, and define coherence in electronic energy transfer. We describe the current status of experimental studies on light-harvesting complexes. Insights into the micro-scopic process are presented to highlight how and why this is a challenging problem to elucidate. We present an overview of the applicable dynamical theories to model energy transfer in the intermediate coupling regime. Coherent electronic energy transfer (EET): regime in which the system's unitary evolution (defined by the interchromophore coupling) competes with the dissipative evolution (determined by the system-bath coupling) orster theory: theory of electronic energy transfer applicable in the limit of very weak donor-acceptor electronic coupling in which transfer proceeds by (incoherent) hopping jumps
What is the nature of qualia? Why qualia are subjective? This article is an attempt to provide speculative answers to these questions based on what we know about thermodynamics. The proposed answer to the first question is that qualia are self-organized structures built by exported entropy. The proposed answer to the second question is that qualia are subjective because entropy-decreasing phenomena cannot be observed physically.
The possibility that quantum processing with nuclear spins might be operative in the brain is proposed and then explored. Phosphorus is identified as the unique biological element with a nuclear spin that can serve as a qubit for such putative quantum processing - a neural qubit - while the phosphate ion is the only possible qubit-transporter. We identify the ``Posner molecule", $\text{Ca}_9 (\text{PO}_4)_6$, as the unique molecule that can protect the neural qubits on very long times and thereby serve as a (working) quantum-memory. A central requirement for quantum-processing is quantum entanglement. It is argued that the enzyme catalyzed chemical reaction which breaks a pyrophosphate ion into two phosphate ions can quantum entangle pairs of qubits. Posner molecules, formed by binding such phosphate pairs with extracellular calcium ions, will inherit the nuclear spin entanglement. A mechanism for transporting Posner molecules into presynaptic neurons during a ``kiss and run" exocytosis, which releases neurotransmitters into the synaptic cleft, is proposed. Quantum measurements can occur when a pair of Posner molecules chemically bind and subsequently melt, releasing a shower of intra-cellular calcium ions that can trigger further neurotransmitter release and enhance the probability of post-synaptic neuron firing. Multiple entangled Posner molecules, triggering non-local quantum correlations of neuron firing rates, would provide the key mechanism for neural quantum processing. Implications, both in vitro and in vivo, are briefly mentioned.