New evidence that quantum vibrations in brain neurons are basis of
17 January 2014
The recent discovery of quantum vibrations in 'microtubules'
inside brain neurons corroborates a controversial 20-year-old theory
of consciousness , according to Stuart Hameroff and Sir Roger
Penrose in an article in the journal Physics of Life Reviews.
They suggest that EEG rhythms (brain waves) also derive
from deeper level microtubule vibrations, and that from a practical
standpoint, treating brain microtubule vibrations could benefit a
host of mental, neurological, and cognitive conditions.
The theory, called "orchestrated objective reduction" ('Orch
OR'), was first put forward in the mid-1990s by eminent mathematical
physicist Sir Roger Penrose, FRS, Mathematical Institute and Wadham
College, University of Oxford, and prominent anesthesiologist Stuart
Hameroff, MD, Anesthesiology, Psychology and Center for
Consciousness Studies, The University of Arizona, Tucson. They
suggested that quantum vibrational computations in microtubules were
“orchestrated” (Orch) by synaptic inputs and memory stored in
microtubules, and terminated by Penrose 'objective reduction' (OR),
hence “Orch OR”. Microtubules are major components of the cell
Orch OR was harshly criticized from its inception, as the brain
was considered too “warm, wet, and noisy” for seemingly delicate
quantum processes. However, evidence has now shown warm quantum
coherence in plant photosynthesis, bird brain navigation, our sense
of smell, and brain microtubules. The recent discovery of warm
temperature quantum vibrations in microtubules inside brain neurons
by the research group led by Anirban Bandyopadhyay, PhD, at the
National Institute of Material Sciences in Tsukuba, Japan (and now
at MIT), corroborates the pair’s theory and suggests that EEG
rhythms also derive from deeper level microtubule vibrations.
In addition, work from the laboratory of Roderick G. Eckenhoff,
MD, at the University of Pennsylvania, suggests that anaesthesia,
which selectively erases consciousness while sparing non-conscious
brain activities, acts via microtubules in brain neurons.
“The origin of consciousness reflects our place in the universe,
the nature of our existence. Did consciousness evolve from complex
computations among brain neurons, as most scientists assert? Or has
consciousness, in some sense, been here all along, as spiritual
approaches maintain?” ask Hameroff and Penrose in the current
“This opens a potential Pandora’s Box, but our theory
accommodates both these views, suggesting consciousness derives from
quantum vibrations in microtubules, protein polymers inside brain
neurons, which both govern neuronal and synaptic function, and
connect brain processes to self-organizing processes in the fine
scale, 'proto-conscious' quantum structure of reality.”
After 20 years of skeptical criticism, “the evidence now clearly
supports Orch OR,” continue Hameroff and Penrose. “Our new paper
updates the evidence, clarifies Orch OR quantum bits, or “qubits,”
as helical pathways in microtubule lattices, rebuts critics, and
reviews 20 testable predictions of Orch OR published in 1998 — of
these, six are confirmed and none refuted.”
An important new facet of the theory is introduced. Microtubule
quantum vibrations (eg in megahertz) appear to interfere and produce
much slower EEG “beat frequencies.” Despite a century of clinical
use, the underlying origins of EEG rhythms have remained a mystery.
Clinical trials of brief brain stimulation aimed at microtubule
resonances with megahertz mechanical vibrations using transcranial
ultrasound have shown reported improvements in mood, and may prove
useful against Alzheimer's disease and brain injury in the future.
Lead author Stuart Hameroff concludes, "Orch OR is the most
rigorous, comprehensive and successfully-tested theory of
consciousness ever put forth. From a practical standpoint, treating
brain microtubule vibrations could benefit a host of mental,
neurological, and cognitive conditions."
The review is accompanied by eight commentaries from outside
authorities, including an Australian group of Orch OR arch-skeptics.
To all, Hameroff and Penrose respond robustly.
Hameroff and Bandyopadhyay are exploring their theories this week
during a session on “Microtubules and the Big Consciousness Debate”
at the Brainstorm Sessions, a public three-day event at the Brakke
Grond in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, January 16-18, 2014. They will
engage skeptics in a debate on the nature of consciousness, and
Bandyopadhyay and his team will couple microtubule vibrations from
active neurons to play Indian musical instruments. “Consciousness
depends on anharmonic vibrations of microtubules inside neurons,
similar to certain kinds of Indian music, but unlike Western music
which is harmonic,” Hameroff explains.
Consciousness in the universe: A review of the ‘Orch OR’ theory,”
by Stuart Hameroff, MD, and Roger Penrose, FRS
(http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j..plrev.2013.08.002). The review is
freely available online on ScienceDirect.