Collapse of a number one principle on the quantum origin of consciousness

The Gran Sasso low radioactivity laboratory. Credit score: Massimiliano De Deo, LNGS-INFN

The origin of consciousness is likely one of the best mysteries of science. A proposed answer, first steered by Nobel laureate and Oxford mathematician Roger Penrose and anesthesiologist Stuart Hammeroff, of Arizona State College, Tucson, attributes consciousness to quantum computations within the mind. This in flip rests on the notion that gravity may play a task in how quantum results fade away, or “collapse”. However a sequence of experiments in a lab deep in Italy’s Gran Sasso mountains failed to search out proof to help a gravity-bound quantum collapse mannequin, compromising the feasibility of this clarification of consciousness. The result’s reported within the journal Opinion on the physics of life.

“How consciousness arises within the mind is a big puzzle,” says Catalina Curceanu, member of the physics assume tank, Foundational Questions Institute, FQXi, and chief experiment physicist at INFN in Frascati. , in Italy. “There are a lot of competing concepts, however only a few might be examined experimentally.”

Quantum physics tells us that cats might be alive and useless on the similar time, at the very least in principle. But, in observe, we by no means see felines locked in such an unlucky state of limbo. A preferred clarification for why not is {that a} system’s “wave perform” – its quantum character permitting it to be in two contradictory states concurrently – is extra prone to “collapse” or be destroyed whether it is extra large, leaving it in an outlined state. state, both useless The place alive, for instance, however not each on the similar time. This mannequin of collapse, associated to gravity performing on heavy objects like cats, was invoked by Penrose and Hammeroff when growing their mannequin of consciousness, the “Orch OR principle” (orchestrated goal discount principle ), within the Nineteen Nineties.

Quantum calculations within the mind

Curceanu first turned occupied with Orch OR principle when she met Penrose, additionally a member of FQXi, at a convention a number of years in the past. Consciousness shouldn’t be normally related to quantum properties as a result of quantum results are fragile and tough to take care of even beneath extremely managed circumstances and chilly laboratory temperatures. It was due to this fact lengthy assumed that the nice and cozy, humid setting of the mind can be too disruptive for quantum results to outlive. However Penrose defined that he and Hammeroff recognized tiny constructions referred to as microtubules in mind neurons that might doubtlessly maintain quantum results for brief intervals of time, simply lengthy sufficient to carry out quantum calculations. The Orch OR principle attributes consciousness to quantum computations orchestrated (“Orch”) by electrical oscillations in these microtubules. “What I favored about this principle is that it’s in precept testable and I made a decision to search for proof that might assist verify or refute it,” says Curceanu.

“What I favored about this principle is that it’s in precept testable and I made a decision to search for proof that might assist verify or refute it.”

On the coronary heart of the speculation is the concept gravity is said to the collapse of the quantum wave perform and that this collapse is quicker in methods with extra mass. This idea was developed into quite a lot of fashions by varied physicists within the Eighties. Certainly one of them was Lajos Diósi, from the Wigner Analysis Middle for Physics and Eötvös Loránd College in Budapest, Hungary , who co-authored the brand new paper with Curceanu, Maaneli Derakhshani of Rutgers College in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Matthias Laubenstein additionally at INFN, and Kristian Piscicchia of CREF and INFN. Penrose approached this concept independently a number of years later and it turned the core of his principle of consciousness with Hammeroff.

Each theories are sometimes referred to by the umbrella time period, the “Diósi-Penrose principle”. However behind the widespread title, there is a crucial distinction, notes Curceanu. Diósi’s strategy predicts that the collapse can be accompanied by the spontaneous emission of a small quantity of radiation, simply giant sufficient to be detected by state-of-the-art experiments.

Collapse of a leading theory on the quantum origin of consciousness

From left to proper: Fabrizio Napolitano, Alberto Clozza, Catalina Curceanu, Marco Miliucci – all from INFN-LNF. 1 credit score

go underground

The Curceanu underground laboratory is housed within the Gran Sasso Nationwide Laboratory, 1.4 km beneath the Italian Gran Sasso mountains. The laboratory is on one facet of the ten km lengthy highway tunnel that crosses the Gran Sasso massif, connecting L’Aquila and Teramo. “The placement was chosen as a result of it’s mainly freed from above-ground cosmic radiation sources, which may intervene with the experiment,” says Curceanu. The experiment makes use of an especially delicate cylindrical detector, not a lot larger than a cup, constructed from very pure germanium. It’s surrounded by shielding, made up of layers of ultra-pure lead and copper, to defend it from any background radiation from the rocks. After operating the experiment for 2 months, the workforce didn’t measure spontaneous radiation indicators, limiting the feasibility of gravity-driven collapse. In 2020, the workforce reported in Pure Physics that their adverse outcome had helped them remove the only model of the Diósi-Penrose mannequin.

Of their new paper, they explicitly examined the implications of their discovery for Penrose and Hammeroff’s Orch OR principle of consciousness. After re-analyzing probably the most believable situations said by Hammeroff and Penrose, in gentle of their current experimental constraints on quantum collapse, they have been led to conclude that nearly not one of the situations are believable. “That is the primary experimental investigation of the gravity-bound quantum collapse pillar of the Orch OR mannequin of consciousness, which we hope will likely be adopted by many extra,” says Curceanu. “I’m very pleased with our achievement.”

Interdisciplinary traits

The experiments and evaluation are partially supported by a grant from the Foundational Questions Institute, FQXi. “With out that, it could not have been attainable to realize this outcome,” says Curceanu. “It’s tough to acquire funding for initiatives like this in any other case, as a result of its interdisciplinary traits.”

“It is actually thrilling to attach what you are able to do within the lab to maybe the best thriller within the universe: consciousness.”

However all shouldn’t be misplaced for Orch Or, provides Curceanu. “Actually, the actual work is just in the beginning.” she says. Actually, Penrose’s unique collapse mannequin, in contrast to Diósi’s, didn’t predict spontaneous radiation, so it was not dominated out. The brand new paper additionally briefly discusses how a gravity-driven collapse mannequin could possibly be realistically modified. “Such a revised mannequin, which we’re engaged on within the FQXi-funded undertaking, may go away the door open for Orch OR principle,” Curceanu says.

In the meantime, the workforce is getting ready to check these new refined collapse fashions, to additional examine their implications for the Orch OR mannequin. “It is actually thrilling to attach what you are able to do within the lab to maybe the largest thriller within the universe – consciousness,” Curceanu says.


Deconstructing Schrödinger’s Cat


Extra info:
Maaneli Derakhshani et al, On the crossroads of spontaneous radiation analysis and Orch OR principle of consciousness, Opinion on the physics of life (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.plrev.2022.05.004

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