- Scientists at Trinity College in Dublin have studied the possibility of the brain being a quantum system according to quantum gravity theory.
- Scientists used brain water and studied its proton spins via MRI and EEG to confirm their hypothesis.
- This knowledge might be useful to build powerful supercomputers in the future and to understand brain function better.
Quantum mechanics is a fundamental theory in physics that describes the physical properties of nature at the scale of atoms and subatomic particles.
In simple terms, it is the study of matter and energy at the most fundamental level. It aims to uncover the properties and behaviors of the very building blocks of nature. In doing so the variables used are subatomic particles such as electrons and photons.
Now scientists at Trinity College in Dublin are researching to explain one of the trickiest phenomena in nature. Scientists are going to integrate quantum physics with neurobiology and explain the concept of “consciousness”.
The neurobiological architecture
Our brain is one of the complex organs and hence aptly known as the master of the body. This organ is responsible for conducting all major and minor biochemical processes required to sustain “life” in the body.
The brain coordinates various organ systems to work in harmony just as cogs in machinery and also in doing so, act as the home to a complex neuro-circuit framework.
These circuits are a network of neurons or nerve cells that carry information from organs to the brain called afferent neurons and conversely efferent neurons which carry commands from the brain to the target organs.
Where does quantum computation come in?
The very first advances in the field of integrating quantum physics and neurobiology were made by the renowned physicist Roger Penrose who won the Nobel Prize in 2020 for his prediction of black holes. He had teamed up with anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff to propose his theory.
They claimed that the brain’s neuronal system forms an intricate network and that the consciousness this produces should obey the rules of quantum mechanics. This theory by Penrose-Hameroff is known as the “Quantum consciousness theory”.
Now Dr Christian Kerskens, the lead physicist at the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience (TCIN) utilizes the knowledge of quantum gravity to complete the puzzle integrating quantum computation and the brain.
The theory of quantum gravity seeks to describe gravity according to the principles of quantum mechanics. The scientists developed experiments to prove the existence of quantum gravity, whereby known quantum systems that interact with an unknown system are studied.
If the known systems entangle, then the unknown must be a quantum system, too. Hence the correlation between the measured brain functions and conscious awareness and the involvement of quantum processes as a part of brain functioning is established.
What is brain water?
In their research article published in the Journal of Physics Communications on October 7, the scientists detail the use of brain water in their experiments.
This brain water is the physiological fluid that builds up in our brains. The brain water was taken as the “known system” and the proton spins occurring here were measured using MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging).
Now for the success of the designed experiment, it was necessary to see if the known systems and the unknown system were entangled. This was done by using a specific MRI design to seek entangled proton spins.
In studying this data researchers found MRI signals that resemble heartbeat-evoked potentials, a form of EEG signals. EEG(electroencephalography) is used to measure electrical activity in the brain in the form of currents.
Thus the study effectively proved that indeed the systems do entangle and hence the brain is also a quantum system. This information will be highly useful in the future to improve the general understanding of how the brain functions and perhaps how it might be preserved or even repaired.
Also further integrated research between technology enthusiasts and neuroscientists might potentially be instrumental in developing sophisticated quantum computers by discovering novel technologies.