Overview (7/5/2003):

Spin-Mediated Consciousness Theory


Huping Hu* and Maoxin Wu



I. Physics and Ontology


As originally proposed in quant-ph/0208068, expanded in Cogprints ID2579 and later presented at Quantum Mind 2003, the ontological essence of our theory is that spin is the seat of consciousness and the linchpin between mind and the brain, that is, spin is the “mind-pixel.” Thus, according to our theory consciousness is intrinsically connected to the spin process and emerges from the self-referential collapses of spin states. The unity of mind is achieved by entanglement of these mind-pixels. Further it is our fundamental view that spin is likely the primordial self-referential process driving quantum mechanics, spacetime dynamics and consciousness (See Cogprints ID2827). The implication of our view is that the probabilistic structure of quantum mechanics is due to the self-referential collapse of spin state which is contextual, non-computable, non-local and irreversible.


In formulating our theory, we have adopted the principle that consciousness is quantum mechanical, thus, the process responsible for generating quantum effects also generates consciousness. Hence, if spin is the seat of consciousness, it must also be the source of quantum effects. Now, do we have any support to this claim? The answer is “Yes.” First, spin is embedded in the microscopic structure of spacetime as reflected by the Dirac equation and is likely more fundamental than spacetime itself as implicated by Penrose’s spin networks and twistor theory. Second, in the Hestenes picture the zitterbewegung associated with spin was shown to be responsible for the quantum effects of the relativistic electron (See Hestenes [1983], Found. Phys., 15, p. 63). Third, in the Bohmian picture the internal motion associated with spin has been shown recently to be responsible for the quantum potential (See, e.g., Recami & Salesi [1998], Phys. Rev. A, 57, p. 98) which, in turn, is responsible for quantum effects in Bohmian quantum mechanics.


In addition, there are experimental results supporting the possibility of spin-mediated consciousness: (1) Proton nuclear spins in nematic liquid crystal can achieve long-lived intra-molecular quantum coherence with entanglement in room temperature for information storage (Khitrin et al, quant-ph/0202035 & 0208136). (2) Long-ranged (>10 microns) intermolecular multiple-quantum coherence in NMR spectroscopy was discovered about a decade ago (Warren, et al [1993], Science, 262, p. 2005). (3) Long-lived (>.05 milliseconds) entanglement of two macroscopic spin ensembles in room temperature has been achieved recently (Julsgaard et al [2001], Nature, 413, p. 400). (4) NMR quantum computation in room temperature is reality (See Nielsen & Chuang [2000], Quantum Computation and Quantum Information, Cambridge Universal Press).



II. Biological Model


General Considerations: (1) Most abundant unpaired spins in the brain are the proton nuclear spins of all the molecules and electronic spins carried by O2. (2) Neural membranes are the matrices of most vital brain functions and phospholipids/proteins in the membranes are saturated with proton nuclear spins. (3) O2 plays crucial roles in brain functions and is hypothesized by us to be involved in the mechanism of anesthetic action (Hu & Wu [2001], Medical Hypotheses, 57, p. 619).


Neural Substrates: (1) Unpaired nuclear spins in neural membranes and proteins are the mind-pixels since atomic nuclei are almost immobile and shielded from much of the noise in the “warm and wet” brain. (2) Unpaired electronic spins of rapidly diffusing O2, NO and possibly other molecules are the spin beam for pixel-activation since they are very mobile, can generate strong fluctuating electromagnetic fields through their large magnetic dipoles associated with their spins, and strongly couple to unpaired nuclear spins. (3) Spin chemistry is the bridge to classical neural activities since biochemical reactions mediated by free radicals are very sensitive to small changes of magnetic energies.


Quantum Processes: (1) Activations of neural nuclear spin states through strong interactions with unpaired electrons of rapidly diffusing O2 and NO. (2) Entanglement of various neural nuclear spin states through intra- and intermolecular spin-spin interactions. (3) Decoherence and survivals of the “fittest” entangled spin states in decoherence-free subspaces or through Zeno Effects. (4) Collapses of the fittest entangled spin states through self-referential spin processes.



III. “Consciousness Explained”


Applying all these ideas to the particular structures and dynamics of the brain, we postulate that the human consciousness works as follows: (1) Nuclear spin ensemble in neural membranes and proteins (“NSE”) are activated through strong interactions with unpaired electronic spins of rapidly diffusing O2 and NO that extract information from their diffusing pathways in the brain. (2) NSE process said information such that conscious experience emerges from the collapses of NSE entangled quantum states driven by self-referential spin processes.  (3) In turn, NSE has effects through spin chemistry on the classical neural activities thus influencing the classical neural networks of the brain.  Further, Our Model calls for associative encoding of neural memories in the dynamical structures of neural membranes and proteins.



IV. Predictions and Supporting Evidence


Predictions: (1) Replacement of hydrogen with deuterium will block consciousness. (2) Interference with the dynamics of neural nuclear spin ensemble will affect consciousness. (3) Perturbation of membrane structures and dynamics will affect consciousness. (4) Perturbation/blockage of oxygen pathways in the membrane will affect/block consciousness.


Suporting Evidence: (1) Transcranial magnetic stimulations affecting awareness and consciousness functions (See Chicurei [2002], Nature, 417, p. 114 [news feature]) can be explained as the stimulations interfering with neural nuclear spin dynamics. (2) General anesthetics causing unconsciousness can be explained as said anesthetics perturbing O2 pathways and neural membrane structures and dynamics (See also Hu & Wu [2002], Medical Hypotheses, 57, p. 619). (3) Temporary hypoxia causing unconsciousness may be explained as deprivation of O2 spin beam functions. (4) D2O has various neurological effects (See, e.g., Kushner et al [1999], Can. J. Physiol. Pharmacol., 77, p. 79) some of which may be explained as brain losing mind-pixels.



V. Summary


Spin is the seat of consciousness and the linchpin between mind and the brain, that is, spin is the mind-pixel.  Thus, consciousness is intrinsically connected to the spin process. According to our model, (1) the dynamical nuclear spin ensembles are the “screen” of mind with nuclear spins as its pixels, (2) the neural membranes and proteins are the mind-screen and neural memory hosts, and (3) the fluxes of biologically available unpaired electrons spins are the spin beam for information retrieval, communication and pixel-activation. Together, they form the neural substrates of consciousness. Experimental realizations of intra-/inter-molecular nuclear spin coherence and entanglement, macroscopic entanglement of spin ensembles and NMR quantum computation, all in room temperatures, strongly suggest the possibility of a spin-mediated mind. Finally, we stress that our theory is experimentally verifiable with present technologies.





* Correspondence author: drhu@quantumbrain.org  http://www.quantumbrain.org