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Jun 29, 2019

How quantum brain biology can rescue conscious free will

Posted by in categories: biological, computing, information science, neuroscience, quantum physics

Conscious “free will” is problematic because brain mechanisms causing consciousness are unknown, measurable brain activity correlating with conscious perception apparently occurs too late for real-time conscious response, consciousness thus being considered “epiphenomenal illusion,” and determinism, i.e., our actions and the world around us seem algorithmic and inevitable. The Penrose–Hameroff theory of “orchestrated objective reduction (Orch OR)” identifies discrete conscious moments with quantum computations in microtubules inside brain neurons, e.g., 40/s in concert with gamma synchrony EEG. Microtubules organize neuronal interiors and regulate synapses. In Orch OR, microtubule quantum computations occur in integration phases in dendrites and cell bodies of integrate-and-fire brain neurons connected and synchronized by gap junctions, allowing entanglement of microtubules among many neurons. Quantum computations in entangled microtubules terminate by Penrose “objective reduction (OR),” a proposal for quantum state reduction and conscious moments linked to fundamental spacetime geometry. Each OR reduction selects microtubule states which can trigger axonal firings, and control behavior. The quantum computations are “orchestrated” by synaptic inputs and memory (thus “Orch OR”). If correct, Orch OR can account for conscious causal agency, resolving problem 1. Regarding problem 2, Orch OR can cause temporal non-locality, sending quantum information backward in classical time, enabling conscious control of behavior. Three lines of evidence for brain backward time effects are presented. Regarding problem 3, Penrose OR (and Orch OR) invokes non-computable influences from information embedded in spacetime geometry, potentially avoiding algorithmic determinism. In summary, Orch OR can account for real-time conscious causal agency, avoiding the need for consciousness to be seen as epiphenomenal illusion. Orch OR can rescue conscious free will.

Keywords: microtubules, free will, consciousness, Penrose-Hameroff Orch OR, volition, quantum computing, gap junctions, gamma synchrony.

We have the sense of conscious control of our voluntary behaviors, of free will, of our mental processes exerting causal actions in the physical world. But such control is difficult to scientifically explain for three reasons:

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