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An Anesthesiologist’s Views On Consciousness

September 13, 2013

If you’d like to hear an interesting discussion on how quantum mechanics may be related to consciousness, check out this interview with Dr. Stuart Hameroff, Professor of Anesthesiology and Psychology, and Director of Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona.  He was also a co-creator of the Orch OR model, along with the physicist Sir Roger Penrose, which states that quantum mechanical phenomenon within the brain’s microtubles are directly related to consciousness and free will.

He mentioned some research that I was unaware of.  Apparently Japanese nanophysicists have grown microtubules in the lab, placing tiny electrodes at the ends and sending AC currents down them.  At certain frequencies they become super conducting at room temperature, and he believes this is what accounts for consciousness within us human beings.  Hameroff’s working with them now to perform further experiments by using anesthetic gases to see if they remove the quantum coherence within the microtubles.  If so, he feels confident that this proves why we lose consciousness under anesthesia.

He also noted experiments done with psychedelic drugs, particularly psilocybin.  Patients were directly injected with the drug and had wild subjective experiences, however if you looked at their FMRI brain activity, they looked like a patient in a coma.   He said this was because FMRI scans only measure metabolic activity between neurons, but that has little to do with consciousness.  Real consciousness is happening with the microtubules, and the electrical signals within them is altered by the drugs.

He then starts talking about ideas he’s speculated about.  If their Orch OR model is correct, ideas about the afterlife and the soul become much more compelling.  He seems to believe all physical matter is “proto-conscious”, and when it comes together in certain structures, the deeper aspects of who we are can work through it.  The universe splits off into these bubble universes, and when we make a decision, we jump to different “bubbles”.  Anyways, he goes into it all in the video.  Just watch it if you’re interested!

Most scientists do not agree with these ideas.  I feel it’s all so complicated, I’m not qualified to have a strong opinion.  I’ll keep studying physics and researching things, and in time maybe I’ll weigh in on the issue.

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