Can Human Consciousness Be Described as a Quantum Effect?

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human consciousness

Our brain has enormous capabilities. Conciseness is a unique property of the human brain and is attributed only to that of humans and not animals as there has not been any clue of its existence for animals.

There are many definitions for the human consciousness.

Consciousness is regarded as the ability of meditation or in technical term introspection. It is sometimes defined as the ability to observe one’s motivations and inner mechanism of the human brain, etc. In its broad description, consciousness is regarded as our ability to see what is going on in our mind. Consciousness is something that exists in our brain; otherwise, there would be no way of keeping it connected with a given person.

But what is the real mechanism behind consciousness? Spiritualists claim that it can not be interpreted in the realm or natural science. On the other hand, many scientists have been involved in an extensive effort aimed at finding a physical description for consciousness based on our knowledge of quantum physics.

Quantum interpretation of consciousness

The brain is composed of molecules and atoms and works on interactions of neurons and nervous system interconnected with electric currents. So the brain is can be regarded as a complicated quantum mechanical system. There are many daily experiences to this concept. For example, when we think, sense or remember something, certain areas or our brain is activated that can be detected by NMR imaging which is based on quantum mechanical effects.

Orchestrated Objective Reduction theory

Despite all of these rational reasoning, the idea of consciousness being the result of quantum phenomena in the brain has not provided the science community with firm evidence.

Despite spiritualist approaches to consciousness, attempting to relate mind and matter through a quantum mechanical description, the famous British physicist Roger Penrose of the Oxford University and Stuart Hameroff of the University of Arizona independently worked on the subject. In 1990, their collaboration led to a theory called Orchestrated Objective Reduction (Orch-OR) model. Referring to capabilities of the human brain, Penrose and Hameroff claimed that human brain could not just be modeled as a powerful computer; rather, they suggested that brain processes and consciousness relied on quantum mechanical phenomena. In their theory, they made use of quantum entanglement phenomena according to which distantly separated particles can still retain their connection such that any action on one can affect the other. Based on this concept they proposed that the site of action of consciousness is located within small fibrous structures in the brain known as microtubules. According to the theory, microtubules inside neurons could develop electrical connections thereby linking together. This in turn will lead to collective activities of neurons that manifest themselves as consciousness.

Experimental confirmation of the theory

Validation or rejection of the Orch OR theory can only come through experimentation. But the huge gap existing between the present state of technology and the level needed for an affirmative answer has made this task a very challenging one. The current standard in neuroscience is fMRI with the scale of its spatial resolution being of the order of 1 mm, and its time resolution being of the order of 1 s scale. This is 109 times higher than the 1nm and 1ns space-time operational dimension of microtubules. Considering the fact that the Planck scale of space–time geometry is 10− 35m and 10-34s, detection of quantum gravity effects as suggested by Orch OR is even a much more complicated and seemingly impossible challenge!

So, further technological advancements have to be made to provide better experimental results for confirmation of the theory, and until then the challenge remains for the theory to be approved by the science community.


  • The need for a physical basis of cognitive process Comment on “Consciousness in the universe. A review of the ‘Orch OR’ theory” by Hameroff and Penrose
  • The myth of Quantum consciousness by Victor J stinger
  • Brain Oscillations



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By |2018-05-12T23:15:30+00:00November 20th, 2015|Categories: Human Brain, Physics & Natural Sciences, Uncommon Science|Tags: , |3 Comments

About the Author:

I started writing articles as an amateur journalist since I was a high school student. My articles cover stories for children magazines. But before launching my career as a journalist, I earned my MS in Physics and electrical engineering and conducted research in radar communication. Owing to my previous background and my strong interest in writing articles and putting a human face on groundbreaking stories about science, technology, health and sustainability, I decided to work as a part-time freelance journalist, writing articles in English, French and Arabic media. I also enjoy drawing caricatures which I normally send them to French media. While I am at home I love to solve mathematics and play soccer. I live in UK.


  1. George E Moss November 20, 2015 at 8:04 pm - Reply

    I think we have to be careful here. Brain is strictly physical, including any subdivided parts however minute. Mind is not, and it is mind that can travel lightyears in a twink because of this, either during seance or during sleep state. Mind is linked to brain and that is all. The minds of mediums sitting with our seance group have travelled the lightyears so to speak and had conversations with sentient beings forming seance groups on other planets, but all brains of necessity stay with those participating.

  2. bedreddin November 21, 2015 at 3:21 am - Reply

    The fundamental mistake/problem in explaining the human consciousness through quantum phenomena seems to result from the ignorance of the fact that the same phenomena also applies to the brain of frogs, sheep, cows etc. If human consciounsness is fundamentally different from that of all other species in certain aspects, which seems to be the case, then quantum phenomena would be a too large umbrella to explain these differences, since no mention seems to be made of what peculiarities in the quantum phenomena make the difference. Quantum phenomena applies to everything including pieces stones. Do they have a consciousness?

    • Phillip Wu March 23, 2016 at 5:37 pm - Reply

      I don’t think that is really a problem, we could view it as not all brains are created equal, some brains have evolved to be more conscious than others.

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