Quantum Mind: The Brain and Consciousness

What is quantum mind and what is consciousness? Is consciousness a brain process? What are the different brain-consciousness relationship theories? If zombies, imaginary creatures physically identical to human beings, were a theoretical possibility, would they have consciousness? Zombies would surely lack human consciousness, but does this hypothesis really prove that consciousness is immaterial?

Quantum Mind

The quantum mind or quantum consciousness hypothesis suggests that classical mechanics or physics cannot explain consciousness, while quantum mechanical phenomena, such as entanglement and superposition (some of the key concepts in quantum physics), may play an important part in the brain’s function, and could define and explain consciousness.

Theories about Consciousness

In his book Consciousness Beyond Life, Pim van Lommel, a Dutch cardiologist who investigated cases of near-death experiences in cardiac patients, introduced different theories of consciousness based on an excellent overview written by philosopher David Chalmers:

  • Model A – Consciousness is merely an illusion. It can be explained looking at the neurons undergoing physical and chemical processes in the brain.

  • Model B – Consciousness is identical to the processes in the brain because there is a link between certain activities in the brain and certain experiences of consciousness.

  • Model C – Consciousness cannot be reduced to brain function at the moment, but this will be possible with scientific progress.

  • Model D – The brain and consciousness are very different, but they are somehow highly interactive.

  • Model E – Consciousness is the effect of chemical and electrical processes but cannot actually influence these processes.

  • Model F – Consciousness has a primary presence in the universe and all matter possesses subjective properties of consciousness. According to this model, physical reality is formed by consciousness.

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Most people favor the materialist model (A). So did Pim van Lommel until he started investigating near-death experiences in cardiac patients. He conducted an empirical research into human consciousness during a loss of all brain function (near-death experience or NDE) and it also supports the ‘panpsychism’ or ‘idealism’ model (F).

Evidence Against Materialistic Approach

There is some evidence that model A is wrong in explaining consciousness. For example, all NDErs report that consciousness is nonlocal (concept explained in quantum physics). Brain studies have shown that in order to experience waking consciousness, a network of all brain centers has to be functional which is not the case during cardiac arrest. Many doctors and scientists explain NDE with oxygen deficiency, but this doesn’t provide an absolute explanation because NDE can also be experienced in circumstances which are not life threatening, such as serious depression. It has also been proven that our mind can change the anatomy and function of our brain.

Theory of Transcendence

The theory of transcendence views near-death experience as an altered state of consciousness in which extrasensory perception outside the body is a possibility. Pim van Lommel uses the term continuity hypothesis instead of transcendence to explain this phenomenon. This enhanced consciousness during an NDE involves nonlocal aspects such as clear memory from the moment of birth up until the crisis that caused the near-death experience, and sometimes visions of future. Endless consciousness has its origins in the nonlocal space in the form of wave functions (concepts explained in quantum physics). This view suggests that the brain receives part of the overall consciousness and part of our memories in our waking consciousness which is not the cause, but the effect of endless consciousness. For example, brain can be compared to a television camera, which converts sound and vision into electromagnetic waves, or encodes it.

Because observation is impossible in the nonlocal space (everything is based on probability fields or wave functions), consciousness is the nonlocal space is not directly demonstrable on theoretical grounds. However, gravity is not directly demonstrabel either, yet its physical effects are. Our waking consciousness is observable in the brain through EEG, MEG, fMRI, or PET-scan technology.

Consciousness Is Endless

Pim van Lommel made an excellent comparison to describe endless consciousness:

‘We can also compare consciousness with the Internet, which does not originate in the computer, but is received and made visible to the senses by the computer. Akin to the brain’s role in consciousness, a computer has a facilitating function: with the right access codes, a computer allows us to access more than a billion different Web sites. The computer does not produce the Internet any more than the brain produces consciousness…As soon as you switch your computer off, you lose access to all those Web sites. Yet, the sites themselves remain available worldwide.’

Therefore, when the brain dies or when the body dies, consciousness cannot have a particle aspect, but endless consciousness will exist forever as wave functions in nonlocal space.

You can read more about brain and consciousness in Pim van Lommel’s book Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of Near-Death Experience. Chapter 11 about the brain and consciousness also gives scientific proof of the nonlocal entanglement of consciousness, theories addressing the transition from nonlocal consciousness and the physical brain. It explains the link between consciousness and (virtual) photons, the influence of consciousness via the quantum Zeno effect, information transfer via quantum spin correlation in the brain and other interesting topics. This chapter ends with an intriguing question: how can we explain long-term memory if the molecular composition of the neuron’s cell membrane is completely renewed every two weeks?
You’ll find the to that question answer in chapter 12, and to take a look inside Pim van Lommel’s book visit Amazon from this page or read about quantum physics and consciousness first (chapter 10 in this book).