As physicists strive to build ever faster, bigger, and ultimately better quantum computers, we may have been missing a very powerful one inside our heads all along: the brain. Now, in a new study published in the Journal of Physics Communications , a team of scientists from Trinity College Dublin suggests that our brains might be using quantum computing.
“We adapted an idea, developed for experiments to prove the existence of quantum gravity, whereby known quantum systems are taken, interacting with an unknown system ,” explains Christian Kerskens, a senior physicist at the Institute of Neuroscience at Trinity College and co-author of the study. work published by the Journal of Physics Communications. “If the known systems are entangled, then the unknown must also be a quantum system. It circumvents the difficulties of finding measurement devices for something we know nothing about.”
His conclusion is based on the idea of quantum entanglement, a phenomenon that describes particles that change the quantum state of each other, even when they are separated by a great distance.
In their experiments, the researchers used proton spins from ‘brain water ‘ as a known system. “Brain water naturally accumulates as fluid in our brains, and proton spins can be measured using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI),” the authors explained.
Using a particular MRI design to look for tangled gyres, the authors found MRI signals that resemble heartbeat-evoked potentials, a form of EEG signals.
“EEGs measure electrical currents in the brain , which some people may recognize from personal experience or simply from watching hospital dramas on TV,” Kerskens said.
This is a specific type of brain electrical signal that is not normally detected with MRIs. According to the researchers, what allowed them to detect these potentials is quantum entanglement in the spins of protons in the brain.
“If entanglement is the only possible explanation here, that would mean that brain processes must have interacted with nuclear spins, mediating entanglement between nuclear spins,” Kerskens concluded. “As a result, we can deduce that those brain functions must be quantum .”
“Quantum brain processes could explain why we can still outperform supercomputers when it comes to unforeseen circumstances, decision making, or learning something new. Our experiments carried out just 50 meters from the conference room, where Schrödinger presented his famous thoughts on life, can shed light on the mysteries of biology and consciousness, which are scientifically even more difficult to understand.
A clue about consciousness?
The study could provide insights into consciousness, which remains a mystery to scientists.
Consciousness and short-term memory function suggests that quantum processes are also part of the cognitive and conscious functioning of the brain. If these findings can be verified, it will improve the general understanding of how the brain works and perhaps how it might be preserved or even repaired. And there is even the possibility that it will serve to develop even more sophisticated quantum computers through the discovery of new technologies.
Referencia: Christian Matthias Kerskens et al, Experimental indications of non-classical brain functions, Journal of Physics Communications (2022). DOI: 10.1088/2399-6528/ac94be