Quantum mechanics and brain

I. Reichova reichi at ibp.cz
Fri Mar 3 08:32:24 EST 1995


Hi neuronetters,
                recently there was an announcement of the
international conference on cognitive science (will be held in
Finland, August 95) on this group. One key discussion session will
be devoted to "quantum mechanics and neuroscience". When I hear
this combination of physics and neuroscience, I am pretty confused
about its meaning. So far, I haven't seen any article in neurosci
literature (experimental, I mean) addressing this point. Has
anybody here on this group heard about quantum mechanics relevance
to brain functioning?
  Yes, I have read sir Eccles's theory about brain and mind
(although I don't understand just that point about q.m. which is
not experimentally grounded) and R.Penrose The Emperor's New Mind
chapter about brain and thinking. But I have not seen ANY
experimental proof of validity of these speculations in neuro lit.
Recently, I was at least calmed by S. Hawking who mentioned
"physics of the brain" in his book of essays Black Holes and Baby
Universes and concluded that it may never be possible to describe
our brain with equations (it contains about 10^26 particles! And
as far as I know, the only precisely described system of quantum
physics is the hydrogen atom, then there are better or worse
approximations).
  I know that channel behavior is stochastic (at the single
channel level) but if you have many channels active at one time
(which is I think the case in nervous systems - ALWAYS - do you
know of any system with only one postsynaptic channel?), you'll
get the summary postsynaptic current, and this is NOT stochastic
(whole cell versus single channel experiment). It seems to me that
nervous system is made so that there be one brief but efficient
current pulse at the synapse if the action potential is enough
effective to depolarize the presyn. ending. So what here with the
quantum mechanics? Even synaptic circuits are built so that many
simultaneous activations are necessary to spread the AP from one
cell assembly to another, if not from one cell to another.
  From this rather strange marriage between q.m. and brain, I have
an impression that philosophers simply joined two things that
appear beautiful and mystical (we don't understand any of them
fully) into one great mystery which is talked over and over
although no one knows which it is for.
  I must be missing the point here. What do YOU think of it? All
comments and suggestions will be greatly appreciated!!!

                                         Iva

P.S. No insults meant, please, only sincere curiosity!

reichi at zoncna.ibp.cz










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