Abstract Details

Anesthesia - The quantum key to consciousness  Stuart Hameroff, MD (Anesthesiology and Psychology; Center for Consciousness Studies, University of Arizona; AHSC, UMC; Dir. Center for Consciousness Studies, Tucson, AZ )   PL11

Anesthetic gases selectively block consciousness, sparing non-conscious brain activities. Unlike drugs which are polar, water-soluble and bind by specific charge-based attraction, anesthetic gases are non-polar, soluble in a lipid-like solvent akin to olive oil ("oil and water don't mix") and don't form chemical bonds. Inhaled anesthetic gases dissolve in fat stores, membranes and intra-protein lipid-like pockets all over the brain and body, binding by weak, non-specific quantum interactions (van der Waals 'London dipole dispersion forces'). Why does non-specific quantum binding act selectively in the brain to prevent consciousness, affecting very little else in the body? The answer may be that consciousness is a highly organized and unified quantum process in a particular subset of anesthetic binding sites, a quantum process which is easily disrupted (perturbation of any component of a quantum system disrupts the entire system). Research suggests anesthetic gases exert their effects in non-polar regions of brain proteins, e.g. within pi electron resonance rings of "aromatic" amino acids tryptophan, phenylalanine and tyrosine, regions conducive to organized quantum processes, isolated from polar interactions. Further research suggests the proteins critically affected by anesthetic gases are microtubule subunit proteins "tubulin", the brain's most prevalent protein, and that anesthetic action is due to dampening of collective terahertz oscillations among pi resonance rings in tubulin, consistent with the Penrose-Hameroff 'Orch OR' theory (Craddock et al, 2017, Sci Rep 7, 9877; Hameroff & Penrose, 2014, Phys Life Revs 11(1):39-78). Microtubules in mixed polarity, anti-parallel networks in dendrites and soma of cortical layer 5 pyramidal neurons are the most likely sites for consciousness and generation of EEG. Experiments being planned will directly test effects of anesthetic gases on quantum oscillations in microtubules.