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Founding Principles of Quantum Neuroscience

Coherence Field Theory and the Physics of Mind

Consciousness, Quantum Coherence and the Brain

In 1983, philosopher Joseph Levine proposed that an explanatory gap exists between comprehension of the physical world and consciousness. Matter as we know it is discrete, deterministic, tangible to the organic body, while the mind seems more indivisible, fluid, spontaneous, fleeting, closer to a holistic entity operating unobstructed by natural law than an aggregate of mechanistic parts. He asserted that this chasm between subjectivity and objectivity, anticipated during the early 20th century by Bertrand Russell in his proposed distinction of “knowledge by acquaintance” from “knowledge by description”, will be impossible to resolve with scientific theorizing.

Advancements in neuroscience have begun to make the problem appear more tractable, at least insofar as it relates to the brain. Consciousness’ quality of holism resolves into the combination problem: how do trillions upon trillions of components which make up this organ interact to produce their correlates in sensation, emotion and thought? What many regard as a still greater challenge is theoretically modeling the substance of sensation, emotion and thought itself. If percepts are so strongly correlated with matter, are perception and its adjuncts an emergent material mechanism we have yet to describe, or is this field of awareness in which the brain participates incapable of being explained in terms of atomic structure? For centuries it has seemed as if physiological and conscious substance are incompatible domains, but science has made such great strides in the 21st century that it is finally possible to outline preliminaries of a plausible theory describing the connection between matter and mind.

The key to explaining linkage of consciousness with the brain in a comprehensive way, from the cellular to organwide scale, is forming a solid picture of the basic physics involved, and this requires understanding quantum properties of neuronal tissue. Electromagnetic energy transfer between charged particles, electric field influences on the magnetism of atoms and molecules, and substance of awareness to the extent that it emerges from brain function are all at base tied to quantum processes.

Three main quantum phenomena must be considered in this context. Wave/particle duality permits energy to flow amongst or through cellular structures and solutions as wavelike currents even when these structures are composed of chemically stable particles with well-defined shapes and sizes. Quantum superposition allows relatively wavelike electromagnetic radiation to blend into hybrid structures such as colors of the visible spectrum. Superposition occurs between atoms to a more limited degree, and I hypothesize that EM radiation can superposition with atoms when it flows through them, in addition to the spectral signatures created by atomic orbitals while fully absorbing or emitting light as photons of specific energy. This would mean that electromagnetic matter essentially consists of atomic nodes within photonic fields, all more or less cohering as an extremely complex and heterogeneous breadth of energy density. Entanglement is the name given to a dynamic by which constituents of these fields, specifically subatomic particles such as photons, electrons and nucleons, can synchronize in a near-instantaneous way. To this point entanglement is modeled only probabilistically, so statistically significant relationships are observed between large quantities of particles, relatively more wavelike or particlelike, as correlations of for instance spin among electrons or phase among photons. Experiments with entanglement suggest that it propagates faster than light across many kilometers, and can even happen in a retroactive manner when perturbing the path of particles such as photons after they have passed the point of intersection induces correlations, presumably as a consequence of what are termed “nonlocal” forces still largely shrouded in scientific mystery.

The way subatomic waves and particles superposition and entangle within energy fields is called “quantum coherence”. Since photons, electrons and nucleons all have wavelike properties, they are commonly thought of as wavicles. At the macroatomic scale, at least on Earth, atomic wavicles form agglomerations buzzing with an energy that is typically heterogeneous enough to make the presence of destructive interference an intrinsic aspect of the baseline condition. Thus, optically inspectable particles for instance tend to behave classically, as relatively inert masses whose charges balance and which fluctuate thermodynamically, in line with the traditional concept of deterministic space and time. But though thermodynamism, the state of “decoherence”, exists as a sort of structural chassis for Earthbound matter and human physiology, the environment is still in essence subatomic, so decoherence can coexist with small or large durations and expanses of coherence. Postulating in a general sense how quantum coherence coordinates with the brain’s electrical features is the first step in fashioning a model of the interface between substance of physiology and mind.

Quantum Coherence and the Brain’s Electromagnetic Field

Introductory models of brain function promote the idea that ion diffusion is the mechanism by which neuronal messages are transmitted. Na+, K+, Cl- and more flow or are ferried around neurons, causing action potentials and dendritic potentials by ion channel mechanisms. While ions are crucial for information transfer in the brain by modulating voltage gradients across membranes, the signals themselves along with cellular physiology must be accounted for primarily with reference to changes in voltage.

Figure 1: Structure of the Neuron

First, a primer on the structure of the neuron (Figure 1). In an axon, action potentials initiate at its junction with the soma, the axon hillock, traveling to the axon terminal and synaptic cleft. The axon is enveloped in insulating myelin to increase conductance speed, with relatively small, nonmyelinated segments called the nodes of Ranvier spaced at intervals along the axon. K+ ions are most concentrated inside the cell, while most Na+ ions are located outside the cell, maintaining gradients for outward and inward diffusion respectively.

Voltage-gated Na+ channels are located at the nodes of Ranvier. These nodes are flanked by comparably sized paranodal regions, where myelin attaches to the neuron’s cell membrane. Paranodal regions are flanked by likewise small juxtaparanodal regions containing an axon’s voltage-gated K+ channels. Additional K+ leakage channels are dispersed throughout the axonic membrane, making it highly permeable to this ion. Because the membrane is much more permeable to K+ than Na+, sodium-potassium pumps help maintain functional balance by a constant ferrying of two K+ ions into the cell accompanied by three Na+ ions out of the cell (Figure 2).

FIgure 2: Nodal, Paranodal and Juxtaparanodal Regions

At least several dendrites plus their branches are attached to the opposite side of the soma from the axon. Dendrites propagate signals from a synapse into the soma by also using voltage-gated Na+ and K+ channels, which are located both proximal and distal to the dendrite/soma junction. If EPSPs (excitatory postsynaptic potentials) caused by dendritic ion channels are strong enough, they reach the axon hillock and prompt an action potential in the axon. IPSPs (inhibitory postsynaptic potentials) are caused by influx of Cl- ions into the dendrite. These Cl- ion channels are located proximal to the dendrite/soma junctions so that less are required to mitigate incoming EPSPs. Whether dendritic potentials reach the axon hillock with enough strength to initiate an action potential is determined by a summation of the EPSPs and IPSPs of upstream dendrites.

A model based solely on the diffusion of charge carrying ions from ion channels cannot explain why nodes are spaced closer together in larger diameter neurons even though less axial resistance — greater degrees of freedom in diffusion — should allow them to be farther apart. It also fails to account for how modest increase in node width, allowing a significantly larger quantity of Na+ channels to be present, does not enhance the rate of signal transmission by way of more Na+ influx and greater rates of diffusion. The organization can be better described by viewing signal transmission as a lengthwise flow of electromagnetic energy driven by interactions between more positive and less positive charge. It will be described how the phenomenon, once initiated, likely involves decelerative inertia across space when charge is constant, and I have named this the “ebb effect”. What follows is a description of the mechanism in structural detail.

An axon’s internal solution is made up mostly of water molecules and positive ions. H2O is of course a polar molecule, with its hydrogen atoms being relatively positive and the oxygen atom relatively negative, bent somewhat at the fulcrum. A solvation shell of water molecules forms around each Na+ and K+ ion, with more negative poles of H2O aligned on the shell’s inner surface and more positive poles facing outward. Thus, the solution contains a complex contour of electric charge, with “positive” and “negative” being relative concepts in this case because these charges all consist in electron wavicle structure. Displaceable electron energy that is more concentrated in a particular region of space, as “negative” polarity, tends to move towards regions of less concentration or “positive” polarity, and this effectuates a dynamic equilibrium of charge distribution as atoms diffuse around.

When Na+ enters the axon at a node of Ranvier, average electron energy concentration decreases in that region, drawing nearby electron energy towards it in what is basically a lengthwise voltage gradient. As electron energy shifts towards Na+, the energy concentration of adjacent regions reduces, in turn exerting a voltage effect on regions that are more remote from the Na+ increase, eventually reaching the paranode and then juxtaparanode. The current of electrical energy is moving towards Na+ increase, but its propagation begins adjacent to Na+ and then travels outward as a wavefront into successively distant regions. Because the wavefront spreads while traveling through solution, its strength attenuates with distance, similar to how the intensity of a light wave diminishes as it strays from its source, except electron energy has much greater mass than light and so its shrinking rate of motion bears more resemblance to the behavior of a classical wave, with something like inertial resistance. This is in essence the transition from a state of dynamic equilibrium amongst electron wavicles which causes them to interfere, mitigating quantum coherence or conversely instating decoherence in some measure over largish regions of space, and into a more directional coherence that rapidly flows towards more positive charge, starting in adjacent regions and cascading outward.

As the wavefront shifts away from higher Na+ concentrations at the node of Ranvier, it is accompanied by an electromagnetic field fluctuation linked to the flow of electric current out of successively more distant regions of solution and towards the node. When electromagnetic field fluctuation reaches voltage-gated K+ channels at the juxtaparanode, K+ is triggered to diffuse out of the axon, instigating an even greater disparity in charge, electrical potential, strength of lengthwise voltage. This accelerates electric current towards the initial node of Ranvier, and the wavefront which is coupled to it along with a companion electromagnetic field fluctuation likewise accelerate in the opposite direction. Force exacted at the juxtaparanode by increase in strength of the lengthwise voltage gradient overcomes deceleration from inertia as the wavefront spreads through the rest of internodal space. In an instant, the wavefront’s electromagnetic field fluctuation reaches the next node of Ranvier, prompting Na+ to diffuse in and renewing the sequence.

The mechanism is similar in dendrites, except that myelin is not present between nodes where voltage-gated Na+ channels are located, and inward diffusion of Cl- ions functions to block signal transmission by the counteractive propagation of an electromagnetic wavefront which proceeds in the same direction as current flow. EPSPs (excitatory postsynaptic potentials) from Na+ influx happen in distal regions of the dendrite, while IPSPs (inhibitory postsynaptic potentials) from Cl- influx occur proximal to dendrite/soma junctions so less negative ions are required to prevent a dendritic potential from crossing the soma and reaching the junction between axon and soma, called the axon hillock, where an action potential begins. If the force of electron coherence propagation from synapses to dendrite/soma junctions is strong enough that a signal penetrates Cl- blockage and reaches the soma, this wavefront of energy along with a cooccurring EM field fluctuation accelerate rapidly afterwards in the direction of current flow due to a strong voltage gradient between negative charge around the base of dendrites and the largest concentration of Na+ channels in a neuron at the axon hillock.

Given neural anatomy, the extreme improbability of explaining signal transmittance without reference to currents of quantum coherence provides motivation to assert that electrons exist as diffuse waves filling the atom rather than more localized particles, at least in solution. The electromagnetic field fluctuations generated by ion-modulated coherence currents in and around neurons are called LFPs (local field potentials). Analysis with an electrode shows that Na+ influx causes rapid and short perturbation, widespread K+ diffusion is characterized by more prolonged perturbations of lower intensity, and the somewhat less nodal structure of unmyelinated dendrites results in LFP perturbations that generally decay slower with time. On the scale of ion channels, magnetic effects are significant, but as brain structure ascends upward in scale, magnetism quickly becomes negligible and the field is primarily electric. LFPs interact to form emergent flow shapes, and expansive neural networks comprise still different shapes of even more emergence, culminating in the organwide electric field flows registered by EEG.

If brain function is so closely associated with electric field properties, and these properties take effect on a macroscopic, even global scale, this suggests obvious parallels to the ultraintegrated, fluid holism of consciousness, our minds perhaps being an emergence of field-related mechanisms. Does consciousness correspond in some way to the brain’s EM field?

Large-scale Mechanisms of the Brain’s EM Field

A topic that comes up while considering EM fields is why some can be so much greater in magnetization than the brain. Magnetic effects are larger the more aligned the quantum spins of an object’s atoms. Synchronization causes constructive interference concentrating the majority of this force in emergent magnetic field lines, as if the atoms are a single magnetic unit. The coordinated spins of an iron bar magnet’s atoms of course generate this sort of pattern, and molten iron surrounding the Earth’s core produces massive magnetic field lines due to a homogeneous flow induced by the planet’s rotation in addition to peculiarities of heating and cooling. Atoms of the brain are also magnetic, attracting and repelling in a comparable manner, but the haphazard orientation of quantum spins results in destructive interference so that these effects are negligible even at the cellular scale. The coherence currents of neurons punctuated by ion diffusion across membranes are almost exclusively electric.

Linkage between wave oscillations of the brain’s electric field and awareness is well-documented. Delta waves oscillating at EEG frequency .5–3 Hz occur during sleep. Theta waves (3–8 Hz) show up while in a daydreaming state between sleep and wakefulness. Alpha waves (8–12 Hz) are associated with a relaxed, idling state of mind such as when we pause with our eyes closed. Beta waves (12–38 Hz) happen during alert states of intellectual activity and outwardly focused concentration. Gamma waves (38–42 Hz) arise in conjunction with many neocortical contributions to perception and consciousness, such as analytical problem-solving.

Some wave types are strongly tied to certain regions of the brain. The hippocampus involves theta activity, the motor cortex features beta activity, and as was mentioned, gamma activity can obtain in the neocortex. Traveling waves of various frequencies traverse paths through the electric field ranging from a few millimeters to dozens of centimeters, and have been observed spanning the entire neocortex. It is noted that the strongest traveling waves incline to be out of phase with the rest of the brain. If tied to high arousal consciousness, this explains why fully attentive states consist in serial processing as opposed to the massively parallel processing of unconscious states. We might be able to intentionally concentrate on only a limited range of tasks because the electric fields of alert, focused consciousness segregate more from what surrounds them.

A typical explanation for large-scale electric field flows is that neural networks are synchronized by feedback loops, similar in concept to central pattern generators but so tightly coupled in recurrence that the emergent electric field evinces an in-phase pattern of oscillation as it moves. Experiments with electrodes inserted into in vitro nervous tissue have suggested that neurons engage in a phase-locking mechanism which is still poorly understood, allowing the cells to fire in perfect, in-phase synchronicity. Researchers suspect that this phase-locking is mediated by interaction of EM fields with the molecular structure of ion channels. Phase-locking between ion channels and the EM field would certainly have pervasive effects, but it is plausible that much additional biochemistry could synchronize into EM fields due to complementary electromagnetic properties. Atoms are like tiny magnets, and even complex molecules may be sensitive to the motions of supervenient electric fields. Perhaps electric currents can almost causally saturate some tissues of the brain as they oscillate and flow.

Molecular biologist Johnjoe McFadden has proposed CEMI (conscious electromagnetic information) field theory, which claims the brain’s EM field is a motive force driving the activity of neural networks, and when these effects are strong enough they give rise to CEMI fields responsible for the causality and experience of willed agency. Some neurons have adapted for sensitivity to EM fields, and these are implicated in conscious brain processes, allowing us to control our attention and make decisions, while EM field insensitive neurons participate in unconscious processes. He explicitly asserts that the disjunction of CEMI fields from bordering EM fields can explain distinctly serial processing of consciousness.

It is the current author’s opinion that three factors must determine whether an EM field graduates to something like CEMI field status, becoming intentional will. Molecular structure of the tissues involved must be such that they are acutely responsive to EM field flows. The domain of the EM field must be large enough to incorporate holistically functional regions within its sphere of action. And EM field effects must be densely concentrated enough within tissue that an intensity threshold is surpassed. If EM fields minimally interact with tissue, are dispersed or remain small-scale, they may evoke lower arousal subconscious processes but will not enter into peak consciousness.

The plethora of evidence for electric field to awareness correlation alongside confirmation of feedback loop integration and phase-locking mechanisms makes it seem as if neuroscience is well on its way to resolving the combination problem insofar as it relates to functional coordination. EM fields are not only a signature of neural network synchronicity but so far appear to actively modify activity throughout the brain, conjuring both low and high arousal states within large swaths of tissue. If CEMI fields are proven to exist with conclusiveness, this easily explains how intentional will manifests as structurally unified and causally efficacious. But though the forces which drive neural network synchronicity may be demystified by research along these lines, it is still not apparent why so-called will, ranging from the most unconscious to the most conscious processes, looks or feels like anything. What are the brain mechanisms that contribute to the substance of percepts and perception?

The Substance of Perception as a Consequence of Quantum Coherence Amongst Electromagnetic Radiation and Biochemistry

The most obvious and well-understood example of what it means to look or feel like something is a color percept, so we can begin to unravel subjectivity with a basic analysis of light. Electromagnetic radiation travels through the environment as a field with specific wavelengths, spreading in all directions. These radiating waves can be absorbed and emitted by electromagnetic matter in discrete packets or quanta called photons, so they have both wave and particle properties, a phenomenon referred to as wave/particle duality. Whether EM radiation is absorbed or emitted by an atom as a photon is determined by its wavelength and corresponding frequency or energy. As unabsorbed electromagnetic radiation flows through highly permissive portions of the environment such as Earth’s atmosphere or the vacuum of outer space at a breakneck speed of around 300 million meters per second, its wavelengths blend to produce combinations. Light’s additive properties are the quintessential example of superposition, and photons are also especially prone to entanglement.

The human eye is sensitive to EM radiation of wavelength 400–700 nm: the visible spectrum from violet to red. Light waves in this range are absorbed as photons by photoreceptor cells in the retina where they perturb molecular structures. Biochemical pathways convert these molecular perturbations into a neuronal signal which travels through the optic nerve to the brain by voltage dynamics described above, arriving at the visual cortex in the occipital lobe for processing into a perceptual image (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Pathway From the Eye to the Visual Cortex

Neural processing then rapidly makes its way from the back of the head to more anterior regions of the brain, adding layers of successively greater generalization to the perceptual field, such as color palettes, shapes and relative sizes. The dorsal pathway trajecting towards the parietal lobe processes “where and how” features as increasingly inclusive data related to position and motion. It culminates adjacent to motor regions near the top of the brain that are the keystone of voluntary movement. The ventral pathway trajects into the temporal lobe and processes “what” features such as object and facial recognitions. Predominantly grey matter (dendrites and soma) of the separated dorsal and ventral pathways coordinates via interposed white matter which is an integrating web of axonic connections that run both ways, helping the entire visual system to function as a cohesive unit (Figure 4).

FIgure 4: Dorsal and Ventral Pathways of the Visual System

Almost all properties of visual perception can currently be identified in terms of neural structure except the most interesting part: why are the subjective phenomena that correlate with electrical signals a percept and not merely an electrical signal? What is it about reality that makes perception a distinct property from neural circuitry and conventional anatomy in general?

It seems probable that biochemical properties can, in consort with EM radiation, be largely sufficient to produce color percepts, because these forms of matter — atoms and photons — are not as distinguishable in their principles of action as a casual glance might lead one to assume. The double-slit experiment has created interference patterns from emission of molecules as large as two thousand atoms, so wave/particle duality applies at a much larger scale than photons and electrons. These effects are harder to induce as mass increases, so it seems that bigger size skews molecules towards the particle end of the structural spectrum. Superposition also occurs within molecules, but to a more limited extent than in light waves. The hydrogen atoms of methane (CH4) have been shown to superposition with the central carbon atom, overlapping in intermediate space. A tentative conclusion might be that hydrogen’s bonds extensively superposition in nature. But the evidence so far indicates that as molecules increase in size, their atoms become more particlelike and are less prone to overlap in superposition states. 15 million atoms have been entangled at once, an experiment performed on a gaseous mixture at the unprecedentedly hot temperature of 176.9 degrees Celsius. Entanglement was originally only achievable with supercooled chemicals, but has subsequently worked at room temperature. Researchers even managed to entangle two aluminum drums of 1 trillion atoms each, about the size of red blood cells, which synchronously vibrated by the diameter of one proton at temperatures near absolute zero. It seems all sorts of conditions are conducive to entanglement between relatively large conglomerations of atoms, but again the effects have been harder to attain in the lab with structures that are chemically bonded in more large-scale or complex ways.

Difference between the extreme wave, superposition, entanglement behavior of light and the generally more constrained behavior of larger masses is attributed to decoherence. As mass increases, more particles are jostling entropically in a process that tends to cause them to interfere, canceling out their ability to spread and interact across relatively large space so that they become more localized. The opposite of decoherence is termed coherence, a state in which wave, superposition and entanglement properties broadly apply.

Whether decoherence happens is determined by entropy, the disorder in a material system, and chemical structure rather than mass per se, though entropic factors such as thermal energy can of course limit the ability of mass to form large chemical structures, hence the rather loose correlation between mass and decoherence. Relatively low entropy chemical structures of large mass can give rise to coherent states if conditions are suitable, and somewhat higher entropy matter of smaller mass can as well given amenable chemical structure.

The following are some illustrations of the relationship between decoherence and coherence. An electron hurtles through the double-slit experiment at 6 million meters per second, a highly entropic state allowing a single photon to disrupt the electron’s path and prevent an interference pattern from materializing on the screen at the back of the vacuum chamber. A copper wire is comparatively nonentropic, its atoms fixed in place as an extremely stable solid, supporting the flow of constituent electrons as a rapid coherence current when electricity is applied. Saline solution is more entropic, its water molecules, sodium ions and chloride ions engaged in jostling diffusion over such large spaces per unit of time that they bond in chemical structures no larger in diameter than an ion’s nanoscale solvation shell. But when electricity is applied, positive and negative charges act as a bridge, perhaps by a similar but opposite mechanism to transmission in the axon and dendrites of a neuron, allowing electromagnetic energy to move at a rapid enough rate that the solution is relatively stationary over short timespans, almost as if a quasimetal. This is a strong coherence current, but less rapid and far-reaching than in copper wires. Raising ion concentration increases the quantity of emergent solvation shell structures, which can lower average entropy of the solution so electrical coherence is transmitted more forcefully. A large organic molecule interacts with surrounding solution such that a lot of decoherence happens at its fringes, but inner portions probably remain low enough in entropy for some kind of coherence to be in effect, at least to the extent permitted by a residual jostling of chemically bonded atoms, though how exactly this might work remains unknown. Organic molecules are often fixed in place by cellular structures like cytoskeletal fibers and membranes, reducing entropy and in theory facilitating even more coherence.

The dynamics of macroscopic particles are driven by thermal energy and involve a substantial degree of decoherence, dividing classical from quantum phenomena, but since matter is still basically subatomic, coherence can readily take effect within a multitude of conditions. Like light, individual atoms and even fairly large atomic and molecular structures have wavelength, superposition and entangle. So while only EM radiation behaves like a textbook wave, it is possible to regard atomic structure at the microscale as comprised of wavicles which can share in all the essential coherence properties of light. It makes sense then to consider further the possibility that particles not only form chemical bonds and functional structures in relation to each other as well as absorb or emit light, but cohere with EM radiation in a complex of atomic nodes within photonic fields.

In general, the frequency of EM radiation is lower when the electrical coherence current within a given medium is larger. Acceleration of electrons in the valence shell of individual atoms tends to make perturbations that result in visible light, from 400–700 nm in wavelength, while radio waves caused by acceleration within relatively large electric currents have wavelengths of anywhere from 1 mm to 100 km. The brain is of course a massive repository of electric current, and since neurons are microscopic, the EM radiation emitted is higher in frequency than for instance a transmission line, but still low enough that it can flow through matter somewhat uninhibited, like radio waves and more unlike visible light.

The ebb effect in combination with neuron anatomy indicates that acceleration of electric current happens between a node of Ranvier and its juxtaparanodes, between dendrite nodes and the soma, towards Ca2+ concentration at the synaptic cleft, and most broadly within the soma. So each neuron emits EM radiation low enough in frequency to travel through both liquids and solids. Intensity of course diminishes quickly with distance, but individual radiative fields would probably span many micrometers irrespective of cell membranes and additional molecular structures. If low frequency light superpositions in some way with atoms as it flows through them, and since the speed of this radiation is effectively instantaneous within the brain, it might be the case that at least millions of almost steady state photonic fields bind with biochemical pathways and molecular complexes as individual units, perhaps including entanglement effects knitting these superposition arrays together even more tightly. The most compelling hypothesis to this point is that the ultrahybrid wavelengths of superposition structures do not merely correlate with percepts but actually are percepts. A mechanism of superposition would be analogous to how wavelengths of light additively blend as the visible spectrum, but in this model the spectrum of subjective percepts is much more diverse, as observation of the mind obviously supports. EM field effects could then synchronize these percepts on a macroscopic scale. I term this entire apparatus of electromagnetic energy flow, feedback loop or EM field synchronization, and wave/wavicle binding a “coherence field”, and it may be possible to subsume the whole line of investigation under the heading of coherence field theory.

This model of perception is teeming with uncertainties at our present stage of knowledge, and the potential for experimentation almost untapped. Once anticipated principles of radiative/molecular binding are specified, experiments can be designed to investigate how EM radiation interacts with tissue, perhaps by parsing and identifying in greater detail the biochemistry of brain regions that are most likely to harbor coherence field effects, examining superposition properties in isolation and in vitro, then moving on to in vivo methods. This might discover novel classes of functional molecule, paving the way for a new era of medications and supplements to treat or enhance percepts on the cellular scale.

At this point, we do not possess much direct evidence for coherence field theory beyond the fact that it fills a gap in our knowledge of the physical world quite seamlessly, almost with the force of necessity. Early research into light/matter interactions within biological systems has focused on microtubules. These cytoskeletal filaments are a likely candidate for extensive superposition between constituent molecules due to compactness, and contain regularized patterns of light-sensitive, aromatic amino acids such as tryptophan. The tryptophan molecules of a single microtubule can be stimulated by UV radiation to transmit energy between them across distances of micrometers. Anesthetics seem to inhibit this activity, hinting at a connection with consciousness. The mechanism resembles that found in photosynthetic reaction centers and may be quite common to nature. In neurons, microtubules influence receptors, ion channels and plasticity generally, so light-stimulated behavior could have a significant role for regulating cellular structure. If molecules are proven responsive to larger wavelengths of light as emitted by electric currents, the first experimental data implies that activation would occur at greater distance scales, and the proposed mechanism of percept generation is well within possibility. Much more data has been discovered for the effect of EM fields, which in addition to phase-locking and numerous further functions mediate energy transduction in transmission channels of the cytoskeleton, processes governing the entire structure of a cell along with the movement of components such as mitochondria, vesicles, etc.

We have plenty of circumstantial evidence. The largest, steadiest and most rapid regions of accelerating electron coherence in a neuron are located within the soma as a flow from dendrites to axon hillock, and perhaps also around the synapse with its gradient ranging from Na+ and K+ to Ca2+, which happen to be where molecular arrays capable of complex superposition with EM radiation most likely reside. The superposition of low frequency EM radiation with molecular structure would probably not be obstructed by factors of heat and moisture that have seemed prohibitive to widespread coherence amongst molecules alone. Within a plenitude of environments, photon entanglement is especially robust while operative at large spatial ranges, which supplies a viable binding mechanism for percept units constructed of molecular parts that are distributed somewhat widely in cellular solution. And coherence fields of this kind explain why brain matter has a darkish tint while myelin is white. Grey matter of dendrites, soma and the interior of axons is darkly shaded because it absorptively superpositions with large amounts of EM radiation to form percepts, while myelinated white matter strongly reflects the light that does not penetrate atoms so radiative fields minimally attenuate across space. From the outside neurons look greyish, but from the inside contents of these cells may superposition with EM radiation to form the substance of perception.

If a superposition mechanism amongst coherence fields is proven to exist, and methods are found to observe this in detail, it seems intuitive that researchers will find it easy to model the way percepts look, perhaps including mental images and hallucinatory artifacts of brain processes, perceptual phenomena which do not necessarily arise from direct stimulation by the environment. But what about how percepts feel? Why does perception have nondimensional qualities in addition to spatial extension and temporal duration?

Percepts of feeling might simply be a consequence of the way superpositioned wavelengths oscillate collectively as resonances, vibrations. All matter from the atomic to the macroscopic scale vibrates, and it is difficult to think of a vibration that does not feel like something. Stretching and flexing of our skin, the bending of our eardrum, the soft or harsh glow of light with its frequencies and wavelengths, it all feels like something. Perhaps it is intrinsic of waves and wavicles to consist in fragments of feeling as they resonate. However, matter on the nanoscale does not seem to feel with much resolution. The body has apparently adapted structures which greatly increase the resolution of these resonances, resulting in a vast spectrum of emergent feelings. The seemingly intangible quality of emotion and thought insofar as it is embodied by the brain may be no more than various patterns in how complex matter feels. Addressing the question of why matter oscillates, travels, interacts as a wave in the first place could be key to unlocking fundamental mechanisms of consciousness.

One might have derivative curiosity regarding how a coherence field in the brain can produce percepts which appear to be outside of the body. For example, if percepts of vision are located in the occipital lobe or elsewhere in the brain, why is this not introspected as such? Thinking about our optical faculties, we can reflect upon how the sharply focused visual field is only as large as the size of your thumb held at arm’s length in front of the face, with the majority of human vision pieced together from eye saccading and involuntary memory. Sensory modalities consist in segregated stimuli obtained from diverse sources which are then assembled by the brain to form a perceptual world. This integrating seems almost effortless in many cases, but the process is profoundly an indirect representation rather than direct correspondence, though less so than traditional neuroscience has suggested if coherence field theory proves accurate. Just as electrochemical signaling in a neural network contributes to cognitive function, the coherence fields within those neural frameworks might actually be important aspects of consciousness’ substance itself.

At first glance it seems as if mechanisms of superposition and entanglement among photonic fields and atomic nodes are passive compared to EM field synchronization effects, so why did evolutionary pressures cause the percepts that comprise consciousness to develop such superabundant rather than parsimonious forms? The answer would simply be that basic properties of perception, most generally feeling and appearance, are inherent in matter. When the structure of organic matter evolves towards more complex physiology, percepts also evolve into more complicate forms as an essential facet of this matter’s structure. A more complex brain will ineluctably evolve more complex perceptual forms akin to the resonances of human imagination, emotion and thought. These are probably not the only types of intellectualized resonance structures possible, but in this schema matter mutates as a coherence field, not merely as nonconscious machinery from which perceptual substance emerges as an epiphenomenon operative only at large scales. This is not of course the entire story, for nonlocal forces seem to be operative upon electromagnetic matter as a further mystery, but the coherence field model of perception might nonetheless start to expand our comprehension of nature tremendously.

If coherence field theory is proven accurate, this has significance for many domains of knowledge. As an example we can consider medical treatment. Understanding mechanisms by which percepts emerge from biochemistry might enable us to better distinguish perceptual from affective states so that medications can directly target percept disorders as they manifest in the brain, without inducing sedative, stimulant, or systemic side effects. It could become possible to treat conditions such as many types of anosognosia in which the characteristics and awareness of one’s own perceptual field are impaired. Psychedelic substances change the shape or direction of flow in the brain’s electric field at a macroscopic level, instigating acute and temporarily incapacitating hallucinations, but medicine might gain the ability to micromanage a similar modifying of the perceptual field with cures or enhancements that do not include a period of nonfunctionality for the subject.

Coherence field theory may destine a reconstituted model of the atom. It seems to be the case that electrons and electromagnetic radiation are dual aspects of a unitary electromagnetic field, with light waves an undulation in this field caused by electron motion, and electrons in orbital arrangements not essentially particulate at all but rather a wavelike perturbation of the electromagnetic field by motion of nuclear fields that are coupled to it. In consort with additional known phenomena alongside mathematical formulations, it might be possible to encompass the entire coherence concept utilizing a single wave-medium model, subsequently deriving new experiments and instruments that unite quantum matter’s statistical structure with fundamental attributes of its relatively stable or unstable, perpetually transformative motions, in the brain and elsewhere. Science could be on course to fashion a synthetic model of material and psychical substance, launching society into a new era of theoretical and technological innovations.

A Closer Look at Clinical Significance: Anosognosia, Mental Health and the Culture of Consciousness

It is estimated that 57%–98% of those diagnosed with schizophrenia have cooccurring anosognosia, which is the name given to a patient’s absence of insight that he or she has a health condition. Inability of patients to acknowledge that lack of treatment brings on symptoms of schizophrenia leads to much noncompliance with doctors, relapses accompanied by degeneration of brain tissue, repeated hospitalizations, and a stigma that grows as available medical measures commonly remain less effective than they could be due partly to a patient’s decision-making.

Analysis of those diagnosed with schizophrenia has identified differences in the prefrontal cortex (PFC). The dorsolateral region was reduced in size, important for self-monitoring and organization. This may be responsible for inaccurate assessment of causality when the patient regards his or her symptoms. The orbitofrontal region was conversely enlarged. This portion of the brain is critical for attributing significance to events, so may cause excessive salience of perceptual symptoms, a hallmark of schizophrenia whether or not anosognosia occurs. Studying the performance of those with schizophrenia on the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST) revealed a seeming correlation between insight impairment and inflexibility of abstract thinking, functions linked to the PFC. Lower grey matter volume was observed in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, a brain region which participates in working memory and decision-making, potentially reducing the capacity to entertain alternative interpretations about one’s misperceptions.

The anterior insula, involved with emotional processing, and the posterior insula with its role in processing somatosensory (bodily sensation), auditory and visceral modalities has been pinpointed as abnormal. The insula makes complex connections to additional areas implicated in schizophrenia, such as the PFC, limbic system, thalamus and sensory cortices. Post-mortem examinations have revealed especially prominent size reduction in grey matter of the insula, and measurements of regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) using positron emission tomography (PET) showed atypical activation during a task challenging the ability of subjects to attribute agency to their perceived actions. MRI has identified lower volume of both grey and white matter in the insulas of relatively stable schizophrenia patients. The prevailing model postulates the anterior insula as involved in conscious error detection, while the posterior insula integrates somatosensory input and structures concomitant with further modalities. The former might be tied to ideas of reference, and the latter hallucinatory delusions.

In 2001, studies began to single out a default mode network (DMN) active while subjects are at wakeful rest and deactivated during focused behavior, including structures such as the medial prefrontal cortex, lateral parietal cortex, anterior singulate cortex, posterior singulate cortex, and precuneus. This distribution of brain regions is deeply involved in self-reflection, social cognition and mind-wandering. Hyperconnectivity tends to be present in those at high risk for developing schizophrenia, and the DMN deactivates less in these individuals during focused tasks. In relatives without a schizophrenia diagnosis who manifest this trait, stronger connectivity was found in the DMN, hinting at a possible link between poor insight and deterioration in a specific phenotype of self-related processing.

So irrespective of how these differences develop, we can claim as a general rule that many patients with schizophrenia are more concrete thinkers, have greater difficulty in accurate attribution of causality to various perceptions such as somatosensory feelings, sounds and interoceptions on both a conceptual and aesthetic level, as well as being prone to extraordinarily spontaneous trains of thought, perhaps describable as a type of focused awareness more fused with the unconscious. When executive controls of cognition break down from gene expression and/or stressors, concepts can become palpable as perceptions, perceptions palpable as sensory input, and stream of consciousness hard-pressed to decisively and analytically integrate experiences as information. The afflicted’s capacity to cope with stimuli and navigate through illusion to reality in the motives or meanings of one’s milieu is strained. Perception of what is going on along with apprehension of the reasons why things happen grows uncertain, confused or delusional, and the psyche is susceptible to caving in under the pressure, losing touch with the world to such a degree that one cannot articulate nor in many cases even recognize the problem.

The emblematic form of schizophrenia consists in a cognitive profile that is at risk for detachment from the causal implications, abstractions and normal stimulations of sociocultural reality. But individuals who do not have schizophrenia usually go through comparable sorts of struggles at some point during their lives, with a similar taxing of the same brain regions under difficult social circumstances. Challenges to a human being’s psychical complex of executive control, affect and perception are common, so the majority of the population would report the same range of symptoms upon initial contact with a doctor or therapist. Diagnostic criteria associated with schizophrenia have thus expanded to become the equivalent of flulike symptoms in mental health, a broad category encompassing those with the standard instantiation and many that have the same social issues arising from alternate cognitive/behavioral causes and backgrounds.

Looking at schizophrenia from the most general perspective possible, our decades of experience in treating this disorder indicate that its symptoms, from full-blown psychotic breaks to chronic difficulty in ordinary situations, arise from an incapacity of the mind to deal with perceptual or affective stimulation via executive control. Though further research is needed to detail common, rare, old and new categories of schizophrenia diagnosis, it seems apparent based on initial analysis that the disorder results from excesses in psychical mechanisms of stimulation, deficiencies in psychical mechanisms of stimulation or executive control, and environmental triggers. Extreme executive control in the presence of normal perception, affect and environment does not usually appear unhealthy nor result in behavioral troubles, and this disposition is much less likely to fall under the purview of long-term counseling or medication management.

An overstimulating perception is the source of traditional schizophrenia. This is the easiest form to diagnose because it inclines to produce more obvious behaviors such as reacting to things that are not there, confused or delusional thinking, becoming agitated or catatonic for reasons which are not always clear to the general public, and of course anosognosia. Medications designed for schizophrenia were first tailored to this type of condition, and the need for treatment is not difficult to ascertain. When accompanied by severe emotional outbursts, a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder is usually the outcome and a somewhat different regimen of medications seems appropriate.

While schizophrenia as a diagnostic category evolved, it also began to encompass conditions of understimulation. These cases can evince symptoms such as flat affect, difficulty in figuring out the motives of those one interacts with due to incomparable perceptions, and relationship struggles. This is essentially the opposite of hallucinating, an anosognosia characterized by lack of intuition into the minds of typical human beings. Talk therapy and social supports are in principle capable of improving insight for these patients, but medicine has not attained the efficacy to modify this cognitive profile into more ordinary forms, which might be possible by manipulating or supplementing biochemistry in the brain and body once relevant mechanisms have been discovered.

Inability to perceive stimulations that influence one’s own behavior or one’s stimulating effects on those in his or her vicinity are also commonly diagnosed as schizophrenia. This is a kind of blindness to the impact of one’s perceptions and cognitions. The condition includes consistently encountering behavior that seems apathetic, hostile or irrational, incomprehensibility in the causation of one’s experiences, and difficulty in connecting with or expressing the motives of typical individuals. When no emotional state or approach proves workable in controlling negative feedback from the social environment, these patients are pushed to the breaking point and affective symptoms are the outcome. Severe anosognosia is a common consequence despite talk therapy, with the patient’s social support system liable to disintegration. More recent medications have started to find ways of grappling with this disorder, and improved comprehension of the underlying biochemistry and physiology should help immensely.

The similar problems that everyone has during stressful periods of life due to social environment are not called schizophrenia, but as can be seen from this description of less well-understood forms of the condition that are quickly becoming diagnostic conventions, a strong aspect of social triggering is typically present. The less scientifically and medically theorized a form of schizophrenia is, the more acute are these social triggers along with companion anosognosia, and the worse the prognosis for even patients who can still think in relatively coherent ways. This word “anosognosia” is the tip of the iceberg for a suite of symptoms that put patients and doctors on the front lines insofar as properties of mind prompt lack of understanding or empathy, stigma, and conflict perpetuated by all affiliated parties.

It is obviously preferable to model the physical causes of mental health symptoms rather than force citizens to wage a cultural battle for the purpose of keeping relatives, friends and the public stable, safe and informed, but neuroscience has not had much prospect of explaining in a mechanistic way how the vast variety in percepts themselves, as opposed to the regulation of neural networks, emerges from matter to generate the substance of consciousness. This makes society vulnerable to a regress towards stereotyping, alienation and strife between demographics, as those in and around mental health treatment know quite well.

If a framework like coherence field theory can clarify the way percepts arise in conjunction with brain, body and environment, this may manage to refine diagnostic classifications so that comprehension of consciousness becomes dramatically more explicit and less rampant with disinformation, in a way analogous to the impact had by our technical models of neurons, neurotransmitters and brain regions. This would probably be complemented by new classes of medication that modify perception while better circumventing sedative, stimulant and systemic side effects. Perhaps the fidelity of a neuroscience that utilizes quantum physics might finally bridge the gap between science and psyche which philosophers have termed the hard problem of consciousness, uniting matter with mind to rework popular ideas regarding cognition in the next phase of our centuries-long movement towards theoretical/cultural synthesis, boosting domestic accord and actualizing lives.

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Chapters from the book Standards for Behavioral Commitments: Philosophy of Humanism, and more!

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Eric Bond

Eric Bond

Chapters from the book Standards for Behavioral Commitments: Philosophy of Humanism, and more!