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The Preliminaries of a Complete Physical Explanation for Consciousness

How Mind May Arise From Matter

Johnjoe McFadden, a British biochemist and researcher, suggests in his papers on consciousness theory that EM fields located throughout the brain, which are generated by the electric charges of highly concentrated ion flow, cause phase locking between neurons via some still unknown mechanism of sensitivity that the molecular structures of voltage gated ion channels mediate. Labs have demonstrated phase locking with neurons in vitro, and the tiniest neurons contain thousands of ion channels, making this mechanism universal within the brain. EM fields appear capable of evoking a measurable response in even individual channels, modulating action potential synchronicity by minutely organized perturbations.

What McFadden focuses on is a hypothetical case where EM field/ion channel phase locking saturates throughout the domain of relatively large neural networks. This is a phenomenon he postulates as responsible for the binding effect characteristic of fully aware consciousness and resulting in intentional acts. He calls these saturating, large-scale EM fields “CEMI” (Conscious Electromagnetic Information) fields, and claims that they are willed agency.

This probably accounts for the basic substrate of intentional consciousness. It is merely a question of how and where these CEMI fields are instantiated anatomically. But the “what it is like to be” aspect of experience remains to be explicated, why this willing looks, feels, is sensed as a seemingly intangible percept or thought.

Research suggests that ions travel through the membrane channels of neurons as a wave, presumably via a mechanism of quantum tunneling which enables this process to match rapid rates such as those found in enzyme catalysis and photosynthetic reaction centers, where quantum mechanisms have been proven to obtain. So ion channels probably have substantial quantum properties involved in phase locking with fields.

If it is assumed in general that field/molecular binding occurs via quantum properties, this leads the ponderer to concepts like entanglement, coherence and superposition. So far entanglement has only been shown to occur within small molecules and between no more than a few molecules, though this might change as research progresses. It seems entanglement between molecules isn’t a good candidate at this point for the mechanism that binds matter into percepts.

By contrast, EM radiation, the photonic waves traveling at 300 million meters per second, effectively instantaneous within the brain, can likely entangle with relatively large quantities of atoms as a possible binding agent. Not only this, but wavelengths of EM radiation easily superposition, for instance as the visible spectrum. My hypothesis is that waves of EM radiation in the brain (centered at relatively low frequency as induced by charged currents) not only superposition with themselves but also with molecular arrays such as biochemical pathways, and this could be the source of subjective color/feel/resonance, a complex blending of atoms and radiation that is the “what it is like to be” of experience.

Unlike EM field/ion channel binding that is amplified by neuronal synchronicity, the intensity of EM radiation spreading from its source atoms in the brain diminishes quickly, so percepts (qualia) don’t in and of themselves form a large-scale perceptual field. But the radiative binding mechanism of superposition amongst entanglement may still manage to influence thousands upon thousands of atoms or molecules as an individual unit, and this is enough to produce percepts. These percepts could then be orchestrated by the hypersynchronized neurons and neural networks that McFadden has proposed to manifest as stable, seemingly unified (but also particularized) “what it is like to be” fields of sight, sound, scent, thought, etc.

Presumably the subtle impression that percepts are located at places remote from the brain must be related to quantum or quantumlike mechanisms.

What I’ve discussed so far seems to be based on electromagnetism. My hypothesis is that nonelectromagnetic fields exist which are closer in structure to radiation than atoms, still invisible to our scientific instruments, more nonlocal while synchronizing, entangling and superpositioning into the brain and body by similar mechanisms. These complexes of known and unknown matter/energy, electromagnetic and nonelectromagnetic fields, ranging from the extremely local to the most nonlocal, I call “coherence fields”, named after quantum coherence or large-scale entanglement/synchronicity.

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Eric Bond

Eric Bond

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