Is your brain connected to the universe at a quantum level?

Posted February 7th, 2014 in Blogs by admin

The recent discovery of quantum vibrations inside neurons in the brain supports a controversial theory of consciousness. If this theory proves to be correct, we may view the brain as operating in a quantum environment, and better understand consciousness.

Recent evidence, though, from researchers led by Anirban Bandyopadhyay, PhD, at the National Institute of Material Sciences in Tsukuba, Japan (and now at MIT), and published in the journal Physics of Life Reviews has found the proposed quantum vibrations inside microtubules within brain neurons. These microtubules are components of cell scaffolding–they help provide our cells with their structure–that are around 25µm in length. In addition, work from the laboratory of Roderick G. Eckenhoff, MD, at the University of Pennsylvania, suggests that anesthesia, which selectively erases consciousness while sparing non-conscious brain activities, acts via microtubules in brain neurons.

If correct, it might lead to new treatments for many different conditions, it is claimed in a new review of the evidence by Hameroff and Penrose (2013). The theory–which implies the brain is connected to the universe at a quantum level–was first proposed in the 1990s, but it suffered extensive criticism. One major argument against the theory was that the brain was thought to be too “warm, wet and noisy” for coherent quantum processes.

Other research has also found evidence of quantum coherence in living cells. It has been found in our sense of smell, in the parts of bird’s brains responsible for navigation and in plant photosynthesis. Hameroff and Penrose explain that their theory suggests “consciousness derives from quantum vibrations in microtubules, protein polymers inside brain neurons, which both govern neuronal and synaptic function, and connect brain processes to self-organizing processes in the fine scale, ‘proto-conscious’ quantum structure of reality.” They claim that their theory is the most rigorous, comprehensive and successfully-tested theory of consciousness ever put forth. From a practical standpoint, treating brain microtubule vibrations could benefit a host of mental, neurological, and cognitive conditions.”

They also think that the electrical ‘brain waves’ which can be detected by an EEG machine could be a result of these deeper level microtubule vibrations.

The restatement of the theory has produced a flurry of criticism in the journal where it was published, , but the authors maintain that their theory suggests “conscious experience is intrinsically connected to the fine-scale structure of space–time geometry, and that consciousness could be deeply related to the operation of the laws of the universe.”

“The origin of consciousness reflects our place in the universe, the nature of our existence. Did consciousness evolve from complex computations among brain neurons, as most scientists assert? Or has consciousness, in some sense, been here all along, as spiritual approaches maintain?” ask Hameroff and Penrose in the current review, “this opens a potential Pandora’s Box, but our theory accommodates both these views, suggesting consciousness derives from quantum vibrations in microtubules, protein polymers inside brain neurons, which both govern neuronal and synaptic function, and connect brain processes to self-organizing processes in the fine scale, ‘proto-conscious’ quantum structure of reality.”

An important new facet of the theory is introduced. Microtubule quantum vibrations (e.g. in megahertz) appear to interfere and produce much slower EEG “beat frequencies.” Despite a century of clinical use, the underlying origins of EEG rhythms have remained a mystery. Clinical trials of brief brain stimulation aimed at microtubule resonances with megahertz mechanical vibrations using transcranial ultrasound have shown reported improvements in mood, and may prove useful against Alzheimer’s disease and brain injury in the future.

Other Journal References:

1. Stuart Hameroff and Roger Penrose. Consciousness in the universe: A review of the ‘Orch OR’ theory. Physics of Life Reviews, 2013 DOI: 10.1016/j.plrev.2013.08.002

2. Stuart Hameroff, MD, and Roger Penrose. Reply to criticism of the ‘Orch OR qubit’–‘Orchestrated objective reduction’ is scientifically justified. Physics of Life Reviews, 2013 DOI: 10.1016/j.plrev.2013.11.00

3. Stuart Hameroff, Roger Penrose. Consciousness in the universe. Physics of Life Reviews, 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.plrev.2013.08.002

 

 

Your memory is no video camera: It edits the past with present experiences

Posted February 5th, 2014 in Articles, Blogs by admin

Your memory is a wily time traveler, plucking fragments of the present and inserting them into the past, reports a new Northwestern Medicine® study. In terms of accuracy, it’s no video camera.

Rather, the memory rewrites the past with current information, updating your recollections with new experiences.

Love at first sight, for example, is more likely a trick of your memory than a Hollywood-worthy moment. “When you think back to when you met your current partner, you may recall this feeling of love and euphoria,” said lead author Donna Jo Bridge, a postdoctoral fellow in medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “But you may be projecting your current feelings back to the original encounter with this person.” The study will be published Feb. 5/14 in the Journal of Neuroscience.

This the first study to show specifically how memory is faulty, and how it can insert things from the present into memories of the past when those memories are retrieved. The study shows the exact point in time when that incorrectly recalled information gets implanted into an existing memory.

To help us survive, Bridge said, our memories adapt to an ever-changing environment and help us deal with what’s important now.

“Our memory is not like a video camera,” Bridge said. “Your memory reframes and edits events to create a story to fit your current world. It’s built to be current.”

All that editing happens in the hippocampus, the new study found. The hippocampus, in this function, is the memory’s equivalent of a film editor and special effects team.

For the experiment, 17 men and women studied 168 object locations on a computer screen with varied backgrounds such as an underwater ocean scene or an aerial view of Midwest farmland. Next, researchers asked participants to try to place the object in the original location but on a new background screen. Participants would always place the objects in an incorrect location.

For the final part of the study, participants were shown the object in three locations on the original screen and asked to choose the correct location. Their choices were: the location they originally saw the object, the location they placed it in part 2 or a brand new location.

“People always chose the location they picked in part 2,” Bridge said. “This shows their original memory of the location has changed to reflect the location they recalled on the new background screen. Their memory has updated the information by inserting the new information into the old memory.”

Participants took the test in an MRI scanner so scientists could observe their brain activity. Scientists also tracked participants’ eye movements, which sometimes were more revealing about the content of their memories — and if there was conflict in their choices — than the actual location they ended up choosing.

The notion of a perfect memory is a myth, said Joel Voss, senior author of the paper and an assistant professor of medical social sciences and of neurology at Feinberg.

“Everyone likes to think of memory as this thing that lets us vividly remember our childhoods or what we did last week,” Voss said. “But memory is designed to help us make good decisions in the moment and, therefore, memory has to stay up-to-date. The information that is relevant right now can overwrite what was there to begin with.”

Bridge noted the study’s implications for eyewitness court testimony.

“Our memory is built to change, not regurgitate facts, so we are not very reliable witnesses,” she said.

A caveat of the research is that it was done in a controlled experimental setting and shows how memories changed within the experiment. “Although this occurred in a laboratory setting, it’s reasonable to think the memory behaves like this in the real world,” Bridge said.

 Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Northwestern University.

How Your Thoughts Can Change Your Body At The Cellular Level

Posted February 1st, 2014 in Articles, Blogs by admin

With evidence growing that training the mind or inducing certain modes of consciousness can have positive health effects, researchers have sought to understand how these practices physically affect the body. A new study by researchers in Wisconsin, Spain, and France reports the first evidence of specific molecular changes in the body following a period of intensive mindfulness practice.

The study investigated the effects of a day of intensive mindfulness practice in a group of experienced meditators, compared to a group of untrained control subjects who engaged in quiet non-meditative activities. After eight hours of mindfulness practice, the meditators showed a range of genetic and molecular differences, including altered levels of gene-regulating machinery and reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes, which in turn correlated with faster physical recovery from a stressful situation.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper that shows rapid alterations in gene expression within subjects associated with mindfulness meditation practice,” says study author Richard J. Davidson, founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds and the William James and Vilas Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“Most interestingly, the changes were observed in genes that are the current targets of anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs,” says Perla Kaliman, first author of the article and a researcher at the Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona, Spain (IIBB-CSIC-IDIBAPS), where the molecular analyses were conducted.

The study was published in the Journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

Mindfulness-based trainings have shown beneficial effects on inflammatory disorders in prior clinical studies and are endorsed by the American Heart Association as a preventative intervention. The new results provide a possible biological mechanism for therapeutic effects.

Gene Activity Can Change According To Perception

According to Dr. Bruce Lipton, gene activity can change on a daily basis. If the perception in your mind is reflected in the chemistry of your body, and if your nervous system reads and interprets the environment and then controls the blood’s chemistry, then you can literally change the fate of your cells by altering your thoughts.

In fact, Dr. Lipton’s research illustrates that by changing your perception, your mind can alter the activity of your genes and create over thirty thousand variations of products from each gene. He gives more detail by saying that the gene programs are contained within the nucleus of the cell, and you can rewrite those genetic programs through changing your blood chemistry.

In the simplest terms, this means that we need to change the way we think if we are to heal cancer. “The function of the mind is to create coherence between our beliefs and the reality we experience,” Dr. Lipton said. “What that means is that your mind will adjust the body’s biology and behavior to fit with your beliefs. If you’ve been told you’ll die in six months and your mind believes it, you most likely will die in six months. That’s called the nocebo effect, the result of a negative thought, which is the opposite of the placebo effect, where healing is mediated by a positive thought.”

That dynamic points to a three-party system: there’s the part of you that swears it doesn’t want to die (the conscious mind), trumped by the part that believes you will (the doctor’s prognosis mediated by the subconscious mind), which then throws into gear the chemical reaction (mediated by the brain’s chemistry) to make sure the body conforms to the dominant belief. (Neuroscience has recognized that the subconscious controls 95 percent of our lives.)

Now what about the part that doesn’t want to die–the conscious mind? Isn’t it impacting the body’s chemistry as well? Dr. Lipton said that it comes down to how the subconscious mind, which contains our deepest beliefs, has been programmed. It is these beliefs that ultimately cast the deciding vote.

“It’s a complex situation,” said Dr. Lipton. People have been programmed to believe that they’re victims and that they have no control. We’re programmed from the start with our mother and father’s beliefs. So, for instance, when we got sick, we were told by our parents that we had to go to the doctor because the doctor is the authority concerning our health. We all got the message throughout childhood that doctors were the authority on health and that we were victims of bodily forces beyond our ability to control. The joke, however, is that people often get better while on the way to the doctor. That’s when the innate ability for self-healing kicks in, another example of the placebo effect.

Mindfulness Practice Specifically Affects Regulatory Pathways

The results of Davidson’s study show a down-regulation of genes that have been implicated in inflammation. The affected genes include the pro-inflammatory genes RIPK2 and COX2 as well as several histone deacetylase (HDAC) genes, which regulate the activity of other genes epigenetically by removing a type of chemical tag. What’s more, the extent to which some of those genes were downregulated was associated with faster cortisol recovery to a social stress test involving an impromptu speech and tasks requiring mental calculations performed in front of an audience and video camera.

Biologists have suspected for years that some kind of epigenetic inheritance occurs at the cellular level. The different kinds of cells in our bodies provide an example. Skin cells and brain cells have different forms and functions, despite having exactly the same DNA. There must be mechanisms–other than DNA–that make sure skin cells stay skin cells when they divide.

Perhaps surprisingly, the researchers say, there was no difference in the tested genes between the two groups of people at the start of the study. The observed effects were seen only in the meditators following mindfulness practice. In addition, several other DNA-modifying genes showed no differences between groups, suggesting that the mindfulness practice specifically affected certain regulatory pathways.

The key result is that meditators experienced genetic changes following mindfulness practice that were not seen in the non-meditating group after other quiet activities — an outcome providing proof of principle that mindfulness practice can lead to epigenetic alterations of the genome.

Previous studies in rodents and in people have shown dynamic epigenetic responses to physical stimuli such as stress, diet, or exercise within just a few hours.

“Our genes are quite dynamic in their expression and these results suggest that the calmness of our mind can actually have a potential influence on their expression,” Davidson says.

“The regulation of HDACs and inflammatory pathways may represent some of the mechanisms underlying the therapeutic potential of mindfulness-based interventions,” Kaliman says. “Our findings set the foundation for future studies to further assess meditation strategies for the treatment of chronic inflammatory conditions.”

Subconscious Beliefs Are Key

Too many positive thinkers know that thinking good thoughts–and reciting affirmations for hours on end–doesn’t always bring about the results that feel-good books promise.

Dr. Lipton didn’t argue this point, because positive thoughts come from the conscious mind, while contradictory negative thoughts are usually programmed in the more powerful subconscious mind.

“The major problem is that people are aware of their conscious beliefs and behaviors, but not of subconscious beliefs and behaviors. Most people don’t even acknowledge that their subconscious mind is at play, when the fact is that the subconscious mind is a million times more powerful than the conscious mind and that we operate 95 to 99 percent of our lives from subconscious programs.

“Your subconscious beliefs are working either for you or against you, but the truth is that you are not controlling your life, because your subconscious mind supersedes all conscious control. So when you are trying to heal from a conscious level–citing affirmations and telling yourself you’re healthy–there may be an invisible subconscious program that’s sabotaging you.”

The power of the subconscious mind is elegantly revealed in people expressing multiple personalities. While occupying the mind-set of one personality, the individual may be severely allergic to strawberries. Then, in experiencing the mind-set of another personality, he or she eats them without consequence.

The new science of epigenetics promises that every person on the planet has the opportunity to become who they really are, complete with unimaginable power and the ability to operate from, and go for, the highest possibilities, including healing our bodies and our culture and living in peace.