Could We Be Performing Quantum Computing In Our Own Brain?

  • The phosphorus atoms in our body have the necessary nuclear spin that could act as biochemical qubits.
  • Scientists are studying the nuclear spin and other dynamics of nano-clusters of spherically-shaped Posner molecules, which could be performing a role of neural qubits.

An international team of researchers, led by UC Santa Barbara will study the potential of human brain for quantum computation. According to Matthew Fisher, a theoretical physicist at UCSB, it’s possible that we could be performing quantum processing in our own brain.

The concept of quantum computing in human brain is not entirely new. Scientists have been studying this for a while now. Fisher has come up with something extraordinary – a unique set of biological key that could employ quantum computing in our brain.

So far, you’ve only heard of quantum computing based on freezing atoms and ions, defects in diamonds and superconducting junctions. However, this study (Quantum Brain Project) will seek experimental data that could answer some bizarre questions like ‘are we quantum computers’?

The project has been granted a total of $1.2 million over 3 years. This research might help us better understand how our brain works, which could lead to novel mental treatment procedures.

Regardless of whether or not our brain performs quantum computing, this study will provide significant advancements in the fields of solution chemistry quantum entanglement, biochemical catalysis, biomaterial and human mood disorders.

Quantum Computing

As mentioned above, the quantum computing solely depends on the behavior of atoms and ions, which can be in superposition. Instead of representing bits, such particles represent qubits that can take on the value 1, or 0, or both simultaneously.

Like digital bits in traditional computing, a set of qubits can create a network for encoding, storing and transmitting information. In quantum computers, qubits are created and maintained at very low temperatures, in a highly isolated and controlled environment.

On the other hand, the temperature of human brain is warm and it’s certainly not a perfect environment to exhibit quantum effects because of atom’s and molecule’s thermal motion.

Quantum Processing In Human Brain

According to the Fisher, the nuclear spins (at atom’s core, rather than nearby electrons) provide something unusual – something that hasn’t been studied so far.

Nuclear spins, that are well isolated, can store quantum data for hours (or maybe longer). The phosphorus atoms (1% of our body elements) have the necessary nuclear spin that could act as biochemical qubits.

Image credit: Peter Allen / UC Santa Barbara

Currently, the research team is monitoring phosphorus’ quantum properties. Specifically, they are looking for entanglement between two nuclear spins of phosphorus atoms when bonded to each other to form a molecule.

Source: RSC publishing | doi:10.1039/C7CP07720C | UC Santa Barbara

Meanwhile, a research team at New York University is studying the nuclear spin and other dynamics of nano-clusters spherically-shaped Posner molecules. In this project, they’ll try to figure out whether these molecules are capable enough to protect the nuclear spins of biochemical qubits. Furthermore, they’ll also focus on disassociation and pair-binding of Posner molecules, which allow non-local quantum data processing.

Another research team from the Technical University of Munich will investigate the role of mitochondria in quantum coupling and entanglement. The aim is to find out whether these double-membrane-bound organelles, which are responsible for cell signaling and metabolism, can use their tubular networks to transfer Posner molecules between neurons.

Fusion and fission of mitochondria could establish non-local inter- and intracellular quantum entanglement. Further Posner molecules disassociation could release calcium, activating the release of neurotransmitter and synaptic firing, which would be nothing but a quantum-coupled networks of neurons.

Technical Details

So far, researchers have investigated Posner molecules’ structure and spectroscopic fingerprint. They are stable in vacuum and has S6 symmetry. The calculated vibrational spectrum may serve as a spectroscopic fingerprint, helping with the experimental detection of Posner molecules.

Impurity cations could replace a central calcium, indicating both bone growth and phosphorus spin properties. The team has demonstrated that Posner molecule is a promising candidate of protected (from environmental decoherence) nuclear spins, with potential implications in medical imaging and liquid state NMR quantum computation.

Read: Scientists Create Artificial Synapse To Put Brain On A Chip

They have figured out a pseudospin quantum number that could encode coherent quantum data in Posner molecules and might provide a technique to entangle the rotational degrees of freedom (of Posner molecule) with its nuclear spin. This technique is central to the role of Posner molecule as a biochemical qubit in the quantum brain concept.

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