Monday, October 29, 2007

Experimental support for binocular rivalry as a quantum phenomenon

For years ago I constructed a quantum model for binocular rivalry and generalized it to a general model of volitional act as a quantum jump selecting not only between alternative motor actions but also between percepts. In this model different alternatives were represented as superpositions of neural firing patterns. The model allows to see sensory perception as an active volitional process (at some level of hierarchy of selves) and explains sensory rivalry as a quantum phenomenon.

The work of Efstratios Manaosakis

I learned from New Scientist that physicist Efstratios Manousakis has published an interesting work about binocular rivalry providing experimental support for this model.

Recall that the classical demonstration of binocular rivalry is a pattern experienced either as a vase or two opposite faces. The two percepts alternate with some frequency and it is not possible to consciously experience both patterns simultaneously. This has led Manousakis to consider the idea that binocular rivalry could provide direct evidence for the notion of quantum consciousness. The obvious idea is that either of the percepts results by a state function reduction from the superposition of both percepts.

The model predicts that the flip rate correlates with neuronal firing rate. The prediction is confirmed by using as subjects persons who have a reduced firing rate due to the use of LSD. The work of Manousakis might turn out to be an important step of progress in the development of theories of quantum consciousness and might help also main stream physicists to get rid of their atavistic fears relating quantum consciousness.

Justification for the model in TGD framework

The finding conforms with TGD view about quantum jump in which $U$ process creates a quantum superposition and state function reduction selects either of the percepts. TGD however brings in new elements.

  1. In the conceptual framework of the standard quantum mechanics there is no known mechanism making possible macroscopic quantum coherence in the time scales involved. If dark matter with large $\hbar$ is involved with the formation of conscious percept there is no problem in understanding the time scales in question. Actually a hierarchy of rivalries of various kinds in various time scales is predicted corresponding to the p-adic time scale hierarchy and hierarchy of Planck constants.

  2. Another ingredient which is new from the point of view of standard quantum mechanics is that the hierarchy of Planck constants implies self hierarchy actually identifiable actually as a hierarchy of quantum jumps having quantum jumps within quantum jumps ..... The fractal structure of state function reduction process means that it is possible have macroscopic quantum behavior in given time scale but dissipative self-organization in shorter time scales.

    This is actually not new: in hadron physics hadrons are described as quantum systems whereas parton dynamics in the shorter time scales is assumed to be dissipative. In the recent case this means the possibility of quantum superposition of dissipative self-organization processes involved with the formation of neuronal correlates of percepts and proceeding in time scales of order milliseconds considerably shorter than the time scale of binocular rivalry.

TGD based model for rivalry and its generalization

The TGD based quantum model for binocular rivalry relies on the idea that the formation of quantum superposition of competing percepts is somewhat analogous to quantum computing in which large number of quantum parallel computations are carried out and one computation is selected as the computation halts.

In TGD framework one does not assign a conscious experience to the mere state function reduction part of quantum jump and the question arises whether the transitions periods are experienced consciously as a kind of inability to disentangle what is there and if so what is the subjective time duration of these periods and is it very short in absence of some other periodic sensory input defining a clock. The TGD prediction would be that the mental image defined by the percept is absent but consciousness is not lost.

The formation of quantum superposition of right and left percepts has evolutionary advantages which suggest also a generalization to a model of volitional action as a selection between neural firing patterns leading to alternative motor actions.

  1. The formation of superposition would be metabolically advantageous. In the classical world one should form both right and left percept simultaneously. The associated self-organization process requires a metabolic energy feed. When only single brain hemisphere forms the percept and one has quantum superposition of right and left percepts metabolic energy feed is reduced by factor 1/2. A highly synchronous neural firing distinguishes the perceived stimulus from non-perceived so that a quantum superposition of patterns of two neural firing patterns would be in question.

  2. This picture leads naturally to a proposal that one function of sleep is to make possible quantum superposition of large number of neural firing patterns via quantum entanglement with external systems (perhaps other sleeping brains) so that sleep would be a process analogous to quantum computation.

  3. The formation of alternative percepts would have an obvious evolutionary advantage in a situation in which several percepts are consistent with the sensory input. For instance, bipolar mood disorders seem to involve sticking of consciousness to either hemisphere. This generalizes also to cognition: of course, percepts actually consist of sensory input plus cognition.

  4. This framework is behind TGD based model of volitional action applying to both motor actions and selection of sensory percepts (see this). For a brain living in jungle it would be highly advantageous to develop in a difficult situation a quantum superposition of alternative motor actions and select the proper one only at the eleventh moment.

  5. Sensory rivalry is analogous to an ability to move fluently between - say - skeptic and new age views about world. There is also a parallel at the level of society and in TGD framework the rivalry of various views (religions, political parties, competing scientific theories,...) might perhaps be seen as counterpart of binocular rivalry at the level of collective consciousness. The complete dominance of only single view - be it religious or materialistic world view, market economy or communism, or super-string model or loop quantum gravity - would be something comparable to a bimodal mood disorder.

For more details see the chapter Quantum Model for Cognition of "TGD Inspired Theory of Consciousness".

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