di Stuart R. Hameroff, M.D.
ANESTHETIC gases blockconsciousness selectively, sparin nonconscious brain activities, and thus their specific action could unravel the age-old mystery of how the brain generates, or mediates, consciousness. In this issue, Li et al.1 make a significant contribution to our understanding of both anesthesia and consciousness, showing that an isotope of the anesthetic xenon (129Xe) with the quantum property of nuclear spin 1/2 is significantly less potent than xenon isotopes withoutspin, despite identical chemical actions. Li et al. suggest that the xenon nuclear spin antagonizes its own anesthetic action by promoting consciousness, and that consciousness involves quantum brain processes, thus supporting a genre of theories known
as “quantum consciousness.”
“Quantum” implies the strange physics governing very small scales, but with large-scale implications via field effects, “nonlocal entanglement” (separated particles are somehow connected over space and time, in what Einstein called “spooky action at a distance”), coherence (multiple particles condense into unitary entities, governed by a wave function), and quantum superposition of multiple coexisting
possibilities (used in quantum computing, with information as quantum bits, or “qubits,” of both 1 and 0 collapsing to either 1 or 0 as the solution).