This has nothing to do with consciousness, but it may have something to do 
with the origin of free will.

Discovery of quantum vibrations in microtubules inside brain neurons 
corroborates controversial 20-year-old theory of consciousnessJanuary 16, 
*[+]* <>

*Structure of a microtubule. The ring shape depicts a microtubule in 
cross-section, showing the 13 protofilaments surrounding a hollow center. 
(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)*

A review and 
update<> of 
a controversial 20-year-old theory of consciousness published in  
Elsevier’s *Physics of Life Reviews* (open access) claims that 
consciousness derives from deeper-level, finer-scale activities inside 
brain neurons.

The recent discovery of quantum vibrations in microtubules inside brain 
neurons corroborates this theory, according to review authors Stuart 
Hameroff and Sir Roger Penrose. They suggest that EEG rhythms (brain waves) 
also derive from deeper level microtubule vibrations, and that from a 
practical standpoint, treating brain microtubule vibrations could benefit a 
host of mental, neurological, and cognitive conditions.

Microtubules <> are major 
components of the structural skeleton of cells.

The theory, called “orchestrated objective 
(‘Orch OR’), was first put forward in the mid-1990s by eminent mathematical 
physicist Sir Roger Penrose, FRS, Mathematical Institute and Wadham 
College, University of Oxford, and prominent anesthesiologist Stuart 
Hameroff, MD, Anesthesiology, Psychology and Center for Consciousness 
Studies, The University of Arizona, Tucson.

*Three time-steps (e.g. at 10 megahertz) of a microtubule automaton. 
Tubulin subunit dipole states (yellow, blue) represent information. (Left 
three) Spin currents interact and compute along spiral lattice pathways. 
For example (upper, middle in each microtubule) two upward traveling blue 
spin waves intersect, generating a new vertical spin wave (a “glider gun” 
in cellular automata). (Right three) A general microtubule automata 
process. (Credit: P. Dustin, Microtubules, Springer-Verlag)*

They suggested that quantum vibrational computations in microtubules were 
“orchestrated” (“Orch”) by synaptic inputs and memory stored in 
microtubules, and terminated by Penrose “objective reduction” (‘OR’), hence 
“Orch OR.”

*Warm quantum coherence*

Orch OR was harshly criticized from its inception, as the brain was 
considered too “warm, wet, and noisy” for seemingly delicate quantum 
processes. However, evidence has now shown warm quantum coherence in plant 
photosynthesis, bird brain navigation, our sense of smell, and brain 

The recent discovery of warm-temperature quantum vibrations in microtubules 
inside brain neurons by the research group led by Anirban Bandyopadhyay, 
PhD, at the National Institute of Material Sciences in Tsukuba, Japan (and 
now at MIT), corroborates the pair’s theory and suggests that EEG rhythms 
also derive from deeper level microtubule vibrations.

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.

“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 govern neuronal 
and synaptic function, and also connect brain processes to self-organizing 
processes in the fine scale, ‘proto-conscious’ quantum structure of 

After 20 years of skeptical criticism, “the evidence now clearly supports 
Orch OR,” continue Hameroff and Penrose. “Our new paper updates the 
evidence, clarifies Orch OR quantum bits, or “qubits,” as helical pathways 
in microtubule lattices, rebuts critics, and reviews 20 testable 
predictions of Orch OR published in 1998 — of these, six are confirmed and 
none refuted.”

*Hidden origins of EEG*

An important new facet of the theory is introduced. Microtubule quantum 
vibrations (e.g. in the megahertz frequency range) 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.

Lead author Stuart Hameroff concludes, “Orch OR 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.”

The review is accompanied by eight commentaries from outside authorities, 
including an Australian group of Orch OR arch-skeptics. To all, Hameroff 
and Penrose respond robustly.

Penrose, Hameroff and Bandyopadhyay will explore their theories during a 
session on “Microtubules and the Big Consciousness Debate” at the 
Brainstorm Sessions, a public three-day event at the Brakke Grond in 
Amsterdam, the Netherlands, January 16-18, 

They will engage skeptics in a debate on the nature of consciousness, and 
Bandyopadhyay and his team will couple microtubule vibrations from active 
neurons to play Indian musical instruments. “Consciousness depends on 
anharmonic vibrations of microtubules inside neurons, similar to certain 
kinds of Indian music, but unlike Western music, which is harmonic,” 
Hameroff explains.

*Full disclosure: I have collaborated with Jack Tuszynski, a co-author with 
Hameroff, in developing patent applications related to microtubules. — 
Amara D. Angelica*

*Abstract of Consciousness in the universe: A review of the ‘Orch OR’ 

The nature of consciousness, the mechanism by which it occurs in the brain, 
and its ultimate place in the universe are unknown. We proposed in the mid 
1990ʼs that consciousness depends on biologically ‘orchestrated’ coherent 
quantum processes in collections of microtubules within brain neurons, that 
these quantum processes correlate with, and regulate, neuronal synaptic and 
membrane activity, and that the continuous Schrödinger evolution of each 
such process terminates in accordance with the specific Diósi–Penrose (DP) 
scheme of ‘objective reduction’ (‘OR’) of the quantum state. This 
orchestrated OR activity (‘Orch OR’) is taken to result in moments of 
conscious awareness and/or choice. The DP form of OR is related to the 
fundamentals of quantum mechanics and space–time geometry, so Orch OR 
suggests that there is a connection between the brainʼs biomolecular 
processes and the basic structure of the universe. Here we review Orch OR 
in light of criticisms and developments in quantum biology, neuroscience, 
physics and cosmology. We also introduce a novel suggestion of ‘beat 
frequencies’ of faster microtubule vibrations as a possible source of the 
observed electro-encephalographic (‘EEG’) correlates of consciousness. We 
conclude that consciousness plays an intrinsic role in the universe.
   - Stuart Hameroff and Roger Penrose, Consciousness in the universe: A 
   review of the ‘Orch OR’ theory, Physics of Life Reviews, Aug. 20, 

   - Discovery of Quantum Vibrations in “Microtubules” Inside Brain Neurons 
   Corroborates Controversial 20-Year-Old Theory of 

*Topics:* Cognitive Science/Neuroscie


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