Prof. Stuart Hameroff

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Stuart Hameroff MD
Professor, Anesthesiology and Psychology
Director, Center for Consciousness Studies
The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
www.quantumconsciousness.org

Dr Stuart Hameroff is an anesthesiologist who teamed with Sir Roger Penrose on a controversial theory of quantum computation in microtubules inside the brain's neurons. In addition to his clinical duties, Hameroff is Director of the Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona, and runs the well-known Toward a Science of Consciousness conferences. More recently Hameroff proposed a 'conscious pilot' model, in which consciousness moves through the brain's neuronal networks in envelopes of dendritic synchrony, like a computer worm might move through computer circuits. His website is www.quantumconsciousness.org

Opening Talk: The ‘conscious pilot’ – Dendritic synchrony moves through the brain (like a computer worm) to mediate consciousness.
The brain is viewed as a computer in which sensory processing, control of behavior and other cognitive functions emerge from ‘neurocomputation’ in parallel networks of perceptron-like neurons. In each neuron, dendrites receive and integrate synaptic inputs to a threshold for axonal firing as output – ‘integrate-and-fire’. Neurocomputation in axonal-dendritic synaptic networks successfully accounts for non-conscious (auto-pilot) cognitive brain functions. When cognitive functions are accompanied by consciousness, neurocomputation is accompanied by 30 to 90 Hz gamma synchrony EEG. Gamma synchrony derives primarily from neuronal groups linked by dendritic-dendritic gap junctions, forming transient syncytia (‘dendritic webs’) in input/integration layers oriented sideways to axonal-dendritic neurocomputational flow. As gap junctions open and close, a gamma-synchronized dendritic web can rapidly change topology, evolve and move through the brain (like a benevolent computer worm might move through computer circuits) as a spatiotemporal envelope performing collective integration and volitional choices correlating with consciousness. The ‘conscious pilot’ is a metaphorical description for a mobile, gamma-synchronized dendritic web as vehicle for a conscious agent/pilot which experiences and assumes control of otherwise non-conscious auto-pilot neurocomputation. Intra-neuronal aspects of consciousness involving e.g. quantum computation in cytoskeletal microtubules will also be discussed, as will the evolution and place of consciousness in the universe.