Toward a physics description of consciousness
Department of Physics and Astronomy, Texas A&M University, 77843, College Station, TX, USA
Accepted: 5 January 2021
Published online: 26 April 2021
This minireview is meant to provide a broad overview of the most basic interpretations of consciousness and of the potential links to fundamental physics, as a complement to the large number of more detailed experimental and theoretical studies. In the spirit of previous ideas in the neuroscience community, but with a more physics-oriented perspective, we begin with the interpretation that consciousness is the collective excitation of a brainwide web of neural cells (where the phrases of other authors have been combined). This picture is inspired by the fact that, in all major areas of physics, a collective excitation has just as much physical reality as a particle or other localized object. The brainwide web extends into those regions (neuronal and glial networks) where processed information is received from the senses, memories, etc. (emerging out of unconscious processes in prior networks). It unifies those regions (plus motor control regions) via the vast complexity of the neural interactions that it spans. At the most fundamental level, all physical phenomena result from excitation of quantum fields (since, in current physics, these fields are the bedrock of reality). It follows that, in the present picture, quantum physics solves the old combination (or binding) problem of consciousness, since the experience of consciousness requires coherent excitation of only a single hybrid electron-electromagnetic field.
© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to EDP Sciences, Società Italiana di Fisica and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2021