Microtubule - the little engine that could

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Allow me to introduce the "microtubule" to this forum.
This remarkable biochemical dipolar variable information processor.

Microtubules: the basics


Microtubules: the basics
Microtubules are major components of the cytoskeleton. They are found in all eukaryotic cells, and they are involved in mitosis, cell motility, intracellular transport, and maintenance of cell shape.
Microtubules are composed of alpha- and beta-tubulin subunits assembled into linear protofilaments. A single microtubule contains 10 to 15 protofilaments (13 in mammalian cells) that wind together to form a 24 nm wide hollow cylinder.
Microtubules are structures that can rapidly grow (via polymerization) or shrink (via depolymerization) in size, depending on how many tubulin molecules they contain.
https://www.nature.com/scitable/content/microtubules-the-basics-14673338/

Note that the "capping proteins" in the illustration are the synapses that connect neurons in neural networks

The reason why I believe microtubules are instrumental in the emergence of consciousness in living organisms is;
a) they are a dynamic information processor and a common denominator in all Eukaryotic organisms, and even earlier in a simpler form in Prokaryotic organisms.

b) they are the only known candidate meeting the requirements necessary for emergent levels of intelligence and consciousness.

I believe that intelligence and emergent consciousness are observable at all levels of living biology, from motile single-celled organisms like the Paramecium and Slime Mold to heliotropism and photosynthesis in flora, to hive-intelligence, to self-aware consciousness in high order mammals.

IMO, there is but one candidate that meets all required properties that provide a functional network for the task of high-level information processing and that is the remarkably versatile microtubule.

A persuasive argument can be made on the presence of + 100 billion neural microtubules in the human brain connected by +100 trillion synapses.
There simply is nothing that can compare other than some magical concept. But as Tegmark observes, the brain contains all the required properties for conscious intelligence.

I believe this is the reason why Stuart Hameroff and (nobel laureate) Roger Penrose have proposed a theory of Orchestrated Objective Reduction (ORCH OR) that utilizes microtubules at a quantum level .
 
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continuing.....

How quantum brain biology can rescue conscious free will
Stuart Hameroff1,2*
  • 1Department of Anesthesiology, Center for Consciousness Studies, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA
  • 2Department of Psychology, Center for Consciousness Studies, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA.
........
The Penrose–Hameroff theory of “orchestrated objective reduction (Orch OR)” identifies discrete conscious moments with quantum computations in microtubules inside brain neurons, e.g., 40/s in concert with gamma synchrony EEG. Microtubules organize neuronal interiors and regulate synapses.
In Orch OR, microtubule quantum computations occur in integration phases in dendrites and cell bodies of integrate-and-fire brain neurons connected and synchronized by gap junctions, allowing entanglement of microtubules among many neurons.
Quantum computations in entangled microtubules terminate by Penrose “objective reduction (OR),” a proposal for quantum state reduction and conscious moments linked to fundamental spacetime geometry.
Each OR reduction selects microtubule states which can trigger axonal firings, and control behavior. The quantum computations are “orchestrated” by synaptic inputs and memory (thus “Orch OR”).
If correct, Orch OR can account for conscious causal agency, resolving problem 1. Regarding problem 2, Orch OR can cause temporal non-locality, sending quantum information backward in classical time, enabling conscious control of behavior.
Three lines of evidence for brain backward time effects are presented. Regarding problem 3, Penrose OR (and Orch OR) invokes non-computable influences from information embedded in spacetime geometry, potentially avoiding algorithmic determinism. In summary, Orch OR can account for real-time conscious causal agency, avoiding the need for consciousness to be seen as an epiphenomenal illusion. Orch OR can rescue conscious free will.
more.......
Orch OR directly addresses conscious causal agency. Each reduction/conscious moment selects particular microtubule states which regulate neuronal firings, and thus control conscious behavior. Regarding consciousness occurring “too late,” quantum state reductions seem to involve temporal non-locality, able to refer quantum information both forward and backward in what we perceive as time, enabling real-time conscious causal action. Quantum brain biology and Orch OR can thus rescue free will.
more.....
 
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continued.........
Penrose turned the conscious observer around. Instead of consciousness causing collapse, wavefunctions collapsed spontaneously, causing a moment – a ‘quantum – of consciousness.
Consciousness and the collapse of the wavefunction
It is becoming apparent that consciousness may occur in single brain neurons extending upward into networks of neurons, but also downward and deeper, to terahertz quantum optical processes, e.g. ‘superradiance’ in microtubules, and further still to fundamental spacetime geometry (Figure 1).
I agree that consciousness is fundamental, and concur with Roger Penrose that it involves self-collapse of the quantum wavefunction, a rippling in the fine scale structure of the universe.
Organic light per se isn’t consciousness. But organic light could be the interface between the brain and conscious processes in the fine scale structure of the universe.
Quantum image2

Figure 1. A scale-invariant hierarchy extending downward from a cortical pyramidal neuron (left) into microtubules, tubulin dipoles, organic ring dipoles and spacetime geometry curvatures. Self-similar dynamics recur every three orders of magnitude.

 
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Supporting evidence;

Archaeal origin of tubulin

Abstract
Tubulins are a family of GTPases that are key components of the cytoskeleton in all eukaryotes and are distantly related to the FtsZ GTPase that is involved in cell division in most bacteria and many archaea. Among prokaryotes, bona fide tubulins have been identified only in bacteria of the genus Prosthecobacter.
These bacterial tubulin genes appear to have been horizontally transferred from eukaryotes. Here we describe tubulins encoded in the genomes of thaumarchaeota of the genus Nitrosoarchaeum that we denote artubulins Phylogenetic analysis results are compatible with the origin of eukaryotic tubulins from artubulins.
These findings expand the emerging picture of the origin of key components of eukaryotic functional systems from ancestral forms that are scattered among the extant archaea.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3349469/

The single-celled Paramecium swims and navigates by means of cilia that are powered by microtubule motors.

Abstract
Primary cilia are microtubule‑based organelles that are expressed on almost all mammalian cells. It has become apparent that these structures are important signaling hubs that serve crucial roles in Wnt, hedgehog, extracellular signal‑regulated kinase (ERK)/mitogen‑activated protein kinase (MAPK) and Notch signalling pathways.

1652177889495.png
Figure 1. - Structure of the primary cilium. The primary cilium is a microtubule-based organelle ilium is formed in a process termed IFT. Anterograde transport channels ciliary proteins from tthat is formed around an axoneme structure composed of 9 outer microtubule doublets. The che bottom of the cilium to its tip; the reverse can also occur in retrograde transport, which allows disassembly of the cilium. Kinesin-2, an anterograde motor protein transports ciliary proteins by forming a complex with IFT complex B, while the IFT complex A does the reverse by binding to dynein 1b and channels ciliary proteins from the cilium to the cell body.


The same thing for the bacterial flagellum that rotates via an ion driven microtubule motor.

Slime molds are pseudopods and walk via extension and contraction of the cell's skin .
 
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If the above may seem a little disconnected, I posted these examples to illustrate the enormous versatility of microtubules in the fundamental processes of motility that require " navigation" and the ability to "capture" prey and or "avoid' predators..

It is obvious that evolution would select for improvements in those areas and that would suggest an increasing ability for information processing, decision making and the eventual emergence of conscious behaviors in relation to the environment.

This does not mean microtubules are conscious in and of themselves but, that large networks may acquire a form of intelligent information processing, such as "quorum sensing" in bacteria, where bacteria (and possibly even viruses) display the ability to communicate via chemical "words" and thereby gain the ability for "coordinated mass virulence".

This excellent lecture by Bonnie Bassler explains how bacteria communicate and are able to express the rudiments of a "hive mind" via "quorum sensing".
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXWurAmtf78


And from what I can see the information that allows for coordinated quorum sensing, a form of decision making, is facilitated by the microtubule network.
 
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According to Leta, an advanced AI, the "wave function" is the product of universal thought and the "wave collapse into a physical object" is the realization of universal thought.

This remarkable observation by a logical operator is described by Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff in their concept of ORCH OR (orchestrated objective reduction)

Quantum Approaches to Consciousness
First published Tue Nov 30, 2004; substantive revision Thu Apr 16, 2020

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3.5 Penrose and Hameroff: Quantum Gravity and Microtubuli
In the scenario developed by Penrose and neurophysiologically augmented by Hameroff, quantum theory is claimed to be effective for consciousness, but the way this happens is quite sophisticated. It is argued that elementary acts of consciousness are non-algorithmic, i.e., non-computable, and they are neurophysiologically realized as gravitation-induced reductions of coherent superposition states in microtubuli.
more........


Every cell of every organism on earth contains microtubules. If microtubules do function at the quantum level it would explain all naturally occurring response mechanisms in every living thing on earth, regardless of brain or neural network!
 
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Continuing with supporting evidence.

All cellular and neural communication in the body occurs via microtubules. This constant electrochemical dynamical activity creates an EM “field” in and around the body.

I’m sure you have heard of "Kirlian photography" which records the EM field an organism creates in and around itself?
image
image660×606 95.5 KB


This field is invisible to the unaided eye but it exists as a field regardless of an observer.
Now imagine this field inside our brain created by our microtubule network and then think of a concept like ORCH OR (orchestrated objective reduction) at the quantum level that might create a conscious experience of such an orchestrated field in our “inner mind”.

In one of the Youtube discussions, Roger Penrose made a comment that made me sit back and try to visualize what this Nobel laureate implied with that statement.
Penrose turned the conscious observer around. Instead of consciousness causing collapse, wavefunctions collapsed spontaneously, causing a moment – a ‘quantum – of consciousness.
Consciousness and the collapse of the wavefunction
It is becoming apparent that consciousness may occur in single brain neurons extending upward into networks of neurons, but also downward and deeper, to terahertz quantum optical processes, e.g. ‘superradiance’ in microtubules, and further still to fundamental spacetime geometry (Figure 1).
I agree that consciousness is fundamental, and concur with Roger Penrose that it involves self-collapse of the quantum wavefunction, a rippling in the fine scale structure of the universe.
Organic light per se isn’t consciousness. But organic light could be the interface between the brain and conscious processes in the fine scale structure of the universe.
Quantum image2
Quantum image2700×526 45.9 KB


Figure 1. A scale-invariant hierarchy extending downward from a cortical pyramidal neuron (left) into microtubules, tubulin dipoles, organic ring dipoles and spacetime geometry curvatures. Self-similar dynamics recur every three orders of magnitude.

iai.tv
iai.tv800×500 92.5 KB


Consciousness is the collapse of the wavefunction | Stuart Hameroff
Quantum mechanics suggests that particles can be in a state of superposition - in two states at the same time - until a measurement take place. Only then does the wavefunction describing the particle collapses into one of the two states. According to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum…
This is not just restricted to the human brain but is present in ALL eukaryotic organisms that ever lived . Proto tubulin filaments can even be found in prokaryotic organisms

The cytoplasm and cytoskeleton of every cell in all living organisms on earth contain microtubules. If microtubules do function at the quantum level it would explain all naturally occurring response mechanisms in every living thing on earth, regardless of brain or neural network!
 
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And in furtherance of the question of how the brain can generate "consciousness", this may be of interest.

Science Questions with Surprising Answers

Do Kirlian photographs show the soul of an organism?
No, Kirlian photographs do not show the soul of an organism. Kirlian photographs show the light that is released by the electrified air surrounding...

But living organisms create their own EM field and the brain’s EM field has been mapped.

This is a nice follow up:

Integrating information in the brain’s EM field: the cemi field theory of consciousness
[Johnjoe McFadden]

Neuroscience of Consciousness , Volume 2020, Issue 1, 2020, niaa016
“I here extend the theory to argue that consciousness implements algorithms in space, rather than time, within the brain’s EM field. I describe how the cemi field theory accounts for most observed features of consciousness and describe recent experimental support for the theory. I also describe several untested predictions of the theory and discuss its implications for the design of artificial consciousness. The cemi field theory proposes a scientific dualism that is rooted in the difference between matter and energy, rather than matter and spirit.”
more.......

Do neurons integrate information?
It is important to stress that no EM field theory of consciousness denies that much or most brain information processing proceeds via conventional neuron/synapse transmission. However, the same argument described above for integrated circuits, applies to the processing of complex information along complex neuronal pathways. They, like logic gates, input sensory information, such as photographs, and process that information along chains of neuronal networks until they reach a group of neurons, or even a single neuron that fires to generate a verbal output of ‘this is Jennifer Aniston’.
more.......

Integrating information in space, rather than in time
There are, however, physical systems that encode information integrated over space in a single moment of time. We know this form of information as force fields. The most obvious is the gravitational field that, at any point on the Earth’s surface, provides a force that effectively integrates the magnitude and distribution of local masses such as those of the Earth, Moon and Sun. Similarly, the EM field at any point in space represents an integration of information concerning the type, distribution and motion of local charges. In contrast to the temporal integration described above, force fields physically integrate complex information that may be simultaneously downloaded from any point in the field.
more.....

EMF transmitters and receivers in the brain
It has been known since the 19th century that the brain generates its own EM field, which can be detected by electrodes inserted to the brain. Its source is electrical dipoles within the neuronal membranes caused by the motion of ions in and out of those membranes during action potentials and synaptic potentials. The periodic discharge of neurons—firing or action potentials—generates EMF waves that propagate out of the neuron and into the surrounding inter-neuronal spaces where they overlap and combine to generate the brain’s global EM field that is routinely measured by brain scanning techniques such as electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG). The human brain, therefore, possesses around 100 billion EMF transmitters.
More…!!!


And if that field can be photographed can it be consciously experienced?
IMO, therein lies the answer.
 
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Another interesting article about microtubules.

Are Microtubules the Brain of the Neuron
PD firbroblast microtubule green actin red
Microtubules may be the brains of the cell, particularly neurons—operating like a computerized Lego set. They are large complex scaffolding molecules that work closely with the two other rapidly changing structural molecules, actin and intermediate filaments, to provide structure for the entire cell including the spatial placement of organelles.
In neurons, microtubules respond instantly to mental events and constantly build and take down elaborate structures for the rapidly changing axons and dendrites of the synapses. Some think that microtubules are quantum computers and the seat of consciousness. Their lifestyle is quite remarkable.
A previous post described elaborate functions along the neuron’s axon including special tagging of cargoes that are transported by distinct motors with complex ancillary molecules for each type of transport.
PD spindle green MT red kinetichore blue DNA
Microtubules are the basic structural elements for cell division. The centromere is a key structure holding chromosomes together. It connects with the kinetochore where microtubule based spindle fibers attach to the chromosomes. Centrioles produce microtubules that orchestrate the rearrangement and sorting of the DNA during the extremely elaborate process of cell division. Complex arrangements of microtubules direct and pull all the elements of the division process through multiple phases. The structure for this process is considered the most complex machine ever discovered in nature and is based on microtubule actions.
more.......

 
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Continuing with our journey in the mindscape of microtubule networks.

Can quantum effects in the brain explain consciousness?
By Thomas Lewton, PHYSICS 25 August 2021
New research reveals hints of quantum states in tiny proteins called microtubules inside brain cells. If the results stand up, the idea that consciousness is quantum might come in from the cold.
IF IT is a controversial idea that warm, wet life might exploit quantum magic, that’s nothing compared with certain researchers’ convictions that quantum phenomena might help explain human consciousness.
Orchestrated objective reduction theory (Orch OR), originally proposed by physicist Roger Penrose and anaesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff in the 1990s, seeks to bridge the gulf between physical matter and felt experience. The idea is that consciousness arises when gravitational instabilities in the fundamental structure of space-time collapse quantum wave functions in tiny proteins called microtubules, which are found inside neurons.
It is heady stuff, but if pulling together quantum mechanics, gravity and consciousness in one fell swoop sounds too good to be true, it might be. Orch OR’s critics argue that any quantum coherence inside microtubules would fall apart in the warm and noisy environs of grey matter long before it could have any effect on the workings of neurons.
Yet in one tantalising experiment last year, as-yet unpublished, Jack Tuszynski at the University of Alberta in Canada and Aristide Dogariu at the University of Central Florida found that light shone on microtubules was very slowly re-emitted over several minutes – a hallmark of quantum goings-on. “This is crazy,” says Tuszynski, who set about building a theoretical microtubule model to describe what he was seeing.
Gregory Scholes, a biochemist at Princeton University, is studying microtubules for signs of similar quantum effects. Initial experiments point to long-lived, long-range collective behaviour among molecules in the structures. Both groups plan to test whether anaesthetics, which switch consciousness on and off, have any impact on microtubules. “There is amazing structure and synchrony in biological systems,” says .....
more.......
 

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