Are we quantum computers? International collaboration will investigate the brain's potential for quantum computation | 3/27/2018 | Staff
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Much has been made of quantum computing processes using ultracold atoms and ions, superconducting junctions and defects in diamonds, but could we be performing them in our own brains?

It's a question UC Santa Barbara theoretical physicist Matthew Fisher has been asking for years. Now, as scientific director of the new Quantum Brain Project (QuBrain), he is seeking to put this inquiry through rigorous experimental tests.

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"Might we, ourselves, be quantum computers, rather than just clever robots who are designing and building quantum computers?" Fisher asks.

Some functions the brain performs continue to elude neuroscience—the substrate that "holds" very long-term memories and how it operates, for example. Quantum mechanics, which deals with the behavior of nature at atomic and subatomic levels, may be able to unlock some clues. And that in turn could have major implications on many levels, from quantum computing and materials sciences to biology, mental health and even what it is to be human.

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The idea of quantum computing in our brains is not a new one. In fact, it has been making the rounds for a while with some scientists, as well as those with less scientific leanings. But Fisher, a world-renowned expert in the field of quantum mechanics, has identified a precise—and unique—set of biological components and key mechanisms that could provide the basis for quantum processing in the brain. With $1.2 million in grant funding over three years from the Heising-Simons Foundation, Fisher will launch the QuBrain collaboration at UCSB. Composed of an international team of leading scientists spanning quantum physics, molecular biology, biochemistry, colloid science and behavioral neuroscience, the project will seek explicit experimental evidence to answer whether we might in fact be quantum computers.

"We are extremely grateful to the Heising-Simons Foundation for the bold vision in granting this project at the very frontier of quantum- and...
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