QR6.3.10 Consciousness Cascades

Brain synchronies develop in a sequence, from tiny nerve clusters to brain-wide synchronies. Microcolumns must synchronize first, to get the strength to merge into cortical columns, that then synchronize into macrocolumns. The constant pings of interneurons and the thalamic beat then help distant nerve areas to lock in phase in a global synchrony that allows consciousness.

We tune violins by varying notes slightly to achieve resonance, so a brain is like an orchestra tuning different instruments to the same frequency, except that nerves tune to obtain the same phase. This entangles them into a quantum entity that can collapse at a point in their field in an observation.

If a local synchrony that gives a small observation is maintained by constant pings, it can merge with others into a bigger observation, by the same process. This takes time to achieve, so nerves constantly ping to allow observations that can synchronize further. The cascade culminates when distant brain areas of language, meaning, and memory merge into a global synchrony that integrates the decentralized brain in a single observation that is what I attend to.

To recap, a photon wave collapsing at a screen point essentially chooses to observe there. When many nerves synchronize, their entangled field collapses to observe represents some neural combination. The microcolumn result is a flicker of an observation, but if it repeats, instead of collapsing alone it entangles with others that are doing the same. Constant neural volleys sustain lower synchronies until they cohere into bigger ones, and the process repeats until it gives a global observation. The global ignition that correlates with consciousness is a series of observer choices that end in what we experience.

This cascade allows negotiation between higher and lower units. A result that doesn’t work at a high level can be repeated until it does, so an ambiguous figure seen one way can be redone differently. Computers struggle with low-level ambiguity but a brain based on choices at every level can ask for a rerun with different choices. Top-down links also let the global observer prime lower neural units to act alone, allowing instinctive response times as low as a tenth of a second.

Nerves that entangle by synchrony observe together so they are observer gates not transistor gates. Each observation is a choice, and lower choices precede higher ones, up to a global observer who also chooses what to observe. The choice of what we attend to isn’t defined by sense input nor is it entirely free, as the options available at the top level depend on choices made lower down. This isn’t a machine where each cog drives the next but a choice hierarchy, where lower choices define higher ones. The cause of human behavior, in brain terms, is choices all the way down, so the social norm of people being responsible for their own actions has a neural basis.

Consciousness is like a spotlight that begins as millions of barely discernible point flickers that blink at different times. Eventually they become area flashes that wink separately until they also synchronize into a coherent beam directed at a target, which is our attention. It takes about half-a-second for the spotlight to power up, as each synchrony leads to the next.

This explains how we see one visual field when each hemisphere only sees half of it. Each hemisphere doesn’t send data to the other hemisphere to unify the visual field. This is impossible by encapsulation and inefficient. Instead, callosal nerves synchronize the hemispheres into one observer that sees what both do.

  This explains why beta-gamma waves stop under anesthesia and consciousness doesn’t return until they do (John et al., 2001). The anesthetic makes us unconscious by interfering with brain synchrony. Only when and brain waves return, and the uncoupled hemispheres recouple, does conscious vision also return. What observes the full visual field isn’t either hemisphere but their quantum entanglement.