Experimental Model for Collapse of the Quantum Wavefunction

Mark Germine

From: http://www.goertzel.org/dynapsyc/1998/collapse.html


According to the One Mind Model, the universe is a single quantum system in which events are determined through the process of conscious observation. Collapse of the quantum wavefunction is a universal process that involves conscious determination of global mind/brain (mental) states from among a superposition of virtual or potential states. Mental states are entangled with quantum events observed by consciousness, such that consciousness determines such events. This leads to entanglement of individual minds in a universal wavefunction. In this study, random and uncertain stimuli are generated by radioactive decay and recorded on two separate disks. These data are observed by a human subject, whereby the data are collapsed in the consciousness of that subject. The same data are later observed by a second subject. It is proposed that there is a cognitive process that occurs when the wavefunction is collapsed, which is manifested in recordings of electrical potential. These electrical-potential changes will occur in the first subject, who is collapsing the unobserved and therefore uncertain data, but not in the second, who is observing collapses and therefore certain data. The two subjects will alternately observe the two data conditions, and a record of the brain-potential difference between the two conditions for each subject will be determined. Any statistical differences observed when all other variables are controlled will relate to brain processes associated with collapse of the wavefunction. Such results would support the hypothesis the collapse of the wavefunction is a universal mental process, thereby providing validation for the One Mind Model.

The One Mind Model

To date, no empirical studies have been performed that test the various hypotheses regarding collapse of the wavefunction and quantum reality. This is because none of the models have previously been developed to the empirical stage of experimental testing of a specific physical mechanism. The notion that collapse of the wavefunction involves collapse of macroscopic, global mental states rather than microscopic events coordinated by quantum coherence in the brain was pioneered by Henry Stapp (1991; 1993; 1994) in quantum physics and Mark Germine in mind science (1989; 1991; 1993; 1994; 1996).

According to the One Mind Model the wavefunction is collapsed by conscious observation of a fully evolved mental state from among various possible or virtual mental states. The One Mind Model is a synthesis of theoretical quantum physics and mind science. The following are its basic tenets:

Undetermined states on the quantum level occur in the external world, in the sensory organs, and in the brain. All of these states contribute to the uncertainty of the global mental state, which is also undetermined prior to collapse of the wavefunction.
Global mental states are information states at the cognitive level.
That mental process up to the stage of quantum collapse is implicit or unconscious.
Collapse of the wavefunction is the mechanism of consciousness, and actualizes a single state from among a myriad of implicit or unconscious possible states (virtual states).
That the stimulus-response model is a basic experimental paradigm for production of global mental states through collapse of virtual states (Germine, 1989).
That undetermined quantum-level external events produce undetermined sensory stimuli, and determination of external quantum events occurs through collapse of the wavefunction on the level of the whole brain.
That the determination of external quantum events is a cognitive process that is reflected in the brain potential.
That determination is a universal process in which individual conscious observers function as a single observer or One Mind.
The brain potential is an empirical phenomenon on the level of experimental science, and this feature makes the One Mind Model the first empirical or falsifiable model of either collapse of the wavefunction or consciousness.

In the quantum theory of observation, the stimulus is uncertain until observed. Observation is the function of consciousness, therefore consciousness involves a reduction of uncertainty. It is proposed that this reduction of uncertainty is a manifestation in the reduction of uncertainty of the brain state that occurs when a single state arises from the multiple states of the quantum wavefunction.

Neurophysiological considerations suggest that such a reduction in uncertainty involves a reduction of random depolarization of the neuronal cell membrane through hyperpolarization of the neuron across its cell membrane. This is because the brain state can only be stabilized with respect to random synaptic potentials in the hyperpolarized state, in which the membrane polarization is below the threshold of spontaneous release of synaptic vesicles.

Theoretically, in the threshold state the wavefunction of the mental state is expanding in phase space, while in the subthreshold or hyperpolarized state it is resolving into distinct branches that reach dynamical stability. The global hyperpolarization associated with wavefunction collapse should be detectable as a potential waveform in the ERP record. However, the model itself does not presume any specific mechanism by which potential differences will be associated with collapse of the wavefunction, but only that such differences will be present, according to the more general principle that brain processes are manifested in this way. The problem then is to link one or more such potential changes in the ERP to collapse of the quantum wavefunction, thereby testing the empirical formulation of the One Mind Model.

According to the Stapp (1991) and Germine (1991) models, if an uncertain quantum event is observed by a subject, the wavefunction of that event is collapsed through collapse of the mental state in that subject, and then becomes determined for any subsequent subjects observing the same events. Thus, any brain process associated with collapse will be observed only in the first subject to make the observation, and not in any subsequent subjects. This means that there will be an observable difference between the brain processes of these two classes of subjects which can be attributed to collapse of the wavefunction. The purpose of this study is to detect and measure this difference.


The idea of collapse of the wavefunction at the level of consciousness received its first well-documented experimental support in the collaborative work of Schmidt (1993) and Stapp (1994). They took the well-documented phenomenon of human influence on random number generation (Jahn and Dunne, 1987), and, based on the hypothesis that this influence involved collapse of the wavefunction in consciousness, extended it directly to test this hypothesis. Random single-bit binary numbers were generated by radioactive decay and recorded on a computer disk without observation. Weeks later, individual subjects read these numbers, explicitly concentrating on producing one of the two numbers (0,1). The numbers under this condition were non-random in the direction of conscious bias at a chance level of 1 in 8000. These results led to rejection of the null hypothesis that determination occurs solely at the level of recording on the computer disk. Furthermore, the results entailed a violation of standard quantum theory, which dictates that the wavefunction is a random statistical phenomenon (Stapp, 1994). Stapp (1994) developed a theoretical physical model in which such a violation is allowed to occur by assuming that the standard model (Schrodinger equation) is a linear approximation of a non-linear process.

The Event-Related Potential (ERP)

The data relating consciousness to events in the ERP have been outlined in detail by John (1990). The ERP is a profile of the living brain's processing of a discrete stimulus. It is derived by averaging a series of EEG profiles where time zero (t = 0) is the time of the stimulus itself. The EEG is repeated enough times to generate a distinct EEG profile which is otherwise concealed by the variable EEG background activity. The ERP records depolarization events as positive signals, which are indicated by the letter P, and hyperpolarization events as negative signals, indicated by the letter N. The positive and negative events are numbered consecutively on the ERP profile as the P1, N1, P2, N2, P3.... These events are alternatively indicated by their latency (t), thus the P3 is also the P300, reflecting the average latency in milliseconds.

Short-latency ERPs reflect primitive processing, which is dependent on the mechanisms of conditioned response (John, 1990). Longer latency responses reflect the higher-order functions of consciousness. Decoupling of the synchronous activity across the brain which produces the ERP results in an incorrect response which signifies an incorrect interpretation of the stimulus with respect to conditioned learning and memory. The latencies of ERP waveshapes reflects the time-dependent process of neuronal transmission, and, for this reason, the ERP has enjoyed widespread application in diagnosis of disorders of neuronal transmission such as multiple sclerosis.

The work of Penfield (1958) and Libet (1973) has demonstrated that the conscious experience of a sensory stimulus can be blocked by electrical stimulation of the corresponding area of sensory cerebral cortex, provided that the stimulation begins within 200 msec. of the stimulus. This interval has been called the period of neuronal adequacy by Libet (1973), who has proposed that it is only after this period of time has elapsed that a stimulus can become conscious. On the basis of such experimental research, John (1990) has identified the P2, N2, and P3 potentials as events in the generation of conscious experience.

Consciousness-Related Potentials

The events of the ERP occur in a highly-synchronized or resonant mode. Thus is consistent with the theory that consciousness is a synchronous function across the whole brain. Thus an event originating in the brainstem, which could not be detected on a surface EEG, manifests at the same time in the cerebral cortex on the surface of the brain. The synchronous or simultaneous occurrence of ERP events or waveshapes cannot be explained on the basis of conventional neurotransmission, since regions of the brain are coupled in a way that is far beyond any effect that could occur on the basis of direct neuronal coupling. It has been proposed that such synchronization involves quantum nonlocality (Germine, 1991).

The nonlocality of the brain potential is important in that it provides a link between empirical ERP research and the theory of a nonlocal conscious process. This link provides a window into the nature of the mind and consciousness, and into the nature of collapse of the wavefunction. It also provides an empirical probe into the interconnection between all observers, which has, to this point, been a theoretical issue without direct empirical validation.

There are specific experimental data supporting the link between the P2, N2, and P3 potentials and conscious process (John, 1990). These data identify the P2 as the event during which conscious discrimination of a stimulus occurs in terms of figure-ground separation (John, 1990). The localized genesis of the P2 has been identified in the area of the intralaminar nuclei of the thalamic ascending reticular formation. Strokes in these nuclei cause loss of consciousness. Stimulation of the intralaminar nuclei of the thalamus in comatose patients can restore conscious awareness (Hassler, 1979).

After the stimulus is first perceived, it is evaluated through emotions that it elicits through the functions of the limbic system. The hippocampus, critical to memory, plays an important role in matching the feeling tone of the stimulus with past experience. Through the hypothalamus, autonomic responses are finely tuned to the emotional component of the mental state. The event that is associated with emotional awareness of the stimulus is represented in ERPs by the N2 waveform (John, 1990).

The cognitive experience of the stimulus involves conscious recognition of the meaning of the stimulus, and this stage of processing has been identified experimentally with the P3. One of the most robust findings in psychopathology has been that the amplitude and latency of the P3 are decreased and increased, respectively, in schizophrenia, regardless of medication state. Theses deficits in the P3 seem to be associated with an increase in the stimulus uncertainty with respect to meaning, which is an underlying cause of the thought disorder in schizophrenia. These and other data support the general hypothesis (Germine, 1991; 1993) that functional mental disorders are disorders of conscious function. The amplitude as well as the latency of the P3 varies with the amount of discrimination required to distinguish the stimulus from other stimuli (Lhermitte et al., 1985).

Event-related desynchronization (ERD) of the alpha rhythm on the EEG (Pfurtscheller et al., 1990) is associated with ERPs of all types, including major negative potentials at about 400 msec. and 450 msec. Later potentials will not be specifically elicited in this paradigm, although ERPs with latency up to 750 ms will be recorded if present.

The One Mind Model specifically calls for a superposition of brain states, which are later collapsed in consciousness. Each of these brain states represents an element of cognition and a possible solution to a cognitive problem. Similarly, each sequence of two or more brain states represents a complex combination of quantum states. If we have g possible states per actual or collapsed state, integrated over a sequence of n states, the number of potential combinations of states will be gn. Germine (1991; 1993) proposed that it is the resolution of such uncertainty that gives rise to the information content of consciousness. Based on the uncertainty of such combinations, mathematical equations for conscious information processing are readily derived (Germine, 1993).

Methods and Procedures

The discrimination of a stimulus entails the production of ERP events P1, N1, P2, N2, and P3. These potentials are best elicited using the "oddball" paradigm, which involves use of target stimuli in combination with more frequent non-target stimuli (Lhermitte et al., 1985). Although this paradigm has been studied in a variety of sensory modalities, the auditory ERP gives the most useful experimental results, and has been performed in a number of well-designed and reproducible paradigms. The oddball paradigm used here is a well-studied standard (Gott et al., 1991) which requires a relatively low level of discrimination as compared to those paradigms used in the study of individual differences at higher levels of discrimination, which are useful in the study of mental disorders. Since we are not concerned, at this point, with such differences, and are trying to reproducibly elicit responses rather than test their individual limits, this paradigm is most apt. Binaural 1000 Hz (common) tones will be delivered at a rate of 1.0 per second with a 20 msec. rise-fall at a hearing level of 70 dB. Rare tones of 2000 Hz will be substituted for the common tones in a way to be described shortly at a rate of 25%. Recording will be made from scalp electrodes at sites Fz, Cz, and Pz (10-20 International System). Analysis time will be 750 msec with determinations of electrical potential every 10 msec. After each target stimulus, the subjects will be asked to press a lever, and a time record of lever presses will be recorded that matches the data and ERP time records. The subjects will be asked to try to increase the frequency of target stimuli prior to the trials.

The rare stimuli, or target stimuli, will be generated randomly by radioactive decay and recorded on computer disks with no human observation using the methods outlined by Schmidt (1993). One exact copy will be made of each set of stimuli on a separate disk. The target stimuli will be coded (0,1). On every second stimulus, the non-target stimulus will either be left alone (0 condition) or changed to the target stimulus (1 condition).

Data will be collected in half-hour sessions of 250 target stimuli (x statistical variation of 250 random one-digit binary numbers) at a rate of fifteen target stimuli per minute, with half-hour rests between sessions and five sessions per day on each of four days per subject. The two conditions will be randomized and balanced in a double-blind manner for each session. The first session will not be included in the averaged data since it will have to be in the unobserved condition. Data from this session will be used as a baseline control.

Each set of 250 ERP profiles will be averaged by computer, and twenty of these profiles will be averaged by computer to give a single profile and set of data for each of two conditions in each of two subjects. This will yield an n of 5000 sets of data points per subject per condition. This will give us a total n for the study of 20,000.

Standard ERP equipment and methods will be used. A computer program will be developed to record the target stimuli, generate the target and non-target tones as described above, activate the ERP recording before each stimulus, and sum the ERPs for target stimuli after each set of stimuli is completed. We are assuming that the manipulations within the computer circuitry will not collapse the wavefunction. The assumption is supported by the results of Schmidt (1993), and is part of the hypothesis being tested, i.e. that the wavefunction is collapsed in consciousness. Only the four grand-averaged ERP profiles will be examined, each of which will have 75 data points corresponding to the determinations of potential at intervals of 10 msec. over 750 msec. The conditions of stimuli (target vs. non-target) will be read directly off the two disks, which should be identical, after they have been observed by the two subjects.

Data Analysis

Each of two subjects will have observed 5,000 stimuli in each of two conditions: 1) prior to observation by the other subject (uncollapsed data condition), and 2) after observation by the other subject (collapsed data condition). Data for 20 randomized and balanced trials will be summed for each condition for each subject to yield a mean and standard deviation. The summed observed profiles will be subtracted from the summed unobserved profiles to yield a profile of the ERP activity of quantum observation (observation potential profile). Time points where this activity is statistically significant in all three combinations of leads will be identified using two-tailed, paired t-tests at intervals of 10 msec. Using a significance cut-off of p < 0.05, significance in all three leads will give us a significance per time point of p < .000125. Bonferroni correction of each of 75 data analyses in two subjects will yield a study-wide significance cut-off of p< 0.02. This will mean that the chances of coming up with one significant time point in the entire study will be less than 1 in 50, the chances of two significant time points will be less than 1 in 2500, etc. This final statistical analysis will give us the level of significance over which the null hypothesis that quantum observation by one subject has no effect on brain potentials of a second subject can be rejected.

The conclusions of the study will be determined solely on the basis of a single statistical analysis, and there will be no post-hoc alteration of the statistical design, thus avoiding the statistical bias of post-hoc analysis that is present in so many other research designs. Statistically significant data would support the hypotheses that the collapse of the wavefunction is manifested on the ERP, and that such collapse is linked between subjects. This would provide experimental documentation of a link between macroscopic brain events and collapse of the wavefunction, and for the proposition that consciousness is a unitary and universal function. Secondarily, statistical bias in the direction of conscious intention will be measured, as it has been in many previous studies. Reaction time to stimuli based on latency of lever presses will be studied as a variable that may be connected to the latency of observation potentials. These and other analyses of the data will by exploratory in nature and will not be reflected in the main conclusions of the study.


In terms of current technology, this study will be easy to perform. It combines to well-established methodologies: 1) the methodology of random number generation by radioactive decay and measurement of statistical bias associated with conscious intention, and 2) production, recording, and processing of data for ERPs. Both technologies are widely available, the former being a common methodology in parapsychology research, the latter being used extensively in neurophysiology laboratories and hospital diagnostic facilities. Many laboratories have experience and capabilities in both methodologies.

Should the observation potential be documented, its application in the areas of quantum physics and mind science could be enormous. Quantum physics has yet to resolve one of its most fundamental questions. Mind science has yet to explain its most fundamental basis in consciousness. This study has the potential for advancement is both of these areas, and could be seminal to a new line of research into the physics and physiology of consciousness. There is also a potential for application in applied mind science, particularly in the areas of quantum computation and mental disorders.


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