Anesthetics act in quantum channels in brain microtubules to prevent consciousness

Travis J.A. Craddock, Stuart R. Hameroff, Ahmed T. Ayoub, Mariusz Klobukowski, Jack A. Tuszynski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


The mechanism by which anesthetic gases selectively prevent consciousness and memory (sparing non-conscious brain functions) remains unknown. At the turn of the 20th century Meyer and Overton showed that potency of structurally dissimilar anesthetic gas molecules correlated precisely over many orders of magnitude with one factor, solubility in a non-polar, ‘hydrophobic’ medium akin to olive oil. In the 1980s Franks and Lieb showed anesthetics acted in such a medium within proteins, suggesting post-synaptic membrane receptors. But anesthetic studies on such proteins yielded only confusing results. In recent years Eckenhoff and colleagues have found anesthetic action in microtubules, cytoskeletal polymers of the protein tubulin inside brain neurons. ‘Quantum mobility’ in microtubules has been proposed to mediate consciousness. Through molecular modeling we have previously shown: (1) olive oillike non-polar, hydrophobic quantum mobility pathways (‘quantum channels’) of tryptophan rings in tubulin, (2) binding of anesthetic gas molecules in these channels, and (3) capabilities for π-electron resonant energy transfer, or exciton hopping, among tryptophan aromatic rings in quantum channels, similar to photosynthesis protein quantum coherence. Here, we show anesthetic molecules can impair π-resonance energy transfer and exciton hopping in tubulin quantum channels, and thus account for selective action of anesthetics on consciousness and memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)523-533
Number of pages11
JournalCurrent topics in medicinal chemistry
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2015


  • Anesthesia
  • Anesthetics
  • Aromatic amino acids
  • Consciousness
  • Hydrogen bonds
  • Hydrophobic pockets
  • Microtubules
  • POCD
  • Postoperative cognitive dysfunction
  • Quantum mobility theory
  • Tryptophan
  • Tubulin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Drug Discovery


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