The Quantum Origin of Life: How the Brain Evolved to Feel Good

S. Hameroff

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

6 Scopus citations


Conscious behavior serves to optimize feelings, eg, Epicurean delight, "dopaminergic reward," Freud's "pleasure principle," spiritual bliss, and altruism (it feels better to give than to receive). However, Darwinian evolution is viewed as genetic survival, perhaps because science cannot yet account for feelings or consciousness ("qualia," the "hard problem"). Sir Roger Penrose proposed mental properties including qualia accompany self-collapse of the quantum wave function by objective reduction (OR), a threshold in the structure of spacetime geometry. Such OR qualia would be occurring ubiquitously in random environments throughout the universe, but be noncognitive and merely protoconscious. The Penrose-Hameroff Orch OR theory suggests OR events in cytoskeletal microtubules within brain neurons are organized, or orchestrated by inputs, memory, and vibrational resonances, and terminate by orchestrated OR to give meaningful conscious moments. Supporting evidence for Orch OR includes (1) anesthetic gases act to erase consciousness in pi resonance quantum channels within microtubules, and (2) microtubules have quantum resonances coupled to mechanical vibrations, eg, in megahertz. On a grand scale, Orch OR implies life originated, and the brain evolved to orchestrate and optimize pleasurable protoconscious OR qualia present in the universe. It is suggested here that billions of years ago in the primordial soup, pi resonance clouds of dopamine-like amphipathic molecules coalesced within micelle-like precursors of biomolecules, organelles, and cells. In these quantum channels (collectively the quantum underground), quantum events were shielded from random, polar interactions, enabling more intense and pleasurable OR qualia. Pi stack geometry in micelles and biomolecules optimized OR qualia and precipitated life. Microtubules, and eventually the brain, evolved to orchestrate OR-mediated resonance, optimizing pleasure and its behavioral pursuits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationOn Human Nature
Subtitle of host publicationBiology, Psychology, Ethics, Politics, and Religion
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9780127999159
ISBN (Print)9780124201903
StatePublished - 2017


  • Consciousness
  • Evolution
  • Feelings
  • Microtubules
  • Objective reduction (OR)
  • Orchestrated objective reduction (Orch OR)
  • Origin of life
  • Pi electron resonance
  • Quantum biology
  • Tubulin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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