Quantum tunneling in the brain

25 years ago, Sir John C. Eccles together with Friedrich Beck proposed a quantum model of neurotransmitter release at synapses in the cerebral cortex. The model endorsed causal influence of consciousness upon synaptic function through tunneling of quantum quasiparticles that trigger the exocytosis of synaptic vesicles, thereby initiating the transmission of information from the presynaptic towards the postsynaptic neuron.

In our recent article published in Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology, we provide a molecular upgrade of the Beck and Eccles model by identifying the quantum quasiparticles as Davydov solitons that twist the protein α-helices and trigger exocytosis of synaptic vesicles through helical zipping of the SNARE protein complex. We also calculate the observable probabilities for exocytosis based on the mass of this quasiparticle, along with the characteristics of the potential energy barrier through which tunneling is necessary. We further review the current experimental evidence in support of this novel bio-molecular model as presented.