An Article Series Exploring the Quantum Science Behind the Mind-body Connection
This article series delves into the question of whether our thoughts can create our personal reality. Many of the world’s most successful people are walking examples that we can achieve anything we set our minds to. To better understand how and why our minds are so powerful, we can dive into the exciting field of quantum biology — the intersection of quantum physics and biology.
The marriage of these two fields of science is a relatively new concept. While its implications to the real world are infinite, one of the things it can help us understand is the power of our mental focus — including our thoughts, attention, and beliefs.
Quantum biology could be the science that finally helps us recognize how every mental act translates into our physical actions and thus directly influences the quality of our lives.
The book “Life on the Edge: The Coming Age of Quantum Biology” by scientists Johnjoe McFadden and Jim Al-Khalili is a wonderful introduction to the field of quantum biology. This article series follows the book, chapter by chapter, and applies its findings to the topic of how the quantum world could be responsible for our thoughts turning into things.
In the last article in this series, we explored the link between quantum mechanics and genetics to reveal how our thoughts can activate certain genes or keep them dormant.
Today we dive into Chapter 8 of “Life on the Edge” where we take a closer look at the neurobiology behind the mind-body connection and the mystery of consciousness.
THE IDEA THAT REMAINS FOR THIRTY THOUSAND YEARS
McFadden and Al-Khalili open the chapter with a flashback to the discovery of prehistoric paintings on the walls of the famous Chauvet cave in France that date back over 30,000 years. What exactly was it that helped our ancestors translate the mental idea of these animal symbols into actual paintings that are present even to this days?
How is it that a thought or an idea can ultimately move our body and thus affect the direction of our lives — and impact the lives of future generations?
To gain a better understanding, let’s take a closer look at the elegant dance of neurons in our brains. Making a conscious decision to think or act in a certain way causes our brain to fire electric signals. These then communicate with the motor nerves in the respective muscle that must be activated. In the case of our ancestral cave artist, the decision to paint an elephant on the cave wall triggered the signal to dip her finger into the color pigment.
The idea to create the painting was the result of prior knowledge about the shape of the animal and the existence of a color pigment. The artists’ brain held in its electromagnetic field the memory of what an elephant looks like. Once she made the decision to pain the elephant, the firing of the electrical signals triggered the release of neurotransmitters.
THE BRAIN’S MESSENGERS OF EMOTION
Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that translate messages from our nerve cells to the rest of the body. The sensations we experience in our bodies, including our emotions and feelings, are a result of these messages. These messages are part of the feedback loop between our bodies and our conscious minds.
Hormones and chemicals — such as stress-related cortisol or the good-feeling oxytocin — are a form of these neurotransmitters. They reflect back to us how we are feeling based on where are focusing our conscious awareness.
It is my belief that when our thoughts, actions, and deeds are in line with our understanding of the interconnectedness of all life (through quantum entanglement), the feedback we receive from life itself is in the form of emotions that feel good to us. It’s as if the body responds favorably to our acts of love, kindness, generosity, joy, and compassion because it understands that one part of the whole is simply helping another part of the whole.
As a result, when we fire nerve signals from these states of awareness, our systems are synchronized and work together in a more coherent manner. As explained in part III of this series, this allows the highly efficient processes of the quantum world to take place within our body.
But how exactly do our nerve endings release these neurotransmitters? The answer lies in the electrical power in our brains.
THE ELECTRICAL CURRENT THAT MOVES US ALONG
The electrical signals between our neurons are called action potentials. They occur because there is a difference between the number of positively charged sodium ions inside and outside our nerve cells. This difference creates an electrical gradient of about one-hundredth of a volt across the cell membrane.
As McFadden and Al-Khalili explain, “this is equivalent to a staggering ten thousand volts across a one-centimeter gap and is almost enough to create a spark, such as is required in your car’s spark plug to ignite the fuel.”
It is this electromagnetism that moves electrically charged particles such as ions across the membranes of our cells. The electrical activity of all the nerves in our brain generates an electromagnetic field. This field can readily be measured by brain-scanning technologies such as EEG or MEG.
The field is generated by neurons firing while at the same time influencing further nerve firing. Many scientists argue that this feedback loop could be an essential component of consciousness.
AFFECTING THE BRAIN’S FIELD THROUGH OUR FOCUS
Science has traditionally looked at electromagnetic activity as a result of the brain’s functioning. Several scientists now suggest that electromagnetism is just as much a cause of brain activity as it is the result.
As Einstein’s elegant E = mc2 equation so elegantly proves — the brain’s electromagnetic energy field is as real as the matter that its neurons are composed of.
Since our thoughts and emotions affect the electromagnetic signals between the heart and the brain, they also affect the firing of the nerves that cause us to take certain actions. Everything we do always begins with an idea, a mental act. Unexamined mental patterns often cause automatic reactions based on our past. Being conscious and aware of the world of our thoughts allows us to focus on those that will move us closer to what we wish to act upon.
“In one way or another, most people probably subscribe to the notion of dualism — the belief that the mind/soul/consciousness is something other than the physical body. But dualism fell out of favor in scientific circles in the twentieth century, and most neurobiologists now prefer the idea of monoism — the belief that mind and body are one and the same thing.” — McFadden and Al-Khalili
UPGRADING OUR NEUROBIOLOGY FOR HAPPINESS
So how is our thinking process shaped by the laws of quantum mechanics, thus giving us the ability to operate beyond the limits of the classical laws of physics and to affect our own well-being?
It is thanks to quantum coherence (explained in more detail in part III) that our nerve signals can transmit information inside the brain quickly. This happens fast enough for the ions in each nerve cell to move through their respective channels to trigger the signal for action without us having to “think twice.”
When you think a fearful thought long enough, your body responds to it by releasing neurotransmitters like cortisol (the “stress” hormone). The electromagnetic field caused by the thought has triggered the opening and closing of voltage-gated ion channels in your cells, causing further activation of more stress neurotransmitters.
On the other hand, thinking a loving, kind, or appreciative thought long enough can bring about good-feelings states which then triggers the release of neurochemicals like serotonin or oxytocin. These positively affect our physical and emotional state as explained in part III of this article series.
So to upgrade our sense of well-being, quantum biology points us right back to our thoughts. The mind and body are part of one feedback loop.
Focusing on the wonder and beauty contained in the present moment can release the neurotransmitters that in turn cause us to feel even more appreciative of how our lives are already unfolding. We then feel more motivated to keep creating more beauty in our lives by sharing our inner resources of love, compassion, and kindness with others.