Stuart Hameroff

From Academic Kids

Stuart Hameroff, MD, is an anesthesiologist and professor at the University of Arizona known for his promotion of the scientific study of consciousness, and his speculative theories of the "mechanisms" of consciousness.

His early research suggested to him that part of the solution to the problem of understanding consciousness may lie in understanding the operations of microtubules in brain cells, operations at the molecular and supramolecular level. The operations of microtubiles are remarkably complex and their role pervasive in cellular operations; these facts lead to the speculation that computation sufficient for consciousness may somehow be occurring there. These ideas are discussed in his first book Ultimate Computing (1987). Further thinking lead him to speculate that the role of quantum mechanics, which is the correct theory of matter at the molecular level, may have essential ramifications in a explanation of consciousness. This lead him to collaborate with mathematical physicist Roger Penrose in developing the 'Orch OR' (Orchestrated Objective Reduction) model of quantum mechanics, leading to an explanation of quantum coherence occurring within the brain's neural microtubules, which in this theory leads to consciousness and quantum mind.

This work began with Penrose's theory that consciousness must be fundamentally non-algorithmic, and incapable of being modeled as a classical Turing machine type of computer, as was prevalent in the field of Artificial Intelligence at the time. Penrose saw the principles of quantum theory as providing an alternate mechanism for consciousness.

Stuart Hameroff was inspired by Penrose's book The Emperor's New Mind (1989) to contact Penrose regarding his own theories about the mechanism of anesthesia and how it specifically targets consciousness via action on neural microtubules. Penrose became interested in the mathematical features of microtubule architecture, and the two collaborated in formulating the Orch-OR theory of consciousness.

Hameroff directs the Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona [1] (, and sponsors seminars on consciousness theory.

See also: Roger Penrose

Further reading

  • Stuart Hameroff with Conrad Schneiker, Ultimate computing: Biomolecular consciousness and nanotechnology, Elsevier-North Holland, 1987. This work predates the quantum Orch-OR hypothesis; still of interest. Online at author's site (
  • Hameroff, Kaszniak, Scott, (eds), Toward a Science of Consciousness, MIT Press, ISBN 0262082497, LoC OP411.T68 1996. papers from the first Tuscon conference on study of consciousness. Further volumes in the series exist.
  • Roger Penrose, Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness, Oxford, ISBN 0198539789, LoC Q335.P416 1994. This discusses the Orch-OR theory.

External links



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