Scientific American has more on the weird quantum effects that make consciousness go bye-bye:
General anaesthetics may extinguish consciousness through mysterious quantum biological effects that cause subtle changes in the electronic state of proteins, rather than through ‘conventional’ pharmacological mechanisms such as directly interfering with receptors or ion channels, new research proposes.
The work, carried out by a team led by Luca Turin of the Alexander Fleming Research Centre in Athens, Greece, could go some way towards explaining a generic mechanism of action for general anaesthetics.
The team showed that if around 30 fruit flies are cooled to a few degrees above freezing to render them motionless, it is possible to obtain a steady electron spin resonance signal (ESR) from the population. When the flies are exposed to anaesthetic, a jump in the ESR signal is observed, compared with the resistant flies, indicating an increase in the number of unpaired electrons.
[Says Turin:] ‘What we are suggesting is that somehow the anaesthetic molecule is putting an electronic spanner in the works. We believe we have shown there is an unexpected, very surprising and so far unexplained connection between anaesthetics and electrons, measured by their spin.’