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Zenith Grant Awardee

Catalina Curceanu

INFN – Laboratori Nazionali di Frascati


Lajos Diósi, Wigner Research Centre for Physics; Maaneli Derakhshani, Rutgers University

Project Title

ICON: Novel intertwined theoretical and experimental approach to test the ORCHestrated Objective Reduction theory as physical basis of consciousness

Project Summary

The nature of human consciousness, the most extraordinary phenomenon experienced by all of us, is the most important of all yet unsolved problems. Is consciousness rooted in the realm of natural sciences? This question is overarching biology, physics, mathematics, philosophy. We plan to contribute answering this question, by setting up and applying an innovative approach. Within the ICON project, we will critically investigate at an unprecedented level, the Orch OR unique theory (Orchestrated objective reduction), put forward by Hameroff and Penrose, theory which places consciousness within the empirical sciences, musing about its connection with quantum mechanics and gravity, and sneaking into the “pretty hard problem” of consciousness: is there a theoretical framework that can determine which physical systems and processes can be associated with consciousness? We will break the chain of long-lasting debates by setting the ground for an intertwined theoretical and experimental validation, performing fundamental dedicated measurements, setting Orch OR on a much more solid ground. Our ICON project represents a major progress in bridging the gap between physical laws and consciousness, by studying the intimate mechanisms of those phenomena proposed to generate consciousness in humans and the Universe, with a potential monumental breakthrough in consciousness studies.

Technical Abstract

The ICON project will investigate, within an innovative intertwined approach, the Orch OR theory put forward decades ago by Hameroff and Penrose as a unique theory placing consciousness within the empirical sciences, entering deep into the heart of the Consciousness in the Physical World research program. We shall mathematically develop, for the first time, an incarnation of Orch OR, based on Diosi’s approach to quantum physics’ interplay with gravity (dual to Penrose’s), and workout a framework where (Orch) OR can be experimentally verified now and here. From our preliminary studies, this theoretical model predicts spontaneous emission of radiation. We shall develop the theory and perform the most sensitive search ever of this spontaneous radiation dedicated to Orch OR, improving the present limit by 2-3 orders of magnitude, by exploiting high-purity Broad Energy Germanium detectors operated in the ultra-low background underground Gran Sasso Laboratories (Italy), thereby validating or invalidating the Objective Reduction (OR) key-ingredient to Orch OR. We shall investigate other possible experimental signatures and implications of our findings for the philosophy of mind and will organize a final event where interested communities will join their expertise to make real progress in harboring consciousness into the physical world.

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