Scott Aaronson

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Invited Talk: Quantum information and the Brain

9:00 – 9:50am Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Harveys Convention Center Floor, CC

This is part of the Oral Session 1 which begins at 09:00 on Tuesday December 4, 2012

Ever since quantum mechanics was discovered nearly a century ago,
famous scientists from Eddington to Wigner to Compton to Eccles to
Penrose have speculated about possible connections to the brain -- a
quest often parodied as "quantum mechanics is mysterious, the brain is
mysterious, ergo they must be related somehow." In this talk, I'll
offer a critical survey of these ideas from the modern standpoint of
quantum information theory, pointing out the huge conceptual and
experimental problems that have plagued most concrete proposals.
However, I'll also explain why I think some role for quantum mechanics
in cognition is not yet excluded, and discuss what sorts of advances
in neuroscience and physics might help settle the question.

Scott Aaronson received his PhD in computer science from UC
Berkeley in 2004, then did postdocs at the Institute for Advanced
Study, Princeton and at the University of Waterloo. He's now TIBCO
Career Development Associate Professor at MIT. His research interests
center around the limitations of quantum computers, and computational
complexity theory more generally. He also writes a popular blog
( and created the Complexity Zoo
(, an online encyclopedia of computational
complexity theory. He received the National Science Foundation's Alan
T. Waterman Award in 2012.