[I’m writing this article at the risk of venturing awfully close to the world of parapsychology. I've included several links and references, which you, fine readers, can assess for yourselves in terms of determining legitimacy. Comments and criticisms are always welcomed.]
While researching my protopanpsychism article, I came across the work of Dean Radin and Dick Bierman whose research has yielded some very eerie results.
Before I get to this, however, I’d like you to conduct a short experiment. While looking at your feet, stomp on the ground. You will notice that your visual perception of your foot hitting the floor matches your sensation of touching it. This would be fine except for one thing: the speed of light is vastly faster than the conduction times and synaptic delays through the long nerves and spinal cord from your feet. As a result, you should be seeing the event before you feel it – and the delay should be noticeable.
But it’s not.
Benjamin Libet and his associates first documented this phenomenon in 1979, which is now referred to as the ‘delay-and-antedating hypothesis/paradox.’ A number of explanations have been posited to reconcile this strange observation.
Perhaps there is a lag in the visual information. If this is the case, then the visual cortex is set for a time delay such that it can keep up with the slow pulses from the extremities. This would be a rather bizarre revelation if true, meaning that we are constantly viewing the world with a small degree of latency. This is almost certainly not the case, as Darwinian selection would favour those animals that do not experience any kind of visual delay. Living in the past would be grossly disadvantageous out in the wild.
Another possible solution is that sight and feel are experienced at separate times, but are remembered as happening simultaneously. Problems with this hypothesis are similar to the previous one – a suggestion that we are not meaningfully rooted in the present and that our brain “edits” reality for us.
A third solution, one that seems ludicrous at first glance, is that the slow sensory information is referred backwards in time from the near future to match the fast information.
Well, that’s where the work of Radin and Bierman come in. They have performed experiments in which it appears that the brain is reacting to stimuli before it is experienced. Radin and Bierman have conducted experiments in which subjects viewed random images flashing on a computer screen. Some of the images were rather neutral while others were meant to invoke a highly emotional response. The researchers discovered that the subjects responded strongly to the emotional images compared to the neutral ones, and that the response occurred between a fraction of a second to several seconds before the images appeared.
Bierman recently repeated these experiments using an fMRI brain scanner and documented emotional responses in brain activity up to 4 seconds before the stimuli. Other laboratories have made similar findings.
Assuming the data is being recorded and interpreted correctly, what's going on here? How is it possible that information can run backwards in time? Roger Penrose believes that quantum effects in the brain could explain backwards referral. He suggests that such effects may occur commonly and even routinely. “If in some manifestation of consciousness,” says Penrose, “classical reasoning about the temporal ordering of events leads us to a contradictory conclusion, then this is strong indication that quantum actions are indeed at work!" Neuroscientist Fred Alan Wolf has come to a similar conclusion and has offered his ‘Two-Time Observable Transactional Interpretation Model’ (TTOTIM) of consciousness.
Stuart Hameroff notes that quantum information can indeed run backwards, or be time indeterminate, citing the Aharonov formulation which suggests that each quantum state reduction has a dual vector, both forward and backwards in time.
What does this all mean? As Wolf notes, “we need to look toward altering our concept of time in some manner, not that this is an easy thing to do. Perhaps we should begin with the idea that a single event in time is really as meaningless as a single event in space or a single velocity. Meaningful relation arises as a correspondence, a relationship with some reference object.”
In addition, this not also adds further credence to the quantum consciousness hypothesis, but to panpsychist notions as well.
Fred Alan Wolf: "A Quantum Physics Model of the Timing of Conscious Experience"
Stuart Hameroff: "Time Flies (Backwards?)"