The Conscious Pilot

The “conscious pilot”—dendritic synchrony moves through the brain to mediate consciousness

Stuart Hameroff
Departments of Anesthesiology and Psychology, Center for Consciousness Studies, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85724, USA


Follow-up paper - mathematical treatment and simulation - 2011

Lateral Information Processing by Spiking Neurons: A Theoretical Model of the Neural Correlate of Consciousness

Marc Ebner and Stuart Hameroff

EbnerHameroff2(2).pdf (19.24 MB)

Hindawi Publishing Corporation/Computational Intelligence and Neuroscience/Volume 2011, Article ID 247879,17 pages, July 8, 2011
doi:10.1155/2011/247879/ Research Article


EvoStar 2009 

Abstract     tuebingen(1).ppt

Keynote Lecture



Stuart Hameroff MD
Professor, Anesthesiology and Psychology/Director, Center for Consciousness Studies/The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona/

Opening Talk: The ‘conscious pilot’ – Dendritic synchrony moves through the brain (like a computer worm) to mediate consciousness.

The brain is viewed as a computer in which sensory processing, control of behavior and other cognitive functions emerge from ‘neurocomputation’ in parallel networks of perceptron-like neurons. In each neuron, dendrites receive and integrate synaptic inputs to a threshold for axonal firing as output – ‘integrate-and-fire’. Neurocomputation in axonal-dendritic synaptic networks successfully accounts for non-conscious (auto-pilot) cognitive brain functions. When cognitive functions are accompanied by consciousness, neurocomputation is accompanied by 30 to 90 Hz gamma synchrony EEG. Gamma synchrony derives primarily from neuronal groups linked by dendritic-dendritic gap junctions, forming transient syncytia (‘dendritic webs’) in input/integration layers oriented sideways to axonal-dendritic neurocomputational flow. As gap junctions open and close, a gamma-synchronized dendritic web can rapidly change topology, evolve and move through the brain (like a benevolent computer worm might move through computer circuits) as a spatiotemporal envelope performing collective integration and volitional choices correlating with consciousness. The ‘conscious pilot’ is a metaphorical description for a mobile, gamma-synchronized dendritic web as vehicle for a conscious agent/pilot which experiences and assumes control of otherwise non-conscious auto-pilot neurocomputation. Intra-neuronal aspects of consciousness involving e.g. quantum computation in cytoskeletal microtubules will also be discussed, as will the evolution and place of consciousness in the universe.

The 'Conscious Pilot' is a new model of the neural correlate of consciousness (NCC) consistent with the Orch OR model. The basic idea is that spatiotemporal envelopes of dendritic gamma synchrony move through the brain's neuronal networks. The movement is sideways to neurocomputational flow, occurring via dendritic-dendritic gap junction electrical synapses. A conscious pilot moving around an airplane while it flies on auto-pilot is used as a metaphor for dendritic synchrony moving through the brain's neurocomputational networks, conveying conscious experience and choice to otherwise non-conscious cognitive modes. Several Powerpoint lectures and an abstract are below the images.