The von Neumann version of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, QM, is critically examined and contrasted with alternative realist formulations which show that the notions of both an observer and the collapse of the wave function in the consciousness of the observer, which are necessary elements for observation in the von Neumann version, are untenable. The common trait in the realist formulations, in addition to dispensing with the notion of an observer, is that they distinguish between recordings and observations and regard measurement as a full-fledged quantum physical process. Moreover, since in their context it becomes superfluous to include the observer's consciousness, we critically assess approaches which rely on purported connections between quantum mechanics and the brain arising from the von Neumann “consciousness-dependent” version of quantum mechanics. We also comment on bona-fide recent applications of quantum mechanics to consciousness and neural processes. To further develop a realist-like approach, we advance here a nonrepresentational framework of quantum mechanics that fulfills many of Bunge's constraints [Bunge, M. (Ed.) Quantum Theory and Reality, Springer Berlin Heidelberg (1967), 105–117]. The nonrepresentational nature of this framework aims at fulfilling the tenets that a quantum physical theory cannot belong to the set of material elements and that it should be mathematically rooted on an abstract Hilbert space. In addition, the present formulation emphasizes the development of a connection between the abstract and the laboratory worlds. This is done in order to bypass the semiphysical character of present-day quantum mechanics which leads to many unwarranted and paradoxical situations.