Human Brain could Store 10 Times more Memories
Like computers, our brains have an impressive capacity to store memories. Scientists have long known that the brain stores memories as patterns of electrical pulses that move through and between neurons. But they were never able to quantify just how information it could store. Now researchers from the Salk Institute have used models of rat neurons to give a new estimate for the storage capacity of the human brain- 1 petabyte,10 times larger than previous estimates.
The human brain is often compared to a computer. One aspect in particular that lends itself well to these sorts of comparisons is memory. When computer scientists talk about memory, they refer RAM (Random Access Memory) and hard drive storage. When referring to human brain, neuroscientists speak of short term memory, which is like RAM and long term memory which is like to hard drive. Therefore, scientists find it helpful to analogize our brain’s storage capacity to a computer, which explains why they measure it in bits and bytes.
Researchers know that synapses, the space between neurons through which information flows from one neuron to next are important for memory and most other neurological functions. But scientists still don’t understand much of how they work, including how their size affects how information is transmitted or stored in brain.
According to study, the researchers made a highly detailed digital reconstructions of the brain tissue found in a rat’s hippocampus,a region of the brain known to play an integral role in long-term memory.At the smallest scale,the researchers were surprised to find that about 10 % of neurons had two synapse connecting them to other neurons.And though the size of these synapses only varied by about 8%,the researchers determined that there were 26 different terms,each synapse could store an average of 4.7 bits;spread throughout the brain,that would be about 1 petabyte,the equivalent of 1000 terabytes or 1,000,000,000,000,000 bytes according to study.
There are some reasons to be skeptical of that number; however.Though rats’ brains are surprisingly similar to human brains. They are not exactly the same and the size of the synapses could different between type or individuals or even parts of the brain. One neuroscientists told that based on this new finding, the brain might be able to hold even more information than the researchers on the order of 3 to 5 petabypes.
This discovery also helps to explain the brain’s surprising efficiency which could eventually lead to utraprecise, super-efficieant, computers, including those that utilize deep learning and artificial nets. So in the same way that computers are helping us to understand the human brain, these sorts of neural insights are helping us build more efficient and powerful computers.
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