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Brain’s Memory Capacity is 10 Times Greater Than Previous Estimations

Did you ever wish for the ability to insert a memory card in your brain?! Well, know that it would be unnecessary because the memory capacity of your brain is comparable to the amount stored on the Internet. The findings are published in eLIFE.

Activities at the level of the synapse in the brain. Photo credits: screenshot from Salk Institute YouTube video found below.

Activities at the level of the synapse in the brain. Photo credits: Screenshot from Salk Institute’s YouTube video found below.

Our brain’s capacity to save information might be 10 times greater than what experts have posited in the past, says a new study. Author Terry Sejnowski from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies says that their findings are a “real bombshell” in neuroscience.

Sejnowski and his team investigated the activities of the hippocampal neurones located in the memory centre of brain: their functioning with low energy but high computational power was analysed. The resulting measurements the scientists made suggest that the brain’s memory is around a petabyte, equivalent to the World Wide Web.

When the researchers worked on a 3D reconstruction of rat hippocampus tissue that they themselves built, they surprisingly found that the gaps in between neurones called synapses were being replicated in around 10 % of them.

Next, the authors wanted to find out the difference in the size of the pairs of synapses, and so they brought the connectivity, shapes, volumes, and surface area of the brain tissue to the nano-molecular level. Their calculations show that the difference were very small: only around 8% – a finding described as being unexpected by the scientists.

Such a small variation in size of synapses expands the types of sizes that could exist. While it was previously thought that there were only few of these categories, the scientists now say that there might be as many as 26 of them. This would, in turn, imply that the brain’s memory capacity is so much more than we would have thought.

Furthermore, the calculations were interpreted as implying that synapses can also modify their size and ability as per neural transmissions: around 1,500 such transmissions trigger a change in small synapses (taking 20 minutes) and a few hundred will modify large ones (1 to 2 minutes). Another author of the paper, Tom Bartol, explains that one’s synapses are adapting their sizes every 2 to 20 minutes as a response to the signals that provoke the change.

Sejnowksi marvels at their findings, stating that this hints at an “underlying precision” pertaining to the shapes and sizes of synapses that lies beneath the seeming chaotic structure of the brain.

This study is said to have far-reaching implications in the world of computing: ultra-precise and energy-efficient machines that make use of deep learning and neural networking proficiency could be constructed.


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