In a new discovery that seems to have sent shivers down the spines in the field of neuroscience, scientists have discovered proof that the human brain’s memory capacity is an “order of magnitude greater than” what we thought it was, reports Huffington Post.
“Our new measurements of the brain’s memory capacity increase conservative estimates by a factor of 10 to at least a petabyte,” said Dr. Terry Sejnowski, a professor at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, and co-senior author of a paper describing the research in a recent statement.
What this discovery indicates is that the human brain may be able to store one petabyte of data, which is 1 quadrillion bytes; which is enough memory to store 13.3 years of high-definition video.
The finding according to Huffington Post is considered preliminary and must be confirmed by future research. However, this constitutes a significant advancement in our understanding of neuroanatomy and could even prove to be a step towards the creation of a complete “wiring diagram” of the human brain; Sejnowski was quoted to have told the Huffington Post.
The report also adds that the finding, which was published recently in the journal eLife, could point the way to a new generation of computers that combine large processing power with lower energy consumption. These devices are called “probabilistic computing” because they process data in a way that is more intuitive than conventional computers, and are considered a game-changer for applications ranging from translation to machine vision.
Sejnowski and his team at Salk and the University of Texas at Austin made the discovery as part of a detailed anatomical examination and subsequent 3D computer reconstruction of the cells within a small portion of tissue from the brain of a rat.
The reconstruction revealed that the variation in the sizes of the synapses within the sample; which are the tiny gaps between brain cells known to be the key to memory formation and storage, was far smaller than the past research had suggested. As a matter of fact, the synapses varied in size by just about percent.
“No one thought it would be such a small difference,” Dr. Tom Bartol, a staff scientist at the institute and one of the researchers, said in the statement. “This was a curveball from nature.”
The researchers were able to determine that there must be more than two dozen discrete sizes of synapse instead of just a few after plugging the 8 percent figure into the computer model of the brain. It meant that the synapses must have the capacity to store far more information than anyone knew.
Having more “bits” per synapse is a little like a high-definition TV having more bits per pixel than a conventional TV, Sejnowski said, adding that, “We think the brain is high-resolution now.”
Or, offering up another metaphor, he said, “We have to think of the brain not as an old grandfather clock but as a high-precision watch.”
Prior to this discovery, some scientists have been of the view that the human brain is capable of storing even more information.