The human brain’s memory capacity is actually 10 times higher than expected, according to groundbreaking research that shows just how little of our inherent potential we have managed to harness.
The study, featured in the journal eLife, was conducted by Dr. Terry Sejnowski, Francis Crick professor and director of the Computational Neurobiology Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
The researcher and his team developed a 3D replica of a rat’s hippocampus using a computer, in order to perform a more thorough analysis of this brain region, which is one of the first to be affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
The hippocampus has long been proven to be linked to spatial memory, as well as to the ability to navigate through one’s surroundings.
Also, given that this neural tissue features a wide variety of brain cells, carefully ordered into layers, experts have been examining neuroplasticity by focusing on this area, in order to gain further understanding of the way the brain stores and retrieves information.
Now, Dr. Terry Sejnowski has come to the conclusion that prior beliefs regarding the memory capacity of an average human being may have to be re-evaluated, since synapses are actually much more diverse than previously thought.
These structures, which connect brain cells and allow them to exchange impulses between one another, thanks to neurotransmitters, play an essential role when it comes to processing information, learning and memorizing.
Prior studies had suggested that the synapses can be classified into 3 broad categories (small, average and large), but now the analysis of the rat’s hippocampus has revealed that there are much more minute differences in the size of these junctions.
More precisely, variations usually occur by a margin of around 8%, and this means that there might be as many as 26 types of synapses in reality.
Given their unexpected diversity, these links between neurons are capable of storing much higher amounts of data than it was ever imagined.
Namely, each can retain approximately 4.7 bits of information, instead of just 1 to 2 like it had formerly been determined. As a consequence, brain cells are also much more potent than we can even begin to comprehend.
More precisely, the human brain’s memory capacity is believed to be 10 times greater than earlier measurements, having now been estimated at approximately 1 petabyte, the equivalent of 1 million gigabytes.
Such staggering proportions bring the mind’s potential eerily close to that of the world wide web, and also suggest that a single person can potentially memorize information from a colossal heap of written pages, which would have to be kept in 20 million four-drawer office file cabinets.
Based on these findings, which have been deemed as a true “bombshell” for neuroscientists worldwide, study authors are hoping that the complexity of the human mind could now be mimicked in order to generate unprecedented advances in artificial intelligence.
The ultimate aim would be for researchers to develop energy-efficient, yet incredibly powerful probabilistic algorithms, that rely also on intuition and deep learning, instead of being driven just by pure logic.
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