What is the Memory Capacity of a Human Brain?

The human brain’s memory capacity in the average adult can store trillions of bytes of information. In a Stanford Study, it was reported that the cerebral cortex alone has 125 trillion synapses. In another study, it was reported that 1 synapse can store 4.7 bits of information. Neurons are the cells which processes and transmits messages within the brain, and synapses are the bridges between neurons which carry the transmitted messages.  Running the numbers – 125 trillion synapses – 4.7 bits/synapse, and about 1 trillion bytes equaling 1 TB (Terabyte).

This storage capacity is an amount over 74 Terabytes (just in the cerebral cortex alone)

If you have a fairly new computer, tablet, or smartphone, you understand the phrase “megabytes” and “gigabytes”, this knowledge might help put your brain’s immense information storage capacity into perspective.

Early-generation personal computers had – at best – a few megabytes of hard-drive information storage capability. That’s a few million pieces of digital memory – seemingly a lot at the time, but small by today’s standards.

For instance, it is not uncommon for today’s smart phones to have “gigabytes” (16GB, 64GB, 128GB) of memory capacity or more.

To put this in perspective, the computer onboard the first Apollo spacecraft that landed on the moon had an operating system with just 64 kilobytes (64 KB) of memory storage capability. The computer in that example could handle just over 64 thousand bytes, which is just over 64 thousand characters of information. Today, most digital toasters have more computing power than Apollo 11 had, and your average smartphone is literally light-years ahead the computer that guided and controlled that spaceship.

Bringing this back to the human brain, according to a 2010 article in Scientific American, the memory capacity of the human brain was reported to have the equivalent of 2.5 petabytes of memory capacity.  As a number, a “petabyte” means 1024 terabytes or a million gigabytes, so the average adult human brain has the ability to store the equivalent of 2.5 million gigabytes digital memory.

To put that in perspective, according to Computerworld, Yahoo – the Internet giant – has created a specially-built 2.0 petabyte “data warehouse”. Yahoo uses the immense information storage capacity of this data warehouse to analyze the behavior of its half-a-billion monthly visitors.  “It is not only the world’s single-largest database, but also the busiest”, the magazine reported.

By comparison, the IRS’s own massive data warehouse, which keeps track of 300-plus million Americans and many more million businesses, has the capacity of 150 terabytes of memory. Yet Yahoo’s 2.0 petabyte computational center, which can process 24 billion “events” a day, is a full 20 percent smaller than the capacity of a single human brain.

The human brain is indeed a marvel, with more capabilities than most of us can imagine.  As more studies are coming out – it is only a matter of time until we truly find out how much the human brain can store. The human brain and nervous system is prone to the same kinds of problems as any other part of our bodies, and we at CNS are here to help people manage – or return – their brain and nervous system to peak operational ability.

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