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AstroChuck's avatar

Has anyone determined how much memory the human brain has?

Asked by AstroChuck (37378points) July 28th, 2008

Obviously our brains are an organic computer running software. All that we are is software, right? Now I know that I must zip some files that I don’t need handily, certain memories for example. Other files that I use on a daily basis must be kept in my cache memory and be instantly available to me. But there has to be a point where files must be deleted to make room for more, don’t you think? Has anybody heard of any study regarding memory space in the human brain? If so, have they have an idea as to how much?

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20 Answers

jlm11f's avatar

I don’t know about you Chuckie, but my brain has infinite memory space. But in general, i don’t use it at all, to keep the brain fresh and free from “rust” :D

ebenezer's avatar

there are people that can remember every detail of their life (not many), as annoying as that may be, so I imagine their is ample room for life as we know it.

ezraglenn's avatar

I heard somewhere that we have a bunch of terabytes.

PupnTaco's avatar

I forget.

Indy318's avatar

The human mind is an infinite resource, much more faster, deeper, and complex than any computer ever created, hopefully it stays that way.

AstroChuck's avatar

Not infinite.

marinelife's avatar

You might find this article interesting. (I did.) Here is an excerpt:

“Landauer reviewed and quantitatively analyzed experiments by himself and others in which people were asked to read text, look at pictures, and hear words, short passages of music, sentences, and nonsense syllables. After delays ranging from minutes to days the subjects were tested to determine how much they had retained. The tests were quite sensitive—they did not merely ask “What do you remember?” but often used true/false or multiple choice questions, in which even a vague memory of the material would allow selection of the correct choice. Often, the differential abilities of a group that had been exposed to the material and another group that had not been exposed to the material were used. The difference in the scores between the two groups was used to estimate the amount actually remembered (to control for the number of correct answers an intelligent human could guess without ever having seen the material). Because experiments by many different experimenters were summarized and analyzed, the results of the analysis are fairly robust; they are insensitive to fine details or specific conditions of one or another experiment. Finally, the amount remembered was divided by the time allotted to memorization to determine the number of bits remembered per second.

The remarkable result of this work was that human beings remembered very nearly two bits per second under all the experimental conditions. Visual, verbal, musical, or whatever—two bits per second. Continued over a lifetime, this rate of memorization would produce somewhat over 109 bits, or a few hundred megabytes. ”

Indy318's avatar

Infinite in the sense that you will always have enough empty neurons to squeeze in your last memories. Of course there is a biological limit but pratically I believe that people will probably never experience that limit. new memories are recorded while old and unused ones are forgotten. However this is just my educated guess on this subject and have no resources other than my memories themseleves.

klaas4's avatar

About 1kb for me.

Upward's avatar

I have the manual around here somewhere…...

joeysefika's avatar

Few Petabytes, Right up there with google

8lightminutesaway's avatar

Im pretty sure scientists aren’t even confident where memories are stored in our brains exactly, so you can’t really know how much memory space we have anyway. Certainly there are theories, and parts that have something to do with memory, but they’re not exactly sure. I don’t think I’d want to know if I had a memory limit anyway, that would be sort of discouraging. And I don’t think our brains are simply organic computers with special software. I think there is something more to it that computers will never have.

nikipedia's avatar

(@8lightminutesaway: Disagree. See below.)

What kind of memory are you talking about, AstroChuck? And are you interested in the average person, or in record-holders?

Most people’s working memory (what most people think of as “short term memory”) can hold seven plus or minus two items. (This is why phone numbers are seven digits long.) (This kind of memory is usually localized to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, but that can change.)

Long term memory can be further broken down into other categories. There’s memory for things like riding a bike and spelling “Mississippi”, and there’s memory for things like your first kiss or your favorite sunset. The former is stored primarily in your cerebellum, and the latter is stored throughout your cortex.

It would be difficult to quantify the amount of information a given brain can store because memory encoding, consolidation, and loss is a dynamic process. The different pieces of information stored in your memory are all linked together in a wonderful, fluid network, so how could we determine what constitutes one memorybyte, or whether it’s separate from the others around it?

You might find studies of eidetic (or “photographic”) memory interesting. I think Kim Peek, on whom the movie Rainman was based, is the most remarkable. He’s memorized over 12,000 books word for word.

8lightminutesaway's avatar

I was just reading some articles that said memories seemed to be stored in certain areas, but you cant prove that the memory is physically in that part of the brain, or if it just part of the pathway and its actually stored somewhere else. Personally, I support the zero point field memory theory (very interesting), but I’m not a psychologist :)

AstroChuck's avatar

I’m not necessarily talking about “memories” per se, but “memory” such as storage space.

mistersmartypants's avatar

The Human brain has three parts, one section is for short term memory, another is for long term memory and the third is in between both the other two. The third section controls basic functions, common sense, and regulates/ zips and unzips information between the short term and the long term. When you sleep the third part is ziping all the short term memory and converting it into long term memory, The reson we dream is because our mind is looking through the collective knowledge of our short term memory and this some times causes us to have seemingly random dreams. our brains can hold a huge amount of memory and some of the smartest people on earth suffer from heath complication because like a computer once they get dangerously close to filling there memory capacity they start having all sorts of strange problems. But don’t worry most of their problems are caused by a difficulty with zipping short term memory, this allow them to keep information fresh in their minds but when enough stores up it starts spreading to the other parts of the brain. every person’s memory capacity is different, but the normal person has enough room for three life times.

m2e_co's avatar

I would make this simple by giving you an Idea about what it means brain storage.
When you go out on a date with your girlfriend you can remember every single detail that happened that day before , during and after the date. What you were wearing what she was wearing the place you went to every single detail . you could recall everything that happened as if it was an extremely high definition recording but not just Video and audio, the smell , the weather her perfume what you were thinking how the food tasted how did you feel in your heart , with an extremely wide angle view , you can picture the whole place even if you weren’t looking that instance at what happened , you can even see yourself and your date in infinite different angles. even yourself as a third person.

So if we had an Xtreme Definition camera recording in every single angle plus a weather computer recording the weather , and another unknown types of recorders running simultaneously recording the thoughts , the smell, feelings… etc . recording that single little fleeting date . youd need Infinite storage media to store . and if you could squeez your mind a little bit you can remember and picturise everything you have passed by though your entire lives. it’s all stored in your mind using this super recording XD device. so I would say its infinite.

the way brain stores data isnt bits with ones and zeros. neither analog having infinite possible combiniations . it can picturize the data using little information about it . which storage media cant do at all.

let me give you some example:

Imagine a house

A door

Open that door and get into the hallway

rooms to your right and left

the walls and their painting

Enter a room

its a bedroom

stand on one hand

get up

open up the window and look out side

Now the idea behind this is when I gave you this little info I bet 80% of what you pictured was your own house. and the bedroom was your bedroom with the same bed the same decoration paint etc. the window and its view is you bedroom’s or some other bedroom you have visited before in a hotel or someplace… You probably never entered that house this way or done a hand stand before yet you pictured it in XD as if it was true using those little few lines of text info. this is how a brain stores data. X-Def video = few text lines = 100 bytes using a normal computer text processor.

in other terms a 100 byte in a brain = more than 10 GB of XD video on a computer. a simple word “lake” 4 letters 4 bytes you can picturize or imagine an infinite number of lakes more than 10 MegaPixels resolution. lets say this word gave you a picture of at least 100 different 10MP lakes = 1GB

how about storing a study textbook of 1 MB into your brain which is extremely the simplest thing your brain can do. it would need more than 268435456 GB of imaging storage on a normal computer . how about what you studied and what you can study and learn…

A silly study calculated brain capacity as a 10TB HDD so if this was based on plain text the human brain would really amaze me on how great it is

jackm's avatar

i know the brain has about 100 million MIPS worth of processing power. can’t tell you as far as memory

Effyouseekay's avatar

Well I know my fellow colleague Mr.Vanoplis, has roughly 2 bytes of memory in his brain.

pikipupiba's avatar

I heard it was on the magnitude of a couple hundred kilobytes. The reason we are able to store and do so much with that space is HOW our brain stores information.

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