I am reminded of a Far Side cartoon by Gary Larson, in which a student raised his hands and asked, “Mr. Osborne, may I be excused? My brain is full.” The question is how much can our brain hold before it gets full?
Our brains are capable of extremely large amounts of information — many times more than our computer can hold in ram space (and we don’t have to reboot in order to free up some space).
According to Paul Reber, professor of psychology at Northwestern University, “If your brain worked like a digital video recorder in a television, 2.5 petabytes would be enough to hold three million hours of TV shows. You would have to leave the TV running continuously for more than 300 years to use up all that storage.”
The human brain contains approximately one hundred billion neurons, which each form about 1,000 connections to other neurons (over 100 trillion synapse connections). These neurons work together to increase the brain’s memory storage to what could amount to, in computer comparison, to 2 million gigabytes. It doesn’t look like we have to worry about running out of space in our lifetime!
It is impossible to calculate the space of our brains, primarily because we don’t know how to measure the size of a memory. Add to that the fact that some memories take up more space than others, some are forgotten and space is freed up, and some are simply not saved at all.
One man in Cambridgeshire, England tried, as a fun experiment, to calculate the size of the brain’s capacity for connections alone. After a series of mathematical calculations his conclusion was: “The final figure is the amount of DVD’s it would take to ‘make a backup’ of someone’s brain is 3.2 million DVD’s (4.7 gb). That’s 555 years of DVD quality video.”
Of course our brain is not a computer — it is actually much more complex. We don’t store information the same way, but to a layman the comparison is the closest we will ever get to understanding the concept of storage space and how our brains work. A computer people who are technically inclined can actually understand — after all they were created by humans. The human brain is still an enigma, and something scientists will continue to study forever, because as soon as they discover how one part may work they are given another area they have not seen before to gather information about.
The answer to the question, How Much Can Our Brain Hold? is — the world may never know!
From the Desk of Ron White, memory speaker
Scientific American — What is the Memory Capacity of the Human Brain? http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=what-is-the-memory-capacity
Entheogen.com — How Much Information Can The Human Brain Store? http://www.entheogen.com/forum/showthread.php?t=10413