If we would compare our brains to a computer, when we apply the idea that human brains’ memory capacity may be 10 times greater than previously thought, discovered by Salk researchers, our capacity would be of one petabyte. In laymen’s terms, this capacity is capable of storing the entire Library of Congress four times.
This discovery was made after the researchers mapped out the hippocampus of a rat in 3D. The team found that one neuron axon would send two dendritic connections to another. Simply put, a piece of information would be copied by the first one and would be sent twice to the second one. The accuracy of the copies was found to be of 92%.
Due to this similarity between the two dendritic connections, the team was spurred further into their investigation. What they found could very well change how we see the human brain. Up to this study, it was believed that synapses, the connection between two neurons, would be one of three types. But the Salk team found that synapses have 26 different sizes, the equivalent of 4.7 bits of data in each synapse.
This effectively shows how our brain can function efficiently while using the power equivalent of a dimming light bulb, 20 watts. Because the reliability of a firing neuron is fairly low, between 20% and 30%, the brain uses the two dendritic copies and the 26 different sizes of synapses to conduct network prioritization. Simply put, the brain decides what information is important enough to get passed at fast speeds through the network.
Besides this finding’s application in the domain of neuroscience, this method of storing and sending information through different networks can be applied to computers in order to give them an increased efficiency while lowering their power input. True, the study still has to advance a long way before this can be applied effectively in computer science, but it still marks itself as the first step towards creating a computer that requires only 20 watts but has the capacity and efficiency of a human brain.
Although the study states that human brains’ memory capacity may be 10 times greater than previously thought, with the team claiming that one brain can store the entire World Wide Web, their statements are still somewhat overzealous. Just the amount of information stored between Google and Amazon is of about 2,500 petabytes. But this does not mean that one petabyte is something to be ignored.