Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Mega memory capacity

How soon will our brains fill up?

A new study by scientists at the Salk Institute published in eLife has generated studies around the world claiming: The human brain can store 10 TIMES as many memories as previously thought, says study (Daily Mail).

That's one petabyte of data, or 1 x 10^15 bytes (1 followed by 10 zeroes). One of the researchers (Terry Sejnowski) is quoted as saying this is the same ballpark as the World Wide Web.

The above report says: "One petabyte is about the same as about 20 million four-drawer filing cabinets filled with text or about the same as 13.3 years of HD-TV video."

The reason for the 10 fold increase (in my take on the research) is the researchers believe that the synapses that effectively code information can exist in 26 different sizes, instead of 3 (small, medium, large) as previously thought.

This finding comes from fine measurements of the volume of the synapse spine head in the rats brain investigated: "Spine head volumes ranged in size over a factor of 60 from smallest to largest while the coefficient of variation of volume of any given size was 0.083 and was constant across the range of sizes."

That's 26 different sizes, each with a tolerance of about 8%.

In a computer a byte of data coded in a semiconductor gate, or a magentic domain on a storage disk, exists in one of two states.

A synapse can exist in one of 26 states.

The researchers say this is equivalent to 4.7 bytes of data. A byte is either in the state 0 or 1; it has two states. Two raised to the power 4.7 = 2^4.7 = 26.

The theoretical storage capacity is staggering. Though we don't seem able to retrieve the contents of 20 million filing cabinets, I should at least be able to fill a few more years of mental calendars with memory tags in this process of remembering every day that passes.

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