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Author Topic: How much memory does a brain have? How much information can it store?  (Read 25941 times)

Offline Seany

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I wonder how big my brain's memory is!!
I can remember back to when I was 3-4 years old.. And no, it wasn't from a photo or a video. Or someone telling me about it.

And how come, when you look at a photo, it's got crisp edges and perfect detail.

But your past memories are all vivid and blur? I can't remember faces with perfect detail!

Has my brain compressed the memories so that I can remember more?
Or has it done that so I gradually lose my memories? Otherwise memories would torment us for life!
Very cunning this brain of mine!

How much memory, in terms of computer size, is my brain capable of holding?

10tb? Or can we not put it in terms of computer data size?
« Last Edit: 05/04/2008 10:48:27 by chris »


 

Offline Karen W.

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What are Tb... tablespoons??? some kind of byte I have not heard of?
 

Offline Seany

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TeraByte ;D

It's 1000Gb.
 

Offline Karen W.

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Thank you.. I have learned something new! YAYYYYYYYYYYY!
 

Offline Seany

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Offline DoctorBeaver

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It's almost impossible to put a figure on it in computer memory terms. In a linear (conventional) computer, each byte can hold only 1 of 2 values (0 or 1) & each byte is discrete insofar as its content and action is not dependent on the value of any other byte. Memory in the brain doesn't work like that.

There are approximately 100 billion neurons (brain cells) in the adult human brain and they are intricately linked. Some are associated with memory, others with autonomic functions such as breathing, yet others serve different purposes again. Those that are associated with memory are intricately linked to many others (up to 10,000) and each 1 can participate in many memories.

Even if as few as 1% of neurons are associated with memory, that means an effective 1 billion x 10,000 connections (10,000,000,000,000). If each connection of each neuron = 1 part of a memory, that equates to 10 thousand terabytes. However, it's not quite as simple as that.

It is thought that neurons can participate in different memories as a result of the levels of neurotransmitters they produce at any given time. So, not only can each neuron connect to 10,000 others, but they can affect those others differently depending on the level of neurotransmitter they produce. It is almost beyond imagination how complicated such a network is, and how many possible memories it could store.

I'm not a neuroscientist, so I have given a very simplistic explanation which others here may take exception to. However, I think it gives a rough idea of the difficulty of answering your question.
 

Offline Seany

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Wow.. That's some detail!
So would your guess be that its more than 10,000 terabytes?
But our memories are not crisp?.. Not fine pixels etc..!
And I'm not even sure if they're colour..

Is the difficulty of answering my question because it cannot really be put into computer memory terms? Or that the brain cells are complicated, and we don't know how many of them are for memory purposes?
 

Offline Make it Lady

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A lot of people can remember things from the age of 3 or 4. I have lots of memories from around that time. What I find interesting is our concept of time. memories before the age of about four are random. We can't really make sense of the time frame the memories came from and then suddenly, for me it was at age 4 on a holiday to Bristol to see relatives, we have linear memories that we can order in a time line. It seems we have to learn the concept of time.
 

Offline Seany

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Yup.. Mine is random too.. It is me playing with a friend in an appartment..
 

lyner

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The thing about 'memories' is that each time you take them out and polish them, you modify them a bit. There is no way to be sure that any of our memories are truly accurate and the same as the memory we had just after the event. It may 'feel' genuine and, in a way, it is because it's how you remember it.
The only really reliable memories are those which are associated with rote learning; like when someone learns the whole Quoran off by heart in a language which they can't even understand (fantastic feat but not uncommon). In that case it is constantly being referred to 'hard evidence' and maintained in the right direction.
So many of our early memories are augmented by input from people who were adults at the time, photos and recorded material.
The time-line idea could well be a learned thing; some events just 'have to' be in a certain order - like cause and effect. We edit such things post hoc, to make them make sense, I'm sure.
 

Offline Seany

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I agree.

But for things such as prepared speeches, or your lines to a play. They aren't altered. But gradually, as you give no thought to them.. You can't remember the perfect words to your speech or the lines to your old play.

What makes them gradually fade away?
 


Offline Seany

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Thanks.. Wow you have a very big memory! :D
 

Offline veronicathe curious

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my memories are in color. I remember vividly a dream I had when I was 3-5 years old. It has bothered me my whole life. I know I had been dreaming all night, but the part I remember was in sepia, my sister was chasing me down an old downtown city street. I remember running past buildings. There was a door, I couldn't go in, it had no handle, so I ran past a big window to the next door. I pulled open the door and ran into the shop. It was dark and dusty and there were tables and what looked like antique's everywhere. I looked back and my sister was coming in, so I looked around, I saw the exit, the door I first saw that I couldn't get in to begin with, I headed for it, I had to jump over this highback chair. Suddenly an old woman appeared in the chair and gave a wicked grin, then pointed at me, then stabbed me in the back with her finger. I woke up but strangely, my back still hurt. I had to arch my back to make the pain stop.

and no, it wasn't a spring in my bed. I had dreams of being stabbed in the back many times after that, but none as memorable as that one. I always felt like it meant something because it felt more like a real memory than a dream. My mother said I had never even been in an antique shop when I was little, so where did I get those images from?

I remember more dreams than real events. I can remember dreaming the devil took over sesame street and was manipulating the minds of children, I woke up with scratches all over my back and that's no joke. My mom blamed the cat, but I don't think the cat would scratch me without me waking up. Plus he was lazy and I was on the top bunk, he couldn't get up there without my help. I was between 5-9 when I had that dream. I can't remember exactly when it was. I'm not a religious person so I don't know where that idea came from. Sometimes I think something is wrong with me because of how much dreaming I do. Sometimes I start dreaning before my eyes are even fully closed. Sometimes I have dreams where I don't know for sure if I'm awake or asleep. I use to have really intense dreams that I'd wake up and the world was spinning, I got this weird feeling like my mouth was full and I was the size of maybe an ant next to a skyscraper, but I didn't get a visual, only the intense feeling, but it was more like flying toward it than sitting next to it. It's kind of hard to describe. But it only happened when the fan was on. Creepy thing about that fan is, years later when I was 12 or 13, it was a hot day and I wanted to go turn the fan on and sit next to it. I looked at the floor and was daydreaming as I walked toward it, suddenly I realized it was on...I looked up, I looked over at my sister who was about 10 feet away getting dressed in her room. I said "did you just turn that on?" she said "no, I thought you did". We both felt really confused. We looked at it, it was set to medium. I turned it off. I looked it over, found the plug and, no lie, it wasn't even plugged in. So I plugged it in and tried to turn it back on. Medium wouldn't work at all, only high and low would. It was just TOO creepy. I know this is about memory and not about creepy stuff, I just thought it was strange and I have always wondered about it. I don't think I believe in ghosts. I have no idea what to think about it all.

But yeah, I didn't mean to get so sidetracked, lol.
 

Offline LeeE

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DrB - I just thought I'd point out that a single 'bit' can hold one of two values.  A 'byte' commonly consists of eight bits, so a typical 8-bit byte can represent one of 256 different values.

However, bytes can be made up of fewer bits - the first computers I worked on used 6 bit bytes.  There's also a 'nibble', which is generally regarded as half a byte, but when used can hold two four bit values i.e. from a range of 16 possible values, in a single 8 bit byte.
 

lyner

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I have a TeraBle memory!
I do, however, remember the first computer I used. It was an Elliot 803. It used a 39bit word size! It could be split into two 18 bit instructions with an extra bit which could modify the second half with the result from the first half.
It had its own air conditioned room and used 35mm (magnetic) sound film for its bulk storage.
« Last Edit: 24/06/2008 09:36:38 by sophiecentaur »
 

Offline LeeE

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Groan :D

39bit words are pretty whacky - never met any of those.  Closest thing that I ever worked on were Sperry 36bit systems - they had 6x6bit words, which could map to 2x18 bit but afaik, they didn't do the extra bit modification.

The only way I can make sense of 39bit words is by 3x12bit chars + parity, but I can't think of any 12bit character encodings.

Mind you, there were some pretty strange & clever things tried out in the earlier days of computing.

Heh - most 'computer-rooms' were sealed environments, with false floors and a/c when I started...  There was the story of one op' who lifted a few floor tiles, opened the delivery doors (the kit was so big and heavy that many computer rooms had direct access doors to the road outside for getting the stuff in) and drove his Mini in to do some car maintenance underneath it.
 

Offline johnbrandy

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How much memory does the brain have? Memory is defined as "the mental faculty by which sensations, impressions, and ideas are recalled". Besides long and short term memory, there is auditory, visual, kinesthetic, motor, remote, replacement memory, and so on. Therefore, how much memory does the brain have, is an open ended question. I suspect the question refers to, what I'm calling, simple memory: long and short term memory. There are probable theories, based on what science presently understands about brain structure; as it relates to memory capacity, and well as psychoneurological  studies. I have not read them. I do know that the brain is an organic structure, unlike computers. To compare the human brains capacity to recall, to a computer's memory, is to argue a degree of understanding, not as yet achieved. Memory is a more qualitative instrument, than a quantitative instrument.The actual capacity of the brains memory is undefined, and undefinable, in terms  of any established science. If the actual capacity of the brains memory was well defined, science would have demonstrated a definite comprehension of the neurological underpinnings of memory. It has not, based on my reading. Such would be a monumental achievement, and widely published. The capacity of the brain to remember, must be weighed against the need to "forget" and eliminate that which is perceived as irrelevant, or false. As well, and in a similar vain, the various components of memory serve different needs, and memory styles. Moreover, memory capacity depends upon individual ability, early training, motivation, grounding, "brain health", and undefined factors. Yet, reasonably measuring  the brains optimal capacity to recall, requires   an exacting and competent science, at present, not realized.           
« Last Edit: 24/06/2008 02:41:20 by johnbrandy »
 

lyner

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lee
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The only way I can make sense of 39bit words is by 3x12bit chars + parity, but I can't think of any 12bit character encodings.
A single 18 bit instruction consisted of two (octal) characters describing the operation followed by an address (8192 locations, max - magnetic core memory).
Data was stored as 39 bit integer or 39 bit floating point (8 bit exponent). Well, it's one way of doing it! Then they brought in those new-fangled Bytes and things.
 

Offline LeeE

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Ah right - interesting.

The first systems I worked on had core store too, although a bit more than that - 32K words, IIRC.  That was an ICL 1901.
 

lyner

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We moved on to use a Univac 1108(?), on line, which was extremely sexy with a magnetic drum store and everything. I think they even used Bytes!
 

Offline LeeE

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I never saw any 1108s but we had an 1144 when I was at BP, which iirc had four computational nodes and two IO nodes - that was a big beastie, and had drums too.  Very big drums - we had a small team of Univac engineers permanently on-site for planned maintenance and to handle breakdowns and one day, when one of the engineers went to stop one of the drums for scheduled maintenance, it's brake failed - took quite a few hours before it eventually stopped, although a bit less than the twelve hours or so they were expecting.

They were the 36bit systems I worked on.
 

Offline Alan McDougall

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Well you guys have covered most of it, But remember the brain does not just hold information, thoughts and pictures in its enormous capacity. The unconscious system that controls how all our organs works including the brain is controlled by the brain every moment of our lives or we would promply die..

Is a computer intelligent? No it had no more intelligence than a doornob.

Think the Space Shuttle, possibly the most complex machine on earth. The humble cockroach it is unimaginably more complex and  and by comparison the Space Shuttle is just a mindless dead thing

 Alan
« Last Edit: 25/06/2008 21:23:39 by Alan McDougall »
 

Offline JonBoy

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your brain cells are dying all the time,but by the time you are 26, 1.679 % of your brain cells will have died,  so you can go on for 3 lifetimes without havingany noticeable memory loss. 
 

Offline gbristow

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Seany,I think that human brain has more memory than computer because computer was invented by human brain. Human brain has negotiable skills where as the computer will work according to the instructions.
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