02 May 2012

How Many Megabytes of Data Can the Human Brain Contain?

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A North Korean slur on the intelligence of South Korea’s president led Slate’s Explainer to consult the experts and provide some thoughts on the actual storage capability of the human brain.

Most computational neuroscientists tend to estimate human storage capacity somewhere between 10 terabytes and 100 terabytes, though the full spectrum of guesses ranges from 1 terabyte to 2.5 petabytes. (One terabyte is equal to about 1,000 gigabytes or about 1 million megabytes; a petabyte is about 1,000 terabytes.)

The math behind these estimates is fairly simple. The human brain contains roughly 100 billion neurons. Each of these neurons seems capable of making around 1,000 connections, representing about 1,000 potential synapses, which largely do the work of data storage. Multiply each of these 100 billion neurons by the approximately 1,000 connections it can make, and you get 100 trillion data points, or about 100 terabytes of information.

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3 Feedbacks on "How Many Megabytes of Data Can the Human Brain Contain?"

Bill Ivers

A much more interesting question is how much data is required to store the genetic program to create the brain?
The data difference in the genome for a monkey and a man could fit onto a flash drive. The program that defines Windows is much larger.
Such a tiny program evolves into a 100 trillion bit brain during growth through a process of emergence.



Maggie's Farm

Friday morning links…

How many megabytes of data can the brain contain? Elizabeth Warren and the Tragedy of Modern Liberalism Jim Manzi’s new book is a powerful indictment of political central planning. Jon Will’s gift When Stalinism Was in Vogue – Lillian Hellman dis…



PacRim Jim

I’m skeptical about the terabytes figure. At times scenes from long ago pop into my head unbidden, scenes I had no idea I recalled because they seem pedestrian in content. It’s tempting to think that almost everything that ever happened in my conscious mind over the decades is stored–at least fragmentarily–which would take more than terabytes.



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