The human brain has been baffling neuroscientists ever since there was a science to talk about. Sure, they make new discoveries every day, but just like with the Universe, the largest part remains a mystery. Seeming to help solve the large mystery but not actually doing so, at least not yet, the most recent of these discoveries is that the entire internet could fit inside a human brain.
How much can humans actually remember?
As it turns out, according to the team of scientists behind the project, a human brain holds a capacity 10 times larger than previously thought.
This means that it holds a storage capacity of at least one petabyte (1000 TB or 1 million GB), basically at least as much as the entirety of the internet.
Previous data linked the number of synapses in a person’s brain to their amount of memory “storage space”.
But after the new study, the researchers found that instead of “just a few”, there might realistically be at least 26 different types of synapses.
This would mean that each synapse in particular can hold about 4.7 bits of information, much more than previously believed, which is 1 for short term memory, and 2 for long term.
So not only do we remember more because of the higher number of synapses, but also because of the larger storage capacity of the individual synapses.
Synapses and neurons – how do they work?
Synapse between neurons form complex structures in the brain – in the hippocampus to be more exact – which control the flow of information.
Basically, synapses are electrical currents going between two neurons’ axons (responsible for output) and dendrites (responsible for input).
The numbers and sizes of the synapses are what determine how much a person can remember.
Reconstructing a rat’s hippocampus in 3D
For the study, the team of researchers reconstructed a 3D model of a rat’s hippocampus as detailed as possible.
With computer algorithms and advanced microscopy, the team recreated the rat brain’s connectivity, its shape, its surface area, and its volume with a nanomolecular precision, and found out something unexpected.
There are a lot more synapses and synapse types than previously thought, so much more that the researchers were initially at a loss regarding what was going on.
This is what led them to determine that humans can remember about 10 times as much as previously thought.
The huge number of synapses and the larger than thought amount of data that can be stored in a single one of them might just bring forth a new level of understanding the human brain.
Image source: DeviantArt