Salk Institute

The human brain is as big as the Internet

The human brain can store 10 times more memory than previously thought—about 1 petabyte, or as much as the entire internet, according to a new study. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that scientists upped their estimate after discovering that rather than containing three types of synapses (shown with white arrows), neurons in rat brains can contain at least 26 different types. It’s like going from a binary system—where you can only use zeroes and ones—to being able to write with a whole alphabet. There’s more potential for meaning in each symbol. And in the case of this study, it means more potential for each synapse to store information. Scaling this discovery up to the size of a human brain gave the researchers their new 1-petabyte estimate, which they reported in the journal eLife. But this doesn’t mean your brain can store as many facts as the Internet. Your memory is limited not only by your brain’s total storage potential, but also by a factor researchers call “consolidation”: how quickly you can store memories.

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