Theoretical storage capacity of human brain depends on what capacity we are measuring, either storing or processing. This division is important because storage capacity of human brain works differently in both.
This is a trick question especially since we’re comparing a brain with a computer: It depends of what kind of capacity we are talking about. If we mean the capacity for storing information, then it is estimated that the brain can hold around 2 petabytes of information, this is an average and a wild guess, since the brain can modify and erase information it no longer uses.
The main problem here is that since it is recognized that the brain has different types of memory and each memory has very different ways of “storing” information, the petabyte answer might not be accurate.
For example, our working memory, which could be interpreted as an analogue of sorts for the CPU’s RAM, is somewhat limited. We usually can only retain 5-8 items in there, that’s why when someone gives you his or her phone number is actually easier if the numbers are gruped in batches. This is ambigous because a single number and a batch of numbers occupy the same category as “items” even if the batch actually has more data.
This is because mostly of the time we store working memory in procedural, visual or phonologic ways. A phone number is usually told so is very common for it to be stored in a phonological way, and each item can be a single word or phrase.
By this paradigm a phone number could be interpreted as series of audio files stored in a cpu’s RAM, which either compressed or not, might be a few MB. The process is similar with visual cues and with procedural (i.e. motion) memory.
For long term memory is even more ambiguos, since we have many types of long term memory. The most common types we try to measure are episodic and declarative. Episodic memory are what we call memories or remberances, while declarative memory is usually raw data we store such as facts, knowledge, etc. When comparing a brain to a computer we could compare episodic memory as interactive videos and declarative memory as text files.
The problem arises however with brain plasticity, since every type of memory (declarative, working, episodic, procedural, conditional, etc.) can be developed with constant use and training. So even when we’re measuring memory we’re actually expanding it.
If you mean the capacity to process information, this is even more complex to measure, since our brain can process information without us being consciuos of it, which makes it really hard to do measure and interpret. As of now, our top capacity to perceive and process and image and be conscious of it, takes about 13 milliseconds. which by todays computer standards would be taking a picture, storing it and then determine what is in the picture, which does take more than 13 milliseconds.
Storage capacity of human brain; does the human brain have a limited amount of memory?
There is absolutely a maximum, simply because neurons have a limited number of ways of storing information, and there are a limited number of neurons. They aren’t magical, so there is 100% guaranteed a maximum. Just like there’s an information maximum to any given CD, hard drive, clay tablet, book, or any other storage device.
As for how much the maximum is, the main problem in answering that is that there’s no clear UNITS to human memories or ways to easily measure number of units per memory, yet at least. How many neurons? Who knows / depends on the current model you consider most convincing / and also one could be involved in multiple memories at once. How many synapses? Same thing, could be part of a whole network that is re-used when recalling more than one memory. We have almost no idea how many individual neurons are involved in a memory, how redundant they are, or other highly specific information like that. So we therefore cannot calculate a quantitative maximum amount that makes sense. Even though we can know there definitely IS a maximum.
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