Neuroscientists: Your Memory Bank is Just as Big as the World Wide Web

The Internet is a big, virtual place, but your memory bank might give it a run for its money.

A new study published by researchers from the Salk Institute has discovered that the memory capacity of the brain is 10 times more than originally thought. In technical terms, it is in the “petabyte range,” which means that it could be as large as the entire World Wide Web.

brain, health, mind“This is a real bombshell in the field of neuroscience,” says Terry Sejnowski, Salk professor and co-senior author of the paper, which was published in eLife. “œWe discovered the key to unlocking the design principle for how hippocampal neurons function with low energy but high computation power. Our new measurements of the brain’s memory capacity increase conservative estimates by a factor of 10 to at least a petabyte, in the same ballpark as the World Wide Web.

Researchers used advanced microscopy and computational algorithms to analyze rat brains. From here, they were able to learn  more about the shapes, volumes and surface areas of their brains. Additionally, they could closely examine synapses, which are junctions where branches of neurons interact and form memories.

“The implications of what we found are far-reaching,” Sejnowski continued. “Hidden under the apparent chaos and messiness of the brain is an underlying precision to the size and shapes of synapses that was hidden from us.”

So what else might you not already know about your memory and the power of your brain? Here are some interesting fast facts for you, courtesy of LiveScience.

Doorways can play a big role in your memory. When you walk into or leave a room, your brain registers this as a hint that a lot has changed, including scenery. Researchers often refer to doorways as “event boundaries,” which can impact your memory over time.

“Entering or exiting through a doorway serves as an ‘event boundary’ in the mind, which separates episodes of activity and files them away,” Gabriel Radvansky, a psychologist at the University of Notre Dame, told LiveScience. “Recalling the decision or activity that was made in a different room is difficult because it has been compartmentalized.”

Some activities may cause memory loss. Temporary memory loss (or “brain fog”) can occur at random, but researchers are still working to identify the exact cause of these incidences. So far, sex has been one of the main activities identified by experts.

Our brains may purposely forget our infancy. There’s a reason why you don’t remember being a baby — our brains may be responsible for it. Recent researchers believe that the developing brain wipes out stored memories when new cells are generated.


“Memory capacity of brain is 10 times more than previously thought.” Salk Institute. January 20, 2016.

Bartol, Thomas. “Nanoconnectomic upper bound on the variability of synaptic plasticity.” eLife. November 30, 2015.

Gholipour, Bahar. “Why You Forget: 5 Strange Facts About Memory.” LiveScience. April 18, 2014.

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