Everything we see, touch, smell, hear and taste is assimilated into our brain’s memory – whether it is short term or long term. Your brain is the processing center for your entire body and it constantly active, even when you are not. It works on your conscious level as well as your unconscious level, and actually works harder to make short-term memory long-term memory as we sleep.

We often are able to recall incidents that happened to us decades later, yet can’t recall a conversation we had just yesterday. As we learn we add new neuro-connections, which form a synapse (new connection) to others, and each of these neurons connects to thousands of others. It is the most complex system within our framework of knowledge, and every day new things are discovered as to how it works, and what portions are used to create our thoughts, movements, feelings and memories.

So, the question is: Is there an end to our brain’s capacity? The answer would have to be – there may be a limit, but we will never find it. We add connections as we learn, we lose connections as we age or through lack of use, and our brain is constantly in motion. There is no definite way to gauge how much our capacity is because there is no way to measure a memory, and all memories do not take up as much space as others.

Progression of our brain's capacity over time.

Our brains are capable of processing extremely large amounts of information – many times more than our computer can hold in ram space. According to Paul Reber, professor of psychology at Northwestern University, “If your brain worked like a digital video recorder in a television, 2.5 petabytes would be enough to hold three million hours of TV shows. You would have to leave the TV running continuously for more than 300 years to use up all that storage.”

The human brain contains approximately one hundred billion neurons, which each form about 1,000 connections to other neurons (over 100 trillion synapse connections).  These neurons work together to increase the brain’s memory storage to what could amount to, in computer comparison, to 2 million gigabytes. It doesn’t look like we have to worry about running out of space in our lifetime!

Of course our brain is not a computer – it is actually much more complex. We don’t store information the same way, but to a layman the comparison is the closest we will ever get to understand the concept of storage space and how our brains work.

I am called to mind the old Tootsie Roll Pop commercial, where the owl is asked, “How many licks does it take to get to the end of a Tootsie Roll Pop…one…two…gulp…The world will never know.” That’s what it’s like to know how much our brain is able to process – the world will never know, and many people have tried.

This was a fun question, and one that will probably never be answered. So, the next time your child says their brain is full and they can’t do any more homework, tell them to take a break and reboot to clear up more space.

From the desk of Ron White, memory speaker.



Scientific American – What is the Memory Capacity of the Human Brain? http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=what-is-the-memory-capacity

Entheogen.com – How Much Information Can The Human Brain Store? http://www.entheogen.com/forum/showthread.php?t=10413