Brain Capacity?

F. Frank LeFever flefever at
Mon Mar 10 22:38:55 EST 1997

In <5fvtvq$1rg at News.Dal.Ca> ak057 at (Shane Markle) writes:

>I recently heard of a calculation of the general amount of information

>stored in a human brain, represented in bits, and need to know what
>capacity is.  If anyone has the figures, would they please email them
>me at aa642 at  It's needed to settle an
>Thank you in advance.

(1) no one knows how info is stored in the brain (I repeat: no one), so
one cannot calculate it rationally--e.g. by estimating the number of
cells and their interconnections and their dendritic spines and their
multilevel (non-discharge) graded states, etc., etc., etc.

(2) no one, so far as I know has approached this problem "empirically",
e.g. by extraplating from behavioral samples, except in a very limited
realm.  Last week, at the NY Academy of Sciences (Linguistics Section
meeting), Steven Pinker of MIT reminded us of studies in which people
sampled a large dictionary (e.g., every 10th word on every 5th page) to
form vocabulary tests, yielding estimates of the total vocabulary of
high school students.  If you can think of a way of randomly sampling
EVERY POSSIBLE KIND of info, maybe you can come up with an estimate of
how much your subjects have "stored"..

Otherwise, look for a more meaningful problem.  (This is the modern
version of the old solemnly believed "fact" that we only use "10%" of
our brains--or was it "80%"? or--?  Whatever.

Frank LeFever
New York Neuropsychology Group

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