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10 Unforgettable Statistics about Human Memory

By Shelby Burr

Ever wonder how many "gigabytes" your brain could store if it were a computer? Scientists estimate that the answer would be equivalent to up to 2.5 million gigabytes of storage! That compares to the biggest hard drive to date—that is only 10,000 gigabytes. Not even a supercomputer comes slightly close to the capacity of the human brain. Read on below for some more mind blowing facts about the human memory. 

  1. Unless interested in a topic, most adults have an attention span of 20 minutes. Researchers estimate that the adult attention span has decreased by about 12 minutes in the past decade. It seems that our fast-paced lives and full reliance on technology has taken its toll.
  2. Short-term memory can hold up to 7 pieces of information at the same time... But only for around 20 seconds!
  3. According to a study conducted in 2001, left-handed people have better memories. This is because the corpus callosum (the white matter in the brain) in lefties is larger than that of right-handed people.
  4. Most memories adults have come from when we were between 15 and 25 years old. The "reminiscence bump" which is the tendency for older adults to remember events that occurred during their adolescent and early adult years, can account for 60% of all memories.
  5. It is possible to erase bad memories. Studies suggest that beta-blocker drugs interfere with the recollection of memories, especially, strong emotional memories related to trauma. Beta-blockers are prescribed to treat disorders like high blood pressure, migraines, angina and various heart problems. But, it may be that magical pill used to erase those terrible memories.
  6. Why can't we remember what happened the previous night, after playing too much drinking games? Alcohol has a negative role in our memory and prevents the brain from transferring information into long-term memories.
  7. Over the course of a lifetime, scientists estimate that the modern human brain will hold up to 1 quadrillion pieces of information. To give up a better idea, a quadrillion is 1,000,000,000,000,000!
  8. You have an average of 70,000 thoughts in a day. Not to think that the brain shuts down while sleeping, dreaming takes more brain activity than any waking function.
  9. Visual memory of eye-witnesses is notoriously inaccurate. Of 235 wrongful convictions in the United States, 75% were a result of an unreliable eyewitness.
  10. The brain's hippocampus (not hippopotamus!) plays a significant role in transforming short-term memories into long-term ones. It is a small horseshoe-shaped area in the brain, present symmetrically on both sides of the brain. It declines with time and by the age of 80, 20% of its nerve connections can be lost. If one side of the hippocampus is damaged, it won't affect memory at all. However, damages to both sides will stop the storage of any new memories!

With 86 billion neurons, 400 miles of capillaries, 100 thousand miles of axons (enough to circle the earth 4 times), more than 10 trillion synapses, the human brain is truly a fascinating organ. And every day, scientists discover a new wonder hidden within the wrinkles of our brain!

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