This Explains A Lot

Some days I almost can't remember my own kids' names

The mysteries of the brain may be virtually endless, but a team of researchers from two institutes in Göttingen, Germany now claim to have an answer for at least one question that has remained a puzzle: just how fast does the brain forget information? According to the new model of brain activity that the researchers have devised, the answer to that is one bit per active neuron per second. As Fred Wolf of the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization further explains, that "extraordinarily high deletion rate came as a huge surprise," and it effectively means that information is lost in the brain as quickly as it can be delivered -- something the researchers say has "fundamental consequences for our understanding of the neural code of the cerebral cortex."

  • Hasdrubal

    I didn't know our model of how knowledge is stored in the brain was advanced far enough to define "bits" of storage.

    On the other hand, it makes sense that a tremendous amount of information is lost very quickly: Look at all the information that is coming in. I'm sitting in a relatively quiet environment at work and can hear a song on a neighbor's radio, catch snatches of two or three conversations, see three or four people moving around, have at least three applications on my monitor that I'm keeping an eye on, etc. etc. etc. If the brain actually stored all that transitive stuff for any amount of time, I can't even begin to imagine the physical storage capacity we would need.

    After all, while it's handy to remember that a guy walked past me 5 minutes ago, I don't really need to know what he was holding and what color his shirt was 10 minutes from now. It's sort of like the jobs created and jobs lost numbers in the economy, information is constantly being forgotten, but the same type of information is also constantly being observed.