Human Brain / Memory

The brain in our body is considered a command centre, the CPU of our body. It controls body actions –  receives and provide information. One section of the brain is used to store information and is known as Memory. Medical researchers have proved that the brain develops as our body develops in mother’s womb. Is the memory preloaded with some information at the time of birth of a baby or all the information is collated after the birth? Do we use the whole of our memory or only a portion of it? Why do we forget major part of what we received (by reading, seeing or hearing)? In this write up we, as non-medical community, will try to look at these aspects.

Before attempting the above questions let us see how our brain acts as a command centre. We all know that different parts of out body and sensors are connected to the brain by nerves system. If your hand touch a hot surface, skin sensor sends the hot warning to the brain which in turn analyses the signals and finds the hand must move away from hot surface, it sends instructions to the hand muscles to move the hand away and it is moved away. All these happen in flash of a moment we feel as if the hand moved just by reflex action.

Let us take another example. Our eyes see an object, our anxiousness is keen to know what it is: both image and question mark reach the brain which in turn explores the memory and see if it has the answer. If it has the information then it sends the response back to the medium as the output is desired –  to the hand if the brain sensed the output is to be written, – to the tongue it is to be spoken etc.  Similarly, if we see an object and read / see information about it then the memory will update the information in its store. These are some examples of simple tasks. Same logic may be applied to any of our acts.

Brain Capacity

Like in any computer, memory is the key component in our brain. But the capacity of human memory is enormous. According to various researches carried out in medical field the capacity of our memory is 2.5 Petabytes (2500 Terabytes or 2,500,000 Gigabytes). It can hold MP3 recording for 5000 years’ duration or TV recording for a duration of 300 years. For the argument sake we may say, “so what, the storage capacity of Google as on date is around 1450 Exabytes” (One Exabyte is 1000 Petabytes or 1 million Terabytes or 1 billion Gigabytes). But the storage capacity of Google is a result of very large numbers of servers bridged together and our brain is single unit and minutely small in size as compared to those servers. Hence the comparison of the two is not logical.

Another interesting aspect is power needed. Our brain needs only 20 watts of current provided by our body for its functioning. This is a very small fraction of the current that would be required to run the hard disk bridge of say 100 Terabytes not to talk about the brain matched capacity.

An average human brain consists of about 100 billion electro-chemical signalling cells called Neurons and many more other cells called Galil-Cells. Each neuron may be connected with as many as 10000 other neurons and pass information among them via Synapses. The memory data in the brain is stored in the Neurons spread across the brain.

Do we really use so much of memory? Practically speaking no, and you will also agree with me. According to old but unauthentic statements we use only a minute part of our memory. Some researches in medical field suggest that our brain uses only 1% of the neurons that constitute our brain. But the researchers do not say for sure if it amounts to using only 1% of our memory. I leave it to readers to think of how much part of memory an average person uses.

Some medical research indicate that our brain has three types of memories Sensory, Sort-Term and Long-Term. Sensory memory is the shortest memory and may be compared with the Buffer in a computer. According to one research this shortest term memory can handle 5 – 9 pieces of information at a time. Anything more than that is spilled over. But another research puts a cap of 4 pieces of information.

Information of what we see, hear, read etc. comes into the short term memory area from sensory memory. From short term memory area, the information is passed on to long term memory area for storage and retention. We tend to forget a large chunk of information in a short while. This is because of the overflow of short term memory. For example, if we are listening a lecture in hall or classroom the information both from ears and eyes continuously flows in thus flooding the short term memory area. Hence within no time we forget a sizeable portion of what we heard. Hence in order to retain more n more information we should do the information intake very slowly. This explains why we memorise our reading better when done in isolated and peaceful environment than at a noisy place.

Examples of extra-ordinary mental capabilities

One may, however, train one’s mind to have extended short term memory thus reducing the info loss. This may be done by meditation, increasing our concentration and focus and off course continued practice. A classic example is Chao Lu of China. He was 24 years old when he created history in 2005. He memorised and uttered a string of 67980 digits. It took Chao 24 hours continuously uttering the digits. It was a world record.

People might have not forgotten Ms Shakuntala Devi (4th Nov 29 – 21st Apr 2013). Her mental calculation abilities were tested world over. Prof Arthur Jensen of University of California studied her calculation abilities and extensively tested her on calculations of various complexities. He specifically mentioned two very complex calculations done mentally by her had gave her result even before Jensen could write his answer in the notebook.  In a demonstration in June 1980 she was presented for multiplication of two 13-digit numbers. These numbers were randomly picked up by the Computer Department of Imperial College of London. She answered it in 28 seconds and won a place in Guinness Book of Records.

Memories stored in heart also?

Many a times we hear people suggesting to listen to one’s heart as well and just don’t go by what the brain suggests to do? I am sure you would have come across such a situation many a times in your life. It seemed a contradiction as we were given to believe that our memories are stored in our brain. Later when the heart transplant became a reality many cases came to light where the person who had undergone the heart transplant demonstrated behavioural changes. In some cases, those changes were traced back by some enterprising people to the behaviors of the person whose heart had been transplanted.

Some recent researches carried out in the field of medical science also indicate that the neurons in the heart also store the memory. These tend to prove the age old notion to listen to heart as well.

Human memory pre-loaded or empty at birth

When we buy a new computer it comes with at least a basic software called the operating system. Without it the computer will not work at all.  Similarly, the memory of a new born baby seems to contain some data. Otherwise how the baby will cry at birth or take the milk feed from the feeder right after the birth if the memory is blank. This baby has just entered this world and yet to observe or learn anything.  Like computers our brain also has operating software, that is set of instructions, rules etc. to handle and process information. Hence at the time of birth the brain has at least the operating information related data preloaded.

According to Mahabharat Abhimanyu, while in his mother’s womb, learned the technique of entering the Chakravyuh by listening to Arjun who was narrating it to Dropadi. But he could not learn the technique of coming out since Dropadi had slept by the time Arjun was telling this. It seemed fantasy till the time medical researchers proved that the memory starts building in the mother’s womb as early as 4 months of pregnancy. Baby’s reactions (in the womb) to some particular voices / music have also been documented by some researchers.

Many a times we talk about increasing IQ levels of the new generations and that it is increasing with generations. These research somewhat explain the reasons of increased IQ levels. Due to higher education levels, womenfolks moving out of the house for jobs at different levels, use of new technologies like computers and smart phones and discussions on these during pregnancy period imbibe these in the baby’s brain inside mother’s womb. Hence the baby is born with lot of such basic knowledge.

But is there any other information that come pre-loaded at the time of birth? Do we use our entire brain or only a part of it? There are no straight answers to these. Logically at the time of death of a person the body is cremated / buried. The brain of the new born baby starts forming in mother’s womb and start building memory in forth month. Then what other information it will carry apart from whatever has been built up during pregnancy period.

We see so many stories recorded and telecast showing the Psychiatrist hypnotising a person and taking him / her in the past and previous births. Though in some cases people claimed that the details relating to previous birth period disclosed during the session were got verified but we may not believe those as the entire sequence could be plotted for obvious reasons.

But what we saw recently on a TV channel is beyond any explanation and makes us believe that our brain does contain information from past births – how it could be is a mystery. I am referring to the recently concluded reality serial Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Little Champs. Those who saw it even once would not forget a little boy Jayash Kumar. He was 5 when he came in the show. According to his parents he started speaking at the age of 4. But this boy could sing any song with proper lyrics, Sanskrit mantras and aartis.  Whatever sentence spoken to him, he could narrate it in such a way that each word comprises of its alphabets in reverse order. For example, he could narrate the sentence “It could be a mystery” as “ti dluoc eb a yretsym”. Interestingly you may not be able to speak out the reverse order sentence but he used to do that loud and clear in presence of celebrities. Jayash has knowledge of all the surs which he repeatedly demonstrated. Many a times in order to confuse or test him some judge or jury member would tell him a wrong name of the Sur but he would immediately refute the person and correct him. This level may not be achieved by an average singer after years and years of learning and practice. One may browse google to see his performances. However,  given below is one of his performance


And the knowledge of a six year old boy Adam who knows all about instruments inside the cockpit of an aircraft. While flying in an Etihad Airways flight he went inside the cockpit and gave very crisp details about different instruments. No one is allowed to go inside the cockpit due to security reasons but probably the captain must have met him in the passenger cabin, got impressed by his knowledge and not only allowed him entry but recorded the entire sequence inside the cockpit. Etihad Airways was so much amazed by the knowledge of this kid that they later took him in their airbus A380 where Adam helped the Captain as Co-Pilot in order to bring the kid’s dream to become a pilot come true. Given below is the video of Adam’s conversation with the captain inside the cockpit.


There would be hundreds and thousands of other such examples all over the world.

How Jayash and Adam had all this knowledge at such a tender age. Obviously they could not have learnt it in this birth. Then is it the data carried over from their previous birth or some technique exist to transfer data among memories. Or is there any backup system of our memory in the universe? Had I been posing this question a decade back then I might have been considered a mad person but now we store our data in the cloud and retrieve / share it as and when required. Is it then that some data from the clouds gets restored in our brain before or at the time of birth? It is up to the readers to decide.

We do not know about these yet. It is one of the huge number of unsolved mysteries about human body, a super creation of the Almighty.

Author: narender

Narender Gupta is a retired banker having expertise in Retail / Trade Finance / Forex / Payments domains, banking process re-engineering and banking automation / banking systems transformations.