Brain’s Memory Storage Similar to Computers

Brain’s Memory Storage Involves Conversion From Short Term Memory to Long Term Memory

The brain’s memory storage processes can be understood by analogizing memory processes to how computers store data, particularly short and long term memory.

RAM is a Computers Short Term Memory

Computers are electronic machines which have hard drives and Random Access Memory, (“RAM”)  for data storage.  For any date to get into a computer it must be inputted into the computer.  As I wrote this, I was inputting to my computer exclusively through my keyboard by the procedure of typing.  But computers also get information through internet connections, as well as any number of tools such as scanners and external storage devices.

This webpage as it was written was stored in RAM, before saved to the server. RAM is the computer’s electricity based memory. By electricity based memory I mean the data storage that is only there as long as there is power to the computer.  If you lose power, you lose what was not saved.

The one area that my computer is clearly different than my mind is its ability to sort and find things that are saved. Our minds do it instinctively, rapidly but often times in a system that even neuroscientists are incapable of comprehending. Our computers have an operating system that converts those things in the electricity base memory into language based indexes.  Macintosh has Finder.  Through use of the Finder and the Spotlight very little that is stored cannot be found. If you have a PC, you may not be so lucky.

Processing Speed A Limitation on Computational Capacity

Computers and brains are both limited by processing speed.  Today’s computers are so fast that processing jams are less common, but I remember a time when a computer could do nothing else while it was printing a document.  Now the processing jam is most noticeable when downloading large files from the internet.  Computers are also limited, if only in micro seconds, by the speed of the CPU (central processing unit) and the efficiency of the connection between its various component parts – hard drive, RAM or network connection.

Brains have the same type of memory and processing challenges that our computers do. We invented computers to do things that were too time consuming for our minds to do.  The two of the most significant advances in computer technology happened not because we went to the moon but because we wanted a contraption that could add/subtract/divide for us (the calculator) and a device that upon which we could type and correct words (the word processor.)


Gordon Johnson

Attorney Gordon Johnson is one of the nations leading brain injury advocates. He is Past-Chair of the TBILG, a national group of more than 150 brain injury advocates. He has spoken at numerous brain injury seminars and is the author of some of the most read brain injury web pages on the internet.

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