The finding answers a longstanding question as to how the brain is so energy efficient and could help engineers build computers that are incredibly powerful but also conserve energy.
Our memories and thoughts are the result of patterns of electrical and chemical activity in the brain. A key part of the activity happens when branches of neurons, much like electrical wire, interact at certain junctions, known as synapses, researchers said.
Researchers used advanced microscopy and computational algorithms they had developed to image rat brains and reconstruct the connectivity, shapes, volumes and surface area of the brain tissue down to a nano-molecular level.
The scientists found that the synapses were nearly identical, on average only about eight percent different in size.
Because the memory capacity of neurons is dependent upon synapse size, this eight percent difference turned out to be a key number the team could then plug into their algorithmic models of the brain to measure how much information could potentially be stored in synaptic connections.
The findings also offer a valuable explanation for the brain's surprising efficiency. The waking adult brain generates only about 20 watts of continuous power - as much as a very dim light bulb.
The findings were published in the journal eLife.


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