Pictures Mapping 1 Cubic Millimeter of Human Brain Took Up 1.4 Million Gigabytes of Data

By Matis Glenn


Pictures mapping one cubic millimeter, which is one-millionth of a human brain, took up 1.4 million gigabytes of data, Google and Harvard researchers said over the weekend, in research that shows the awe-inspiring scope of Hashem’s creations.

The project, undertaken by Google and Harvard University, aims at understanding how the brain works, and uses Google’s artificial intelligence technology to assist in the arduous task of picturing every microscopic element.

It is the most extensive brain mapping project ever attempted, and the findings show an astronomical array of information stored in a tiny spec of tissue.

Tom’s Hardware, a tech news website, calculated that at the current rate of mapping, to fully examine an entire brain – using state of the art storage materials – would cost $50 billion, consist of 1.6 zettabytes (1.6 trillion gigabytes) of storage, and would take up nearly 6.1 million square feet of space, which would make it the largest data silo on Earth.

For context, the data taken from the millimeter would amount to 28,000 hours of high-definition video footage.

Researchers divided the millimeter being studied into 5,000 wafers, each one orders of magnitude thinner than human hair follicles. Electron microscopes were used to take images of each wafer, and to count 150 million synapses – points where the brain’s neurons meet and communicate with one another.

One new discovery gleaned from the research was that some brain cells group together in clusters that mirror other groups. A single neuron was found to have been connected with 5,000 other neurons, and some signal-carrying nerve endings had become tightly knotted into shapes resembling yarn balls. Scientists do not understand why these events occurred.

Jeff Lichtman, a Harvard professor who worked on the project said that the findings were completely new. “We found many things in this dataset that are not in the textbooks,” he told The Guardian. “We don’t understand those things, but I can tell you they suggest there’s a chasm between what we already know and what we need to know.”

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