Can Biology Provide Creative Solutions for Next-Generation Memory Devices?

W. E. van den Berg and S. A. Kushner

Dept. of Psychiatry, Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam, The Netherlands

1.   Introduction

With a weight of only 1350 grams, the brain is considered to be the most complex, sophisticated, and efficiently built machine ever known. For the 100 billion neurons within the brain to function, it requires only the power level of a 60-watt light bulb. Shaped by an exceptionally long history of adaptive evolutionary forces, the brain was designed to maximize reproductive fitness.

The most remarkable feature of the brain is its ability to optimize its performance in ever-changing circumstances. It may seem that some parts of the brain are indeed highly pre-programmed to allow for processing of sensory input, motor control, and natural responses.1 However, recent literature reveals plasticity mechanisms capable of altering the constitution of the brain beyond genetic predetermination.

While details are still being worked out, somehow these alterations encode our experiences. However, we also know that our memory is fallible and it is certainly not always literal. Does this mean that information storage by the brain is not as sophisticated as we think? The brain receives inputs from several sensory systems of the body, and stores the information accordingly. In that sense, memory is a reconstruction of facts and experiences on the basis of the way they were stored, not necessarily ...

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