Afferent data rates

Larry Hunter hunter at work.nlm.nih.gov
Wed Aug 7 13:35:15 EST 1991

The line of discussion high fidelity storage of sensory signals a
question I have been pursuing (in the literature) for years without
adequate resolution.  Maybe you can help.

I want to find an empirically justified estimate of the amount of
afferent (sensory, including visceral) information that human brains
are faced with.  Here's how I've approached it:

1. There are between 10^10 and 10^12 nerve cells in the human body.  

2. A conservative lower bound on the number of sensory nerves of all
   varieties is 1% of all nerve cells.

3. A conservative lower bound on the bit rate of each nerve cell is
   100 bits per second.

For a total of 10^10 * 10^-2 * 10^2 = 10^10 bits per second over all
sensory channels.   This could easily be off by 10^3

I would really appreciate references that would help me make these
figures more accurate.  I've look through dozens of neuroscience and
anatomy books and never even found an estimate of the number of
afferent nerve fibers in the human body!!  Any suggestions?


Lawrence Hunter, PhD.
National Library of Medicine
Bldg. 38A, MS-54
Bethesda. MD 20894
(301) 496-9300
(301) 496-0673 (fax)
hunter at nlm.nih.gov (internet)

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