How much music can our brains remember?

“Your brain has almost an unlimited capacity for memory,” said Dr. Emily Mason, who studies memory and cognition at the University of Louisville. “It can actually store about 2.5 petabytes of memory.”

A petabyte is a million gigabytes, so it’s pretty large. To put that in terms of digital memory, Mason said, if your brain was a smartphone on which you downloaded TV shows, it could record 300 years of continuous TV before starting to run out of space.

But your brain’s short-term, quick recall memory has more limitations.

“You need more cues to remember things like that, and for something like your keys, where you might leave them in a different spot every day, that’s sort of confusing to your brain to remember,” she said.

And, in contrast, there are a few reasons why we remember music so well. Some of it has to do with how our brains are hardwired to latch onto repetition and rhyme — elements most songs have.

“In elementary school, that’s why things are put to song,” Mason said.

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