How Are Brains Different From Computers?

The metaphor of “brains as computers” suggests that the human brain uses electrical signals to perform computations. However, the speed of processing in the brain is not fixed, since there are several constraints on the speed of signals in the brain. For example, unlike the CPU, which relies on a set clock speed to perform operations, the brain’s processing speed depends on the electrochemical signals traveling through neurons, the availability of neurotransmitters, and synaptic architecture. Thus, comparison of the speeds of the two types of processing is inaccurate.

People are able to access information using very specific commands

The human brain has two advantages over computers. Its flexibility and raw computing power are unparalleled. For instance, unlike a computer, a brain can rewire itself. This is called neuroplasticity and it is a major advantage when compared to a computer, which cannot rewire itself. Instead, a single concept or thought unlocks multiple memories associated with it. This means that humans are able to access information using very precise commands, and this flexibility makes the brain so much more flexible.

The brain can perform different functions at the same time

Another major difference between computers and brains is in how they process information. The brain uses distributed, massively parallel processing, while the computer relies on a single processor called the CPU. As a result, the brain can perform a variety of tasks simultaneously. Moreover, unlike the computer, the brain is flexible enough to rewire itself. This is called neuroplasticity, and it is one of the biggest advantages of the human brain compared to the computer.

The human brain can regenerate itself using a mechanism called spreading activation

In contrast, computers store information in memory and write the results back into it. In contrast, the brain processes information in a way that is more flexible than a computer can. A human brain can rewire itself by making use of a process called spreading activation, whereby a single thought or concept can trigger multiple associated memories. This flexibility allows for very precise commands. If a computer cannot do this, it cannot rewire itself.

The brain can change basic features and make decisions

While a computer has an integrated circuit, the brain is an active and complex system. The human brain has millions of neurons, which combine and process signals in parallel. Compared to a computer, the human brain has no CPU. Its neurons can separate from one another, change their basic properties, and make decisions. This flexibility allows the brain to be more flexible than a computer. This is the main difference between computers and brains.


The human brain has an advantage over a computer. A computer can perform simple calculations, but a brain is flexible. It can rewire itself and adapt to new situations. For example, a human can learn to read a text without a computer. This can help a person learn to use a smart phone. It can also be programmed to memorize and store memories. It has an advantage over a computer when it comes to memory.

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