Scientists confirm our brains have unique fingerprints

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WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

  • Our brains are unique – even more so than our eyes, faces and fingerprints – but now it’s been confirmed this discovery will open the door for new neurological healthcare treatments as well as accelerate the rise of new brainwave biometric security technologies


 

People say “our brains are wired differently,” and now a team of scientists led by Carnegie Mellon University researchers have proven that’s literally the case. The group developed a way to “fingerprint” the human brain using diffusion MRI and found that its structural connections are so unique, they can be used to identify individuals – something which a number of companies are already seizing on, with potentially devastating consequences for personal privacy. According to the team’s paper published in PLOS, they used diffusion MRI, which tracks the diffusion process of water molecules in biological tissue, to scan and analyse the brains of 699 subjects.

 

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They then took those results and calculated the distribution of water in the point-by-point connections, called local connectome, of the brains’ white matter pathways. What they found was that each person has a unique local connectome, sort of like a fingerprint. Even twins’ local connectomes are only 12 percent similar to each other. To ensure that their conclusion is correct, they ran 17,000 identification tests and found that they could tell subjects from each other with nearly 100 percent accuracy.

That’s not all the team confirmed. They also found that a person’s life experiences, such as going through poverty or an illness, affects the brain structure. As such, researchers could use the method to understand how environments and experiences shape people’s brains and for now the researchers are focusing on its potential medical applications.

 

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“This confirms something that we’ve always assumed in neuroscience – that connectivity patterns in your brain are unique to you. This means that many of your life experiences are somehow reflected in the connectivity of your brain. Thus we can start to look at how shared experiences, for example poverty or people who have the same pathological disease, are reflected in your brain connections, opening the door for potential new medical biomarkers for certain health concerns,” said Timothy Verstynen, one of the researchers.

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers” and a “Young Kurzweil,” is the founder and CEO of the World Futures Forum and the 311 Institute, a global Futures and Deep Futures consultancy working between the dates of 2020 to 2070, and is an award winning futurist, and author of “Codex of the Future” series. Regularly featured in the global media, including AP, BBC, CNBC, Discovery, RT, and Viacom, Matthew’s ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past six years as one of the world’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multi-nationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive, sustainable future. A rare talent Matthew’s recent work includes mentoring Lunar XPrize teams, re-envisioning global education and training with the G20, and helping the world’s largest organisations envision and ideate the future of their products and services, industries, and countries. Matthew's clients include three Prime Ministers and several governments, including the G7, Accenture, Bain & Co, BCG, Credit Suisse, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deloitte, E&Y, GEMS, Huawei, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, Lego, McKinsey, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Samsung, Sopra Steria, T-Mobile, and many more.

Comments
  • Diane Williams#1

    25th November 2016

    Sounds like fingerprints in motion. Keeping track of changes while the brain is constantly changing from experiences is a “tall order”.

    Reply
  • Bruce Bailey#2

    25th November 2016

    This could end identity fraud as well as privacy. Also, a question for ethicists. Thank you for the article.

    Reply

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