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Could brainprints become the new fingerprints?

Facial recognition, voice-activated unlocking technology, and thumbprint recognition are all ways that can be used to identify someone based on their unique traits. But there may soon be a new foolproof method to identify individuals, and it has to do with the physical links between regions in the brain called the connectome.

Every person’s connectome is unique, and brainprints created using connectome mapping could help identify people, even differentiating between twins.

Researchers are also working with neurological imaging and machine learning to show changes in the brain over time due to disease, environmental influences, and inherited traits.

A person’s brainprint may one day help explain the driving factors of autism spectrum disorders or attention deficit disorder.

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University proved that connectomes could be used to identify individuals by measuring the connectomes of 699 brains form five different datasets.

Further analysis showed that connectomes act as unique fingerprints and that connectomes could be used to identify someone with a nearly 100 percent rate of accuracy.

In a 2017 study, researchers from the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) found that although each person’s brainprint is unique, connectomes also demonstrate familial relationships and inherited traits.

For this study, the researchers used two datasets of functional MRI brain scans from 350 adult and child siblings.

The researchers were then able to use a combination of imaging and machine learning to identify siblings, even twins, but also found that only some the connectome was unique to each individual.

“This confirms that while unique to each individual, some aspects of the family connectome are inherited and maintained throughout development and may be useful as early biomarkers of mental or neurological conditions,” said Oscar Miranda-Dominguez, the lead author of the OHSU 2017 study.

OHSU professor Damien Fair currently heads a lab solely focused on understanding the connectome and what it can relay about the brain over time as well as the development of certain neuropsychiatric conditions.

“These findings add to the way we think about normal and altered brain function,” said Fair. “Further, it creates more opportunity for personalized and targeted treatment approaches for conditions such as ADHD or autism.”

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

Image Credit: The NIH Human Connectome Project

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