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Brain activity as unique as fingerprints


Washington: Move over fingerprints! You could also be identified by your brain scans, according to a new study that found a person’s brain activity appears to be as unique as their fingerprints.

These brain “connectivity profiles” alone allow researchers to identify individuals from the functional MRI (fMRI) images of brain activity of more than 100 people.

“In most past studies, fMRI data have been used to draw contrasts between, say, patients and healthy controls,” said Emily Finn, a PhD student in neuroscience at Yale University in US.

“We have learned a lot from these sorts of studies, but they tend to obscure individual differences which may be important,” said Finn, co-first author of the paper published in the journal Nature Neuroscience. Finn and co-first author Xilin Shen, under the direction
of R Todd Constable, professor at Yale, compiled fMRI data from 126 subjects who underwent six scan sessions over two days.

Subjects performed different cognitive tasks during four of the sessions. In the other two, they simply rested.

Researchers looked at activity in 268 brain regions: specifically, coordinated activity between pairs of regions.

Highly coordinated activity implies two regions are functionally connected.

Using the strength of these connections across the whole brain, the researchers were able to identify individuals from fMRI data alone, whether the subject was at rest or engaged in a task. They were also able to predict how subjects would perform on tasks.

Finn said she hopes that this ability might one day help clinicians predict or even treat neuropsychiatric diseases based on individual brain connectivity profiles.

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