The Brain has its own Identifiable “Fingerprint”

By: Aloyzeus Reotutar

“They’re so unique that we can use brain connectivity maps to identify individuals just as reliably as fingerprints.”

An individual’s functional brain connectivity profile is both unique and reliable, similar to a fingerprint, and it is possible, with near-perfect accuracy in many cases, to identify an individual among a large group of subjects solely on the basis of her or his connectivity profile,” neuroscientist and lead researcher Dimitri Van De Ville and the team write in their paper.

Yale University researchers discovered this back in 2015, and a team from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne has examined how these patterns change over time to try and understand when brain activity patterns become unique and identifiable. The researchers turned the information from functional magnetic resonance imaging scans measuring the brain activity of 100 unrelated people at rest into colorful graphical summaries to build an atlas that considered 419 points in our brains.

“All the information we need is in these graphs, which are commonly known as functional brain connectomes,” explained neuroscientist Enrico Amico. The most identifiable moment of the scans was not locked to a particular time point, which may have to do with how our brains naturally cycle their activity, the team suspect.

Shorter scans picked up more sensory activity, such as eye movements, but the unique information from more complex cognitive functions out of the frontal cortex began to emerge after a more extended period. These include things such as language, awareness, working memory, and social cognition – suggesting that specific brain networks are functioning at different time scales.

“This work opens the avenue of relating functional brain fingerprints with the underlying structural architecture,” the researchers write, noting the two distinct time scales of the brain maps they observed seem to align with underlying genetic and behavioral gradients.

“Based on my initial findings, it seems that the features that make a brain fingerprint unique steadily disappear as the disease progresses,” says Amico. Comparing the resting state maps with those constructed when individuals perform a task or using different scanning techniques could tell us more, the researchers suggest.

Van De Ville D, Farouj Y, Preti MG, Liégeois R, Amico E. When makes you unique: Temporality of the human brain fingerprint. Sci Adv. 2021;7(42):eabj0751. doi:10.1126/sciadv.abj0751
IMAGE: Unique ‘brain prints’. (Dimitri Van De Ville et al., Science Advances, 2021)

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