Researchers have developed a way to “fingerprint” the brain.
The new research confirms something scientists have long-suspected: that the structural connections in the brain are unique to each person, like a fingerprint.
The team, led by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, used a new, non-invasive imaging method called diffusion MRI to map the structural connections of 699 brains. This approach captures the brain’s connections with more detail than ever before.
Each person’s connections were so unique, they found, that they could identify the individual based on this brain print with “nearly perfect accuracy,” the school explained in a news release. The researchers also discovered that a person’s brain print changes over time. By studying these changes, researchers may be able to determine how different factors like disease and the environment impact the brain.
“This confirms something that we’ve always assumed in neuroscience — that connectivity patterns in your brain are unique to you,” CMU’s Timothy Verstynen, assistant professor of psychology, said in a statement. “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.”
In a statement, the study’s first author and assistant professor of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Fang-Cheng (Frank) Yeh said researchers can apply the new diffusion MRI approach to existing data “and reveal new information that is already sitting there unexplored.”
“The higher specificity allows us to reliably study how genetic and environmental factors shape the human brain over time, thereby opening a gate to understand how the human brain functions or dysfunctions,” Yeh added.
The team also included researchers from the US Army Research Laboratory; the University of California, Santa Barbara; and the National Taiwan University.