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article imageAre brainwaves unique to each person?

By Tim Sandle     May 1, 2016 in Science
People can be differentiated through their fingerprints and retinal scans. However, what about brainwaves? Binghamton University neuroscientists seem to think so.
With brainwaves, when we see an image or read a word, our brains react and start to process the signal. It seems that each individual’s response to the external stimulus is different and forms a unique pattern. Technically brainwaves are a type of neural oscillation, a pattern that is rhythmic or repetitive within the central nervous system. These signals can be observed via an electroencephalogram.
Two researchers — Professor Sarah Laszlo and Professor Zhanpeng Jin — have carried out studies where brainwaves have been mapped. In tests, the neuroscientists have mapped the brain activity of 50 subjects. For this task, each subject was fitted with an electroencephalogram headset. Each person then viewed a series of 500 images. The images were selected in order to create an emotional response. The picture range was eclectic and included a slice of pizza and a picture of the actress Anne Hathaway. In addition to pictures, certain words were written onto cards. The words were designed to stimulate thought processes. An example was the word “conundrum.”
When the results were reviewed after being processed via a computer, it was found that each of the 50 volunteer subjects could be uniquely identified through the pattern of their brainwaves. Each person reacted slightly differently to both the same image and across the range of words and images seen.
Speaking with Laboratory Roots website, Professor Laszlo explained why the study is important: "We imagine the applications for this technology being for high-security situations, like ensuring the person going into the Pentagon or the nuclear launch bay is the right person.” Here it is possible to extract fingers and even eyes in order to break into high-security facilities. Stealing brainwaves, outside the realm of science fiction, is not possible.
The key, the academic explained, is with having a wide range of images. The more images that are viewed, the more certain the researchers are about being able to identify a specific brain pattern. Also of interest, the accuracy was higher with images compared with words.
Based on the brainwave research, a new field within neuroscience is emerging called “brain biometrics.” Here brainwaves or ‘brain prints’ are tested and developed.
The research is published in the journal Neurocomputing, in a paper titled “Brainprint: Assessing the uniqueness, collectability, and permanence of a novel method for ERP biometrics.”
More about brainwaves, Identity, Psychology, Neurology
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