As you know if you’ve ever reacted to anything, humans have a set of learned responses to stimuli. Things like fear, anger, and joy are relatively easy to notice and don’t vary much from person to person.
But the brain’s response is actually much more complex than that—complex stimuli like people or food generate specific individual responses. And according to a team of Binghamton University researchers, the responses are so unique to an individual they could one day replace fingerprints as security clearance.
The CEREBRE (Cognitive Event-Related Recognition) protocol used an EEG headset to record brain activity for 50 people looking at a series of 500 images designed to stimulate the primary visual, facial recognition, and gustatory/appetitive systems. Images ranged from celebrities, to food, to evocative words like “conundrum.”
According to the researchers, the participants’ brains’ reaction was so different that a computer could tell each person’s “brainprint” apart from another with absolute 100 percent accuracy. That’s quite the incredible stride, considering the original study done by the researchers last year reported a 97 percent accuracy.
Now that this study has exhibited 100 percent accuracy, the researchers already have practical ideas: “It’s a big deal going from 97 to 100 percent because 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,” said Sarah Laszlo, lead researcher and Assistant Professor of Psychology at Binghamton University in a release.
Using a “brainprint” as identification might actually be more secure than a fingerprint or retinal scanner, because brain biometrics can’t be stolen the way a fingerprint would.
“If someone’s fingerprint is stolen, that person can’t just grow a new finger to replace the compromised fingerprint — the fingerprint for that person is compromised forever. Fingerprints are ‘non-cancellable,’ said Laszlo. Brainprints, on the other hand, are potentially cancellable. So, in the unlikely event that attackers were actually able to steal a brainprint from an authorized user, the authorized user could then ‘reset’ their brainprint.”
This system isn’t expected to replace low-security applications like individual computers or cell phones, but rather for the highest of high-security settings like the Pentagon or Air Force Labs—where only a select few are authorized to enter.