Washington: Something as shortlived as a brainwave comes with its own unique fingerprint that remains unaltered over the years - a finding that could help predict schizophrenia or depression.
Despite major neural (nerve and brain cell) changes during adolescence, a study showed that most individuals maintain a consistent pattern of brainwaves.
The work fortifies the idea, already observed in adults, that people produce a kind of brainwave "fingerprint", the Journal of Neuroscience reports.
"Is there some inherent quality of the brainwave signal that is a core quality that is sustained, even in the face of these large developmental changes," asked study co-author Mary Carskadon, professor of psychiatry at Brown University.
"Showing that there are these fingerprints may open up future possibilities in using this kind of analysis (to predict) `who might go on to develop schizophrenia or depression`," said Carskadon, according to a Brown statement.
Carskadon recruited 19 volunteers who were nine or 10 years old and 26 who were 15 or 16 years old to sleep for two consecutive nights in the lab while EEG electrodes recorded oscillations in their brains during both rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep. For each child, she repeated the measurements about two years later.
Carskadon sent the data to collaborators Leila Tarokh and Peter Achermann at the University of Zurich.
The computers had no information about which waves came from which night from which teen, but the algorithm ended up matching all four nights of sleep for most of the kids, a striking sign of their consistent but unique nature.
"I was pretty astounded about how well the algorithm was able to sort these individuals` patterns together," said Tarokh, an instructor in psychiatry and human behaviour at Brown who led the study.