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Brainwaves Could Act as Your Password--but Not If You're Drunk

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An electroencephalogram.

Research suggests electroencephalograms can be used authenticate someones identity with accuracy rates around 94%, although there could be confounding factors, such as whether youve had a few too many drinks.

Credit: Panther Media GmbH/Alamy Stock Photo

Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) researchers tested the theory that although electroencephalogram (EEG) readings can accurately authenticate someone's identity about 94% of the time, there could be confounding factors, such as whether the subject is inebriated.

"Brainwaves can be easily manipulated by external influences such as drugs [like] opioids, caffeine, and alcohol," says consultant Tommy Chin. "This manipulation makes it a significant challenge to verify the authenticity of the user because they drank an immense amount of alcohol or caffeinated drink."

The Rochester researchers analyzed people's brainwaves before and after drinking shots of whiskey, and they found brainwave authentication accuracy could fall to 33% in inebriated users.

Separately, University of California, Berkeley professor John Chuang found EEG authentication accuracy degrades immediately following a workout, and suggests other factors such as hunger, stress, or fatigue also could reduce reliability. He notes if accuracy under different conditions were required, it could be possible to collect multiple brainwave "templates" for a user by separately mapping their EEG signature under a range of conditions.

Chin and RIT graduate student Peter Muller also found it is possible to modify the EEG data analysis using machine learning to improve the results for participants who were drunk.

From New Scientist
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