The Science Of Health: The Link Between Abnormal Fingerprints And Schizophrenia


The Science Of Health: Welcome back to “The Science Of Health”, ABP Live’s weekly health column. Last week, we discussed which diseases women are more prone to than men, and why, and what experts say. This week, we discuss why some schizophrenia patients have abnormal fingerprints, and how this can be used to predict the neurodegenerative disease, and as a diagnostic marker. 

Fingerprints are whorls and loops which are formed during foetal development. Therefore, the presence of abnormal fingerprints and their detection can facilitate early diagnosis of schizophrenia, because there is a link between skin and brain development from the foetal stage. 

Schizophrenia is a chronic mental health disorder which causes psychosis, affects how a person thinks, feels, behaves, and expresses emotions, and makes them interpret reality abnormally. Schizophrenics often lose touch with reality due to their disordered thinking, which disables them from performing normal activities. 

How fingerprints can help predict schizophrenia

A November 2022 study published in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin said that fingerprints can potentially be used as risk markers for schizophrenia due to the existing developmental bond between fingerprint generation and growth of the central nervous system. 

As part of the study, researchers developed algorithms based on an initial sample of scanned fingerprints from patients with non-affective psychosis, and healthy subjects. They then used these algorithms to build classification algorithms for patients versus controls based on single fingers and multi-input models. 

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Non-affective psychosis include schizophrenia, schizotypal personality disorder, and other psychotic disorders, according to the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). Schizotypal personality disorder is a mental health condition in which people may face difficulty maintaining social relationships. 

The study found that the highest level of accuracy of psychosis prediction using networks based on single fingers was achieved by the right thumb network, while the highest accuracy from multi-input models was obtained by the network that simultaneously used images from the left thumb, index and middle fingers. 

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The accuracy with which the right thumb network predicted psychosis was 68 per cent, while that of the network using three images simultaneously was 70 per cent. 

The authors noted that since fingerprints remain stable for one’s entire life after birth, the study suggests that fingerprints may be applied as early predictors of psychosis, especially if they are used in high prevalence subpopulations, such as those of individuals at high risk for psychosis. 

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A 2011 study published in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences said there is a possibility that the left index ridge counts and fluctuating asymmetry in schizophrenic patients are different from those of the normal population, and this difference may serve as a diagnostic biological marker for screening people susceptible to schizophrenia. 

According to experts, disturbances during the early stages of brain development, which are believed to contribute to schizophrenia, may affect the formation of fingerprints. Pressure in the womb is one of the external factors determining fingerprint patterns.

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“The association between abnormal fingerprints and schizophrenia has been a subject of scientific interest for several decades. Some studies suggest that individuals with schizophrenia may exhibit specific fingerprint patterns that differ from those without the disorder. The scientific basis for this phenomenon lies in the developmental process of fingerprints during prenatal development. Fingerprints are formed by the interaction of genetic factors and external influences, such as pressure in the womb. It is believed that disruptions in the early stages of brain development, which are thought to contribute to the development of schizophrenia, may also affect the formation of fingerprints,” Dr Pradeep Khandavalli, MBBS, DNB General Medicine, DM & DNB Nephrology, told ABP Live.

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He also stated that while abnormal fingerprints are not a diagnostic criterion for schizophrenia, researchers have observed that individuals with schizophrenia tend to have more arch patterns and fewer whorls or loops in their fingerprints compared to the general population.

“However, it is important to note that this is not a definitive marker for the condition and should be considered in conjunction with other diagnostic criteria,” he concluded.

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