Face recognition from research brain PET: An unexpected PET problem

The Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is well known that de-identified research brain images from MRI and CT can potentially be re-identified using face recognition; however, this has not been examined for PET images. We generated face reconstruction images of 182 volunteers using amyloid, tau, and FDG PET scans, and we measured how accurately commercial face recognition software (Microsoft Azure's Face API) automatically matched them with the individual participants’ face photographs. We then compared this accuracy with the same experiments using participants’ CT and MRI. Face reconstructions from PET images from PET/CT scanners were correctly matched at rates of 42% (FDG), 35% (tau), and 32% (amyloid), while CT were matched at 78% and MRI at 97-98%. We propose that these recognition rates are high enough that research studies should consider using face de-identification (“de-facing”) software on PET images, in addition to CT and structural MRI, before data sharing. We also updated our mri_reface de-identification software with extended functionality to replace face imagery in PET and CT images. Rates of face recognition on de-faced images were reduced to 0-4% for PET, 5% for CT, and 8% for MRI. We measured the effects of de-facing on regional amyloid PET measurements from two different measurement pipelines (PETSurfer/FreeSurfer 6.0, and one in-house method based on SPM12 and ANTs), and these effects were small: ICC values between de-faced and original images were > 0.98, biases were <2%, and median relative errors were < 2%. Effects on global amyloid PET SUVR measurements were even smaller: ICC values were 1.00, biases were <0.5%, and median relative errors were also <0.5%.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number119357
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • Anonymization
  • De-facing
  • De-identification
  • Face recognition
  • PET/CT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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