Legal and Scientific Review of MRI to Determine Innocence in Cases Term Paper

Pages: 20 (5397 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice

¶ … MRIs



The objective of this work is to research the use of MRIs in court cases and specifically related to the social consequences of the advance in neuroscience, the legal problems and legal perspectives of this use.

Historically, there have been many folk tales that point the way to discerning whether an individual is telling the truth or whether that individual is in fact lying. The most popular method in detecting lies was developed in the 1930s and is the polygraph machine however; the accuracy of this method is disputed widely. A new method of detection which is called 'brain fingerprinting' looks at the brainwaves of a subject to see if specific brainwaves are present after the individual has been given some type of visual object to look at that is associated with the crime that is being investigated. The specific brainwave will not appear unless the individual has some memory of the crime stored in their brain. There are however, limitations with both the polygraph and brain fingerprinting exist particularly as related to admissibility in court evidence. However, there is a new technique specifically 'Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Braining Curing Deception' which is a method that when used 'telltale areas of the brain 'light up' when a subject is using his or her mind to lie, areas that remain dark when the subject is giving a truthful answer." (Bean, 2007)

I. Neuroscience and the 'No-Lie' fMRI

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Neuroscience is stated to be the "science concerned with the development, structure, function, chemistry, and pharmacology and pathology of the human nervous system...and is directed at exploring the architecture and functions of the brain as well as the effects of stimuli on part of the brain and cerebral performance." (Committee on Science and Law, 2005) There are three main areas of research in neuroscience, which are:

Term Paper on Legal and Scientific Review of MRI to Determine Innocence in Cases Assignment

1) Imaging of the brain and other neurodiagnostic techniques;

2) Exertion of influence on the brain; and 3) Design and construction of the brain." (Committee on Science and Law, 2005)

Technological innovations have changed the methods of investigations conduction on the part of authorities throughout the entire history of the criminal justice system. A new technology holds the potential to "revolutionize the investigatory landscape" and that technology is "Brain Fingerprinting" (BF). (Taylor, 2007) Brain Fingerprinting is an examination "...designed to determine if particular information is familiar to a test subject in a specific context (such as that of a crime)." (Taylor, 2007) the way that brain fingerprinting works is a testing to see if the individual is "familiar with a particular place, time or action, and does so using brain monitoring technology that is nearly impossible to deceive." (Taylor, 2007) the technology of brain fingerprinting is actually the monitoring of brain wave impulses.

There are four phases of a criminal case in which brain fingerprinting may be used which are those of:

1) Investigation;

2) Interviewing;

3) Scientific testing; and 4) Adjudication." (Taylor, 2007)

The work of Illes and Racine (2005) entitled: "Imaging or Imagining? A Neuroethics Challenge Informed by Genetics? states that brain fingerprinting works in a way that "when the brain recognizes significant information -- such as crime scene details -- it responds with a 'memory and encoding related multifaceted electroencephalographic response.' Unlike polygraph testing that measures an individual's fear or getting caught in a lit by tracking relevant physiological markers, brain fingerprinting ostensibly measures brain waves emitted when information stored in the brain is recognized." (2005) Related as well is that:

New applications of fMRI that bridge cognitive science and law also have the potential to change approaches to truth verification and lie detection." (Illes and Racine, 2005)When individuals answer truthfully the fMRI will show "increased activity in visual and motor cortex." (Illes and Racine, 2005)

Illes and Racine state that:

the brain image represents unparalleled complexity -- from the specialized medical equipment needed to acquire a scan, to the array of parameters used to elicit activations and the statistical thresholds set to draw out meaningful patterns, to the expertise required for the objective interpretation of the maps themselves. Moreover, an absence of standards of practice in the laboratory (in fact, innovation and creativity still define the state-of-the-art in neuroimaging today) and the medicolegal setting creates another layer of complexity for drawing conclusions about behavior, responsibility and cognitive well-being (" Kulynych 1997;" Nelkin and Tancredi 1989) that will need to be penetrated with appropriately responsive ethical approaches." (2005)

The following chart lists the comparison of ethical, legal and social issues in genetics and functional neuroimaging."

Comparison of Ethical, Legal and Social Issues in Genetics and Functional Neuroimaging

ELSI variables

Gene hunting, Gene testing

Functional neuroimaging

In practice:

Risk of discrimination, stigma, coercion

Not at present, but growing concern exists for the evolution of the technology and expanding use.

Risk to privacy

Distributive justice

Yes, once the technology moves into mainstream clinical medicine.

Diagnostic uses




Commercial use

Emerging; some limited availability already exists in the direct-to-consumer marketplace.

In research

Paradigmatic variables: Results subject to variability in test used

Potentially but not considered a significant risk.

Highly significant given variability in equipment, hypothesis-testing, stimulus design and approaches to data analysis.

Physiologic variables: Results subject to physiologic and day-to-day variations.

Highly significant given fluctuations, for example, in blood flow, mood, and gender-related physiology.

Investigator variables: Results subject to variability of interpretation.

No, but standards for testing are not widespread.

Highly significant, especially when interpretation of data interacts with individual social values and culture.

Global issues:

Biologization of personal thought.

Possibly in mental illness and neuro-degenerative disease.

Highly significant as complex thought becomes quantified and visualized on brain maps.

Source: (Illes and Racine, 2005)

Garland and Glimcher (2006) in the work entitled: "Cognitive Neuroscience and the Law" state that:

Advances in neuroscience now allow us to use physiological techniques to measure and assess mental states under a growing set of circumstances. The implication of this growing ability has not been lost on the western legal community." These authors relate the work on the prefrontal cortex conducted by Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist, who concluded that: "individuals with hypoactivation of certain regions of the prefrontal cortex may be deficient in the instantiation of goal directed behavior and in the overriding of more automatic responses. In particular...a lateral right-sided region (of the orbital frontal cortex) appears particularly responsive to punishments [2] (in normal subjects)." (Garland and Glimcher, 2006)

The work Bansal, Singh, Sreenivas, Pandey (2004) entitled: "Recent Advances in Lie Detection" states that: "In recent times the 'polygraph' test has earned a lot of popularity." (2004)

There has been a recent technological breakthrough with claims that it can be proven whether an individual is telling the truth of not and specifically the fMRK and Brain Fingerprinting. The MRI utilizes radio waves and a magnetic field that is strong in provision of pictures that are detailed of the individual's internal tissues and organs. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (f-MRI) is a new use for MRI technology that already existed. The f-MRI is conducted with the patient, lying on a table with the head braced is asked to perform some specific task during the imaging. The area of the brain that is responsible for that specific task increases and results in a signal change in the image. The fMRI monitors the movement of blood and determines the areas of the brain activated by a specific task. Through mapping the signals fMRI monitors the blood's movement and is able to make a determination of which areas of the brain a specific task activates. The Blood oxygen level dependent fMRI makes a measurement of the brain activity that is linked with deception. "Activated areas of the human brain show localized increase in blood flow. Thus the oxygen content of venous blood increases during brain activation, resulting in increased MR signal intensity." (Bansal, Singh, Sreenivas, Pandey, 2004)

Daniel Langleben conducted testing using fMRI with 18 individuals who volunteered and states findings that:

sections of the brain that exercise a significant role in attention, and which monitor and control errors (the anterior cingulated gyrus and parts of the prefrontal and premotor cortex) were more active in the volunteers when they were lying than when they were telling the truth." (Bansal, Singh, Sreenivas, Pandey, 2004)

According to Langelben: "the brain's normal 'default' response, then lying would require increased brain activity in the regions involved in inhibition and control." (Bansal, Singh, Sreenivas, Pandey, 2004) Also reviewed in the work of Bansal, Singh, Sreenivas, and Pandy is the fact that 'brain fingerprinting' is the creation of Dr. Lawrence a. Farwell, and is a technology that is computer-based for identification of someone who committed a crime through measurement of responses of brain waves to pictures or words related to crime. The basis of 'brain fingerprinting' is that the individual who has guilty will have sequences of the crime details stored in their brain whereas the innocent person would not.

The brain fingerprinting test… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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