Lie-Detection Brain Scan Could Be Used in Court for First Time

This bizarre article from Wired shows how technology is catching up with the power of the brain.  What does this mean for the idea of “justice?”

from Wikimedia Commons

Illustration: Wikimedia Commons

A Brooklyn attorney hopes to break new ground this week when he offers a brain scan as evidence that a key witness in a civil trial is telling the truth, Wired.com has learned.

If the fMRI scan is admitted, it would be a legal first in the United States and could have major consequences for the future of neuroscience in court.

The lawyer, David Zevin, wants to use that evidence to break a he-said/she-said stalemate in an employer-retaliation case. He’s representing Cynette Wilson, a woman who claims that after she complained to temp agency CoreStaff Services about sexual harassment at a job site, she no longer received good assignments. Another worker at CoreStaff claims he heard her supervisor say that she should not be placed on jobs because of her complaint. The supervisor denies that he said anything of the sort.

So, Zevin had the coworker undergo an fMRI brain scan by the company Cephos, which claims to provide “independent, scientific validation that someone is telling the truth.”

Laboratory studies using fMRI, which measures blood-oxygen levels in the brain, have suggested that when someone lies, the brain sends more blood to the ventrolateral area of the prefrontal cortex. In a very small number of studies, researchers have identified lying in study subjects (.pdf) with accuracy ranging from 76 percent to over 90 percent. But some scientists and lawyers like New York University neuroscientist Elizabeth Phelps doubts those results can be applied outside the lab.

“The data in their studies don’t appear to be reliable enough to use in a court of law,” Phelps said. “There is just no reason to think that this is going to be a good measure of whether someone is telling the truth.

[Read more at Wired]

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