Verdict: Guilty, by Way of Neural Imaging

Brains on Trial

It seems like the day when judgments of guilt or innocence in a courtroom may hinge on a brain scan are getting closer and closer. Technologies for imaging the brain have progressed at an accelerated pace in recent years, to the point where it's possible to detect lying through diagnostic imaging. Functional MRI's can detect changes in blood flow in the brain, which can indicate times when a person may or may not be telling the truth. Advances in neuroscience have also aided in gaining insight to a criminal's mind, as is shown by differences in the limbic system in the brains of "psychopaths". However, these technologies do not come without a fair share of limitations -- especially considering their accuracy only ranging between 70%-90%. So the question then remains, is the science secure enough to determine decisions of guilt or innocence in litigation?

Recently, the Science Festival Foundation held its annual World Science Festival in New York, NY. A panel of neuroscientists and legal experts openly discussed the pros and cons of using neuroimaging technology in the courtroom.

You can view the full list of panel members here and read more about the upcoming PBS documentary "Brains on Trial with Alan Alda" coming September 11th.