Brain Scans as Evidence Persuasive Essay by Nicky

An exploration of the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as evidence in the courtroom.
# 151316 | 2,299 words | 10 sources | MLA | 2012 | US
Published on May 31, 2012 in Law (Evidence) , Psychology (General)

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The paper explains how the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) works and explores its applications in the legal system, its advantages, disadvantages and moral issues. The paper argues that the lack of consensus in the medical and neuroscientific community regarding brain activity and the individual's behaviors and sensations means that the fMRI cannot currently proffer a consistent and reliable source of information with regard to matters relevant to a court case such as intent, deception, or pain. The paper therefore concludes that such evidence should not be admitted in court. The paper includes a huge amount of resource material.

Functional MRI Lie Detection
fMRI and the Legal System
Advantages of fMRI
Disadvantages of fMRI
Moral Aspects of fMRI

From the Paper:

"Mark Pettit, Jr. (2007), Professor, Boston University School of Law, asserts that although the science behind fMRI appears sophisticated, the basic concept may be readily understood. Pettit explains that fMRI involves creating a series of brain images to reveal "changes in blood levels in the various areas of the brain over time. ... The ...immediate use of fMRI, ... that has generated the most interest and debate about possible courtroom use, is lie detection. The theory purports that blood levels depict how hard the brain works. As lying requires more "brain work" than telling the truth, comparisons from brain scans reportedly reveal when the individual may be lying. (Pettit, Jr., 2007,
"Dr. Laurence R. Tancredi, a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine and Dr. Jonathan D. Brodie (2007), the Marvin Stern Professor of Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine, as noted in the quote introducing this study, assert that brain imaging constitutes a credible courtroom tool. Tancredi and Brodie (2007) explain that fMRI works on the principle that changes in the brain's hemodynamics, "which relate to mental operations, can be detected and mapped using basic MRI instrumentation. At this time [during 2007], the most widely used method to measure cerebral blood flow using MRI has been the Blood Oxygen Level Dependent (BOLD) technique"."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Abram S. Barth. A Double-Edged Sword: The Role of Neuroimaging in Federal Capital Sentencing, American Journal of Law and Medicine, (2007) ; available at HighBeam Research:
  • Alan Felthous & Henning Sass. International Handbook on Psychopathic Disorders and the Law, Volume 1 of The International Handbook of Psychopathic Disorders and the Law, John Wiley and Sons, (2008).
  • Henry T. Greely & Judy Illes. Neuroscience-Based Lie Detection: The Urgent Need for Regulation, American Journal of Law and Medicine, (2007) ; available at HighBeam Research:
  • Ishani Ganguli. Watching The Brain Lie, The Scientist, (2007) ; available at HighBeam Research:
  • John R. Richert. Picture it: Why researchers need better imaging techniques, Momentum, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, (2009) ; available at HighBeam Research:

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