Experts urge caution in the use of brain science in court
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
LONDON, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Understanding the growing scientific workings of the brain in the future may change the way criminals are viewed by the law, but British experts advise extreme caution for the moment on the use of lie detector tests, brain scans and genetic data in the courts.
In a report released Tuesday by the national authorities in the UK, Science Academy, the Royal Society, scientists and lawyers looked at the scope of neuroscientific evidence to "read minds" in an attempt to find the truth or to explain why a person acted in a particularly violent or sadistic manner.
He claims that murderers can be identified by imaging studies of their brains before committing the crime, or that a gene for psychopathy or violent behavior, are "completely far from reality," they said.
But they do suggest that neuroimaging and genetics of behavior, along with existing techniques in the future can be used as part of risk assessments to determine how long someone sentence to serve, or if an inmate should receive parole.
"No question in neuroscience provides some startling revelations about human behavior, but we can not get ahead of us," said Nicholas Mackintosh, professor of experimental psychology at
Cambridge University in , who chaired a panel of the Royal Society for on the subject. Britain
"Understanding how the brain gives us an idea of the mental processes underlying human behavior, and how the law relates primarily to regulate people's behavior makes sense that they can influence others at some point in the future . "
At a briefing on the report, Mackintosh said a growing number of defense lawyers in the
and other countries were beginning to use neuroscientific evidence in criminal cases, particularly in cases of murder and other violent crimes . United States
Roger Brownsword Law School King's College London, who worked on the report, said that the admissibility of such evidence should be properly analyzed and lawyers, judges and experts that should explain in detail their strengths and weaknesses.
"It is clear that some neuroscientific evidence could be very disruptive in court," he told the press conference. "The jury could easily be influenced by this. ... So the threshold of admissibility has to be pretty high."
British scientists published a study in 2009 found that psychopaths who had committed serious crimes such as murder and rape had faulty connections in the brain that appear in the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans.
"To the extent that neuroimaging data suggest that differences in the brains of psychopaths ....( we ask) that brain imaging may be useful?" Said Mackintosh. "The answer is that we have no idea because it has not done the research, but is at least something worth thinking about."
However, he stressed that "having a psychopathic brain is not a general defense against any criminal charge, and that's because it has absolutely force you to behave in a criminal ... simply increases the probability."
Functional neuroimaging experiments with students have also shown differences in brain activity when they are told the truth and when they lie, Mackintosh panel said in its report.
However, experts warned that the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging in defense of suspects in serious crimes, or to detect lies between the defendants or witnesses, is fraught with difficulties - including the fact that people can quite easily be taught to beat the lie detectors.