There is a machine that reads your mind, sort of. And a Brooklyn attorney wants to use it in a trial for the first time ever. Welcome to the criminal justice futureworld.
Wired is reporting that lawyer David Levin is hoping to introduce an fMRI scan as evidence in a civil trial. fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) measures the blood flow in the brain. Unlike a normal MRI, it's able to track changes real-time. And,
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 with accuracy ranging from 76 percent to over 90 percent.
Levin wants to introduce fMRI results in a case where his client claims that she was blacklisted at her temp agency after complaining about sexual harassment. A coworker says he overheard a supervisor saying as much, and Levin had him get an fMRI by Cephos a "truth verification" company, to prove that he wasn't lying. (Cephos and fMRI technology was profiled by the New Yorker a while back.)
There are a lot of scientific and ethical problems with this. Most of the fMRI studies have been on tiny samples and many scientists are highly skeptical in their ability to detect lies. (One psychologist in the New Yorker article called the technology "foolish"). And fMRI evidence probably won't end up being admitted as evidence once the trial starts May 5th.