Beware of fMRI’s in Criminal and Juvenile Court

Two of the recurring themes at The Future of Neuroscience and the Law Conference, sponsored by the American Bar Association, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Gruter Foundation, were the terms “fMRI” (functional magnetic resonance imaging) and “G2i,” (group to individual).  In other words, can fMRI data and statistics that are valid when applied to a group be applied to an individual defendant?  The answer throughout the presentations by some of the leading neuroscientists and legal academics was a resounding, “No!”

A good overview of fMRI for attorneys is Owen D. Jones, Joshua W. Buckholtz, Jeffery D. Schall, and Rene Marois, Brain Imaging for Legal Thinkers:  A Guide for the Perplexed, Vanderbilt University Law School Public Law and Legal Theory, Working Paper Number 10-09.  JonesEtAl_2009_BrainImagingForLegalThinkers

An example of the “G2i” literature is Teneille Brown and Emily Murphy, Through a Scanner Darkly:  Functional Neuroimaging as Evidence of a Criminal Defendant’s Past Mental States, 62 Stan. L. Rev. 1119 (2010).  BrownMurphy_2010_ThroughAScannerDarkly

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