Graduate Student Journal of Psychology Copyright 2009 by the Department of Counseling & Clinical Psychology 2009, Vol. 11 Teachers College, Columbia University
Neuroscience and Law: The Evidentiary Value of Brain Imaging
Teachers College, Columbia University
Neuroimaging evidence should be restricted in terms of admissibility in the courts, and should only be considered reliable under scientifically valid clinical methods. This topic will be approached in four stages: (1) a brief introduction to neuroscience and law, (2) a discussion of evidentiary laws in the American legal system, (3) a review of modern neuroimaging and the admissibility and applicability of neuroimaging evidence in the courtroom using actual cases, and 4) a closing argument, including interdisciplinary perspectives on neuroscience and law.
Neuroimaginghas numerous legitimate legal
brain imaging, including: the presence of structural
applications, in addition to important clinical applications.
abnormalities, functional deficits, personality traits based on
Neuroimaging methods are primarily used to study brain and
physiological defects, and lie detection (Pettit, 2007, p. 321-
behavior relationships, which contribute to clinical and
research disciplines such as radiology, psychiatry,
Brain images have physiological and behavioral
neurology, and clinical neuropsychology (Bigler, 1991).
correlates. Correlation of neuroimaging to behavior is
However, there are numerous ways in which brain imaging
presently very limited. A majority of the findings are still
can be interpreted and implicated in the court. In fact,
inconclusive, although many remain informative, and
neuroscience has been applied to many legal subfields,
potentially useful. "With respect to understanding the brain
including, but not limited to: Intellectual Property Law, Tort
and certain behaviors, the state of scientific knowledge is
Law, Consumer Law, Health Law, Employment Law,
nascent, but promising. The more complex and specific the
Constitutional Law, and Criminal Law (Tovino, 2007). Thus,
behavior examined, the more speculative the connection"
brain scientists can use neuroimages to determine the
(Baskin et al., 2007, p. 239). However, even the simplest
cognitive, behavioral, and physiological traits of clinical
behaviors involve highly sophisticated functions and
patients and legal defendants.
interactions between multiple structures in the brain. The
The convergence between neuroscience and law is a
human brain is complex and, whether in the clinic or the
recent phenomenon. In fact, "[t]he legal profession is at least
courtroom, it should be analyzed and assessed by experts.
two millennia older than the neurobiological profession,
In a clinical setting, neurologists, neuropsychologists
which is not much more than 150 years old at best, and in its
and other health care professionals use neuroimaging for
current state of probing the mind of man and his subjective
medical purposes, in order to detect or diagnose neurological
states is far younger than that" (Zeki & Goodenough, 2004,
disorders or brain injuries. Technological advances and
p. 1662). Nevertheless, developments in neuroscience have
methodological improvements in neuroimaging techniques
led to unprecedented changes in legal proceedings, whereby
will continue to expand its use. Meanwhile, neuroimaging
the brain has increasingly become a subject of legal inquiry.
will be applied in the courtroom for purposes that extend
As neuroscience now has many implications within the legal
realm, the "Neuro-Law" subfield has developed.
In a courtroom setting, litigants use neuroimaging in
civil litigation and criminal trials in order to affirm or deny
Admissibility of Scientific Evidence: Implications for
claims of brain or spinal injury (Pettit, 2007, p.321-322).
Some researchers assert that neuroimaging could be used to
demonstrate the propensity for violence, the capacity to
Admissibility of neuroimaging evidence is commonly
stand trial, as evidence of malingering, or to help establish or
based on the purpose of submission, rather than the imaging
diminish the criminal responsibility of a defendant (Aharoni,
itself. There is a great deal of controversy regarding if and
Funk, Sinnott-Armstrong, & Gazzaniga, 2008). Recent
when neuroimaging should be used. Neuroimaging is not
research has also noted the use of brain imaging in detecting
purely objective, but is "the product of a complex set of
pain, but this method has not yet been scientifically validated
techniques, subjective decisions, technical choices, and
for clinical use (Kupers & Kehlet, 2006).
informed interpretations" (Baskin, Edersheim, & Price,
Evidentiary rules have set parameters for the
2007, p. 249). Essentially, neuroimaging methods create a
admissibility and reliability of scientific instruments, thereby
visual image of the brain and the imaging specialist
limiting the application of neuroimaging. Yet, as Pettit
interprets it. Various interpretations can be derived from
(2007) states, "courts usually seem willing to consider brain-imaging evidence under the same standards that they apply
to other scientific evidence" (p. 339). Legal history
Correspondence: Noel Shafi, [email protected]
demonstrates that neuroimaging is most useful when it is
requested a systolic blood pressure deception test, or lie
applied with clinical methods. Ultimately, the rule of law
detector test. The defendant believed that the test results
and the current state of science determine the practicality of
would proclaim his innocence. The court excluded the test
neuroimaging in the courtroom. The scientific reliability of
results because the testing device was not generally accepted
neuroimaging evidence is an important part of legal
in the scientific community. The court explained their
decision as follows:
The legal standard for admissibility of evidence depends
on the court system. State and federal courts have their own
Just when a scientific principle or discovery crosses the
standards but generally defer to federal rules. Federal rules
line between the experimental and demonstrable stages is
are derived from previous court rulings, which established
difficult to define. Somewhere in this twilight zone the
preliminary standards of admissibility. For example,
evidential force of the principle must be recognized, and while courts will go a long way in admitting expert
Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals
(1993) and Frye v.
testimony deduced from a well-recognized scientific
(1923) are two pivotal cases that contributed to
principle or discovery, the thing from which the deduction
the federal standard for the admissibility of scientific
is made must be sufficiently established to have gained
general acceptance in the particular field in which it
Gardland and Glimcher (2006) describe the Daubert
belongs (p. 1014).
standard – a legal criteria for evaluating the reliability of
scientific testimony and evidence in the courtroom. This
This statement eventually became known as the "Frye
standard is derived from a civil suit, Daubert v. Merrell Dow
standard" for the admissibility of scientific evidence.
, whereby the Supreme Court established
Both the Daubert (1993) and Frye (1923) cases
four general guidelines for the admission of scientific
developed standards for the admissibility of scientific
evidence. However, it was the Daubert standard that
In regard to the evidentiary law, the Daubert standard
significantly contributed to the development of the federal
states that trial judges should carefully consider:
standard, which was previously enacted. The Frye standard
was generally used from the 1920's to the 1980's; the courts
…whether the theory or technique in question can be (and
eventually shifted to the federal standard in the 1970's and,
has been) tested, whether it has been subjected to peer
in the 1990's, Daubert (1993) ruled that Frye would no
review and publication, its known or potential error rate,
longer be the standard rule of admissibility of scientific
and the existence and maintenance of standards controlling
evidence (Moriarty, 2008).
its operation, and whether it has attracted widespread
Federal Rules of Evidence (FRE)
.The current federal
acceptance within a relevant scientific community (p. 580).
standard for evidence in the courtroom is known as The
Federal Rules of Evidence (FRE). The FRE have provided a
Can neuroimaging evidence satisfy any of these criteria?
legal standard for the admissibility of evidence in United
In Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals
States federal courts since it was enacted in 1975 (Mosteller,
plaintiffs claimed that Bendectin, a prescription drug and
2006). Most U.S. state and federal jurisdictions refer to this
antinauseant, caused them serious birth defects when their
standard. The FRE contains several rules relevant to the
mothers consumed it during pregnancy. Experts for the
admissibility, presentation and application of scientific
plaintiff argued for medical causation, based on results from
evidence in the courtroom. Generally, the judge decides
animal studies involving Bendectin and human studies
whether the evidence is admissible, but only an expert
involving similar drugs. Experts for the defendant argued
witness can introduce and interpret the evidence (Moriarty,
that there was no evidence based on human studies
indicating that the drug poses a risk for human birth defects.
Relevancy and expert testimony are two central
The defendants also cited the Frye (1923) case, arguing that
concepts in the FRE that govern the admissibility of
expert testimony for the plaintiff was not based on the
evidence. There are three rules of particular importance - two
scientific method. The court ruled in favor of the defendant
pertaining to relevancy, and one pertaining to expert
and concluded that the studies relating to Bendectin were
testimony (FRE 401, FRE 702 and FRE 403 respectively).
inadmissible as evidence.
These rules are important because they help determine the
This case demonstrates that litigants and scientists
admissibility of scientific evidence such as neuroimaging.
equally recognize that scientific studies do not always
They will be reviewed in order of mention.
establish causality, and that animal studies should not always
Federal Rules of Evidence, FRE 401 (definition of
be equated with human conditions. This case also
In regard to relevancy, FRE 401
demonstrates that expert testimony on scientific evidence
can potentially influence the admissibility of evidence, or
even the outcome of the case itself.
means evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to
In Frye v. United States
(1923), the defendant was
the determination of the action more probable or less
charged with second-degree murder; in his defense, he
probable than it would be without the evidence.
NEUROSCIENCE AND LAW
Researchers are still debating the relevancy of
Nuclear Medicine Brain Imaging Council (1996) states that
neuroimaging to courtroom proceedings; however, the
the "use of functional neuroimaging in forensic situations
evidentiary value of neuroimaging is not only a matter of
including criminal, personal injury, product liability, medical
relevance to the case, but also, the sufficiency of the
malpractice, worker's compensation and ‘toxic torts,'
evidence itself. Husted and colleagues (2008) state that
remains especially controversial" (p. 1257).
imaging studies "will not be relevant to every defense and, if
The way neuroimaging methods are applied in legal
utilized, should be only a component of the multi-faceted
cases is crucial. If applied unconventionally, brain scanning
scientific data presented" (p. e15). Others disagree, stating
technology may undermine rather than contribute to justice.
that "neuroscience is insufficiently advanced to offer precise
However, if the science is reliable, and provides relevant
data that will be genuinely legally relevant" (Morse, 2006, p.
facts, litigants can introduce this evidence without
compromising the integrity of their case. Therefore, the
Federal Rules of Evidence, FRE 702 (opinions and
reliability of the method should be a prerequisite for its
Whenever neuroscientific evidence
requires specialized knowledge, there must be an expert
Generally, regardless of the type of case being tried,
witness to testify as to what the brain image means. Without
factuality, reliability, and applicability remain critical factors
the appropriate expertise, the evidence would be rendered
in the admissibility of scientific evidence under FRE 702.
inadmissible. FRE 702 (2008) states:
Federal Rules of Evidence, FRE 403 (relevancy and its
Besides FRE 702, there are other federal rules that
If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will
further stipulate what judges may allow in the courtroom. In
assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to
fact, "[e]xpert testimony that survives scrutiny under FRE
determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert
702 might still be excluded under FRE 403" (Pettit, 2007, p.
by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education,
327). FRE 403 (2008) provides stipulations that potentially
may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise,
exclude some evidence from the courtroom if the probative
if (1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and
value is minimal. This rule specifies additional criteria for
methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and
admissibility of evidence. FRE 403 (2008) states:
methods reliably to the facts of the case.
Although relevant, evidence may be excluded if its
In summary, Rule 702 requires that testimony be
probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger
factual, reliable, and applicable to the case. The previously
of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, waste of
mentioned factors will be evaluated in terms of how they
time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence.
apply to neuroimaging evidence. The following evaluation
will only provide a general sense of the current medical-legal
In summary, Rule 403 specifies four criteria for
opinion on the admissibility of scientific evidence in the
admissible courtroom evidence (whether it is prejudicial,
confusing, misleading or excessive). There are several
Sufficient facts are necessary to prove certain aspects of
arguments regarding how neuroimaging may or may not
the case. If the facts are insufficient, then they will not
meet any of these criteria.
contribute to legal decision-making. For this reason,
Prejudice and justice are inevitably intertwined in the
factuality can itself determine admissibility, despite the
field of law. Neuroscience can contribute to prejudice in the
reliability of the evidence. For instance, "even if the science
legal system in numerous ways. In criminal trials, rendering
is good enough to pass muster for admission as expert
a verdict for the defendant simply based on a structural
scientific evidence under federal and state evidentiary rules,
abnormality of the brain or a dysfunction of behavior
it may still be inadmissible because it will not be probative"
oversimplifies the complexity of crime and creates undue
(Morse, 2006, p. 400). So, it is not just a matter of whether
prejudice. This may work for or against the defendant – the
neuroimaging is scientifically valid, but rather, whether or
jury can relieve punishment for the crime if the defendant is
not it can provide enough information to establish important
believed to be insane or incompetent because of his anomaly,
facts in the case.
but the jury can also penalize the defendant because his brain
Researchers Le and Hu (1997) explain that "[r]eliability
disorder may indicate a propensity for criminal behavior.
concerns the extent to which a test, or any measuring
Therefore, brain abnormalities should not automatically
procedure, yields the same results on repeated trials" (p.
diminish the responsibility of the defendant, nor should it
160). Reliability is equally important in clinical
substantiate guilt. Overall, neuroimaging evidence should be
neuroimaging as it is in evidentiary law. Aharoni and
used in conjunction with other legal or scientific evidence.
colleagues (2008) argue that "it is not clear when
Thus, prejudice is likely to enter the courtroom depending on
neuroscience findings should qualify as relevant, material, or
the way the evidence is presented and how it is applied.
competent, or reliable as defined by the rules of evidence"
Neuroimaging technology is also potentially confusing
(p. 157). Whether such qualifications can be met really
for the jury. The expert witness must be able to simplify the
depends on the type of neuroimaging device being used, and
information being presented, and accurately summarize
the reason it is being employed. For instance, the Society of
relevant findings on the brain. Brain evidence is especially
the latter is concerned with physiological features.
difficult to present without confusion because "society has
Neuroimaging techniques create a visual image of different
not yet reached a consensus as to whether, as a matter of
structures or functions in the brain (see Figures 1-2 for a
morality or legality, neurological explanations should lead to
basic review of brain anatomy). Each neuroimaging modality
exculpation" (Baskin et al. 2007, p. 268). However, one legal
is based on distinct methods of operation, and has varying
expert believes that neuroimaging can revitalize the search
degrees of scientific validity and reliability. The question is
for truth in the courtroom. Feigenson (2006) states that the
whether or not the neuroimaging methods in the clinic have
"courtroom display of such images should not only greatly
evidentiary value in the court.
assist triers of fact in understanding the fMRI expert
testimony [or any other type of neuroimaging device] but
. Displaying the cortical surface of the brain.
also disabuse them of the tendency to view the data
Adopted from Fallon (2006).
representations naively and hence uncritically" (p. 251).
Thus, it is arguable that neuroimaging could enlighten the jury, rather than confuse them.
Baskin and colleagues (2007) argue that neuroimaging
can mislead or bias the jury. In fact, "data from fMRI, SPECT, and PET scans can be referenced and presented in dazzling multimedia displays that may inflate the scientific credibility of the information presented" (p. 268). Defendants with insanity pleas can further complicate judicial decisions. One study examined the effect of neurological evidence on legal decision-making. Gurley and Marcus (2008) presented a group of 396 participants with hypothetical case summaries of defendants in criminal trials. The participants were asked to provide a verdict of guilty or not guilty by reason of insanity. This study found that participants were more likely to render a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity when the hypothetical defendant had psychological or neurological problems, which were
demonstrated by psychiatric or neuroimaging techniques.
These results seem to demonstrate the favorability of brain-
based evidence in the courtroom, and how it can bias the jury
. Anterior, posterior, ventral and dorsal views of the
and the outcome of the verdict (Gurley & Marcus, 2008). To
brain. Adopted from Badre (2008).
counteract this bias, Baskin and colleagues (2007) suggest
that medical witnesses interpret neuroimages with reservation, and be more speculative and less definitive in presenting their testimony in court.
Neuroimaging does not seem to present a problem of
undue delay as other forms of scientific evidence might. Whether neuroimaging in the court is a "waste of time" or a "needless presentation of cumulative evidence" depends on the ability of brain imaging specialists to contribute new facts to the case; considering the history of neuro-law cases, it seems that brain scans can do just that. Structural and Functional Neuroimaging I: Clinical and Courtroom Applications
Modern neuroimaging techniques such as magnetic
resonance imaging (MRI), computerized tomography (CT), single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), positron emission tomography (PET), and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), will be reviewed in terms of their clinical and legal applications. SPECT, fMRI, and PET are functional brain scanning technologies, while MRI and CT are structural scanning technologies. The
former is concerned with physiological functions, whereas
NEUROSCIENCE AND LAW
Lawyers and scientists typically consider the capabilities
to the court, to "bar testimony about shaken baby impact
and limitations of neuroimaging techniques before making
syndrome or inflicted head trauma" (p. 1). The defendant
any conclusions about a patient, client, plaintiff, or
was "charged with assault by abuse involving a child" (p. 1)
defendant. The following segment of this paper will review
approximately sixteen months old at the time the injury was
several examples of how law has interacted with
thought to occur. The child was hospitalized and underwent
neuroimaging in recent legal history. The author will first
neuroimaging soon after the injury. A CT scan detected a
begin by analyzing the scientific reliability and legal
small subdural hematoma with a "mass effect on the left
applicability of structural neuroimaging, such as MRI and
side" of the child's brain (p. 1). A MRI was also performed,
CT, and functional neuroimaging, such as PET, SPECT and
and found "an extensive subacute left-sided subdural
fMRI. Several legal cases involving each neuroimaging
hematoma" throughout the left hemisphere (p. 2). The court
modality will be reviewed, followed by a brief discussion on
recognized the greater sensitivity of MRI over CT, in that it
the admissibility and reliability of neuroimaging evidence
was able to better display the extent of the hematoma in the
submitted in court.
brain. Medical experts in this case agreed that the head
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
injuries sustained by the child were "consistent
resonance imaging (MRI) is a structural brain imaging
with…Inflicted Head Trauma" and that the injuries were
technique focusing on the structure of the brain. MRI is a
"not accidental" (p. 2). One physician testified that the
noninvasive procedure, unlike PET and SPECT. MRI
shaking of a child or blunt force inflicted on the child, or
displays visual images of the brain by "using a powerful
both, causes injuries; this notion is generally accepted in the
magnet to obtain its images" (Baskin et al., 2007, p. 248).
relevant scientific community, namely, pediatrics (p. 4).
The authors describe MRI scans as a static visualization of
MRI and CT scans substantiated the evidence
the brain. MRI has numerous capabilities. MRI has high
supporting head injury, and coincided with expert testimony
spatial resolution and is scientifically established as a
regarding the diagnosis of shaken baby impact syndrome.
reliable measurement of brain injury (Mettingr, Rodiger, De
The court concluded that the testimony was relevant and
Keyser, & van der Naalt., 2007). Specifically, "structural
reliable, and would therefore, be admitted into evidence in
MRIs can often detect acutely diffuse axonal injury, small
the subsequent trial. The motion by the defendant to exclude
hemorrhages, edema, or contusions that characterize TBI"
evidence on inflicted head trauma was denied (p. 17-18). In
or Traumatic Brain Injury (Baskin et al. 2007, p. 254). Also,
this case, MRI and CT evidence was both admissible and
"MRI produces images superior to CT scans, both in its
ability to differentiate gray from white matter and its clear
As demonstrated in the previous case, MRI and CT can
visualization of brain structures" (Moriarty, 2008, p. 31).
provide proof of injury, but may not always provide
Furthermore, "the great advantage of MRI is the absence of
sufficient evidence for medical causation. The following
radiation, which is important for the assessment of the young
case highlights the problem of making causal inferences
and in benign conditions" (Rankin, 2008, p. 239). Some
from neuroimaging. In Siharath, Rider and Rider v. Sandoz
researchers consider MRI an effective tool and an admissible
(2001), the plaintiffs sought
form of evidence for postmortem evaluations of traumatized
"compensatory and punitive damages" alleging that Parlodel,
brains (Harris, 1991). Overall, MRI is designed to detect or
a drug manufactured by the defendant, caused seizures and
diagnose physiological abnormalities of the brain.
stroke (p. 1349). The defendant filed a motion to exclude
However, MRI also has limitations. MRI scans are
evidence insinuating medical causation. Plaintiff Siharath
unable to accurately predict age or gender (Baskin et al.,
took the prescription for several days, and soon after,
2007). Moreover, Ewers and colleagues (2006) state that
experienced "three seizures and a subarachnoid hemorrhagic
"[v]ariability in MRI-based measurement between clinical
stroke" (p. 1349). The plaintiff's physician was unable to
sites may potentially influence the accuracy of biological
establish a cause or provide a diagnosis. The second
measures and thus compromise applicability of MRI-based
Plaintiff, Ms. Rider, experienced involuntary movements in
diagnostic criteria across sites" (p. 1051). Differences in
her right leg. She later underwent a CT scan, which indicated
clinical standards do exist, and that there is a subjective
that she had "an acute intracranial hemorrhagic stroke," and
element in MRI analysis in the clinic, and consequently, in
a MRI scan, which also confirmed that she had suffered "a
left parietal hemorrhage" (p. 1350). The experts for the
The following case exemplifies the evidentiary value of
MRI in diagnosing head injuries. In State of Delaware v.
(2004), the defendant filed a motion, or a request
6 A hematoma is defined as a collection of blood in bodily tissue or organs usually caused by hemorrhaging; a subdural hematoma is a
mass of blood accumulating within the dura mater, and is caused by
2 Axonal injuries are characterized by lesions in the white matter of
7 Seizures are characterized by abnormal neural activity
3 Hemorrhages are instances of internal or external bleeding.
accompanied by changes in sensation and behavior.
4 Edema is an accumulation of fluid in bodily tissue or cavities
8 Strokes are defined as a sudden loss of brain function caused by
causing swelling to occur.
changes in blood supply to the brain, usually causing changes in
5 Cerebral contusions are bruises in brain tissue caused by injury.
movement, vision or speech.
plaintiffs provided testimony that relied on case reports,
MRI evidence was admissible, although its reliability is
partly because there was a lack of epidemiological studies on
Parlodel. The expert witness for the plaintiff, an expert on
adverse drug reactions, argued that Parlodel causes strokes.
Computerized Tomography (CT)
The defendant argued that case reports do not satisfy the
Computerized tomography (CT) is a structural imaging
The court finally agreed with the defendant, although
technique and x-ray technology used to visualize internal
the MRI and CT evidence confirmed the injuries in the
organs, including the brain. CT is also a noninvasive
plaintiffs' brains. Despite the fact that the MRI and CT scans
technology that revolutionized diagnostic neurology
indicated separate incidents of stroke in two plaintiffs with
(Khoshbin & Khoshbin, 2007, p. 179). CT "produces an
the same prescription, it does not establish a causal
excellent combination of both high spatial and temporal
relationship between the drug and the results of the brain
resolution" (Rankin, 2008, p. 239). CT is also a valid clinical
scan. The court ruled in favor of the defendant, who filed for
method of assessing head trauma (Metting et al., 2007, p.
"summary judgment on issues of medical causation"
699). Moreover, Moriarty (2008) states that CT and MRI
, 2001, p. 1374). In this case, MRI and CT evidence
scans are typically presented in U.S. courts as evidence for
was admissible, but unreliable.
brain trauma or neurological disease; he argues that there "is
The following case is an example of how neuroimaging
general agreement and substantial proof of reliability that CT
evidence can be used, in conjunction with
scans and MRI technology can detect brain injury, damage
neuropsychological evidence, to establish a link between
or atrophy" (p. 40-41). According to Metting and
brain injury and intellectual capacity. This case demonstrates
colleagues (2007), "CT is one of the first developed and
that brain scan evidence can coincide with or support the
most commonly applied imaging techniques in the acute
basis of other scientific evidence in the courtroom. In United
phase of head injury" (p. 699) and "the overall sensitivity of
States v. Sandoval-Mendoza
(2006), the defendant appealed
CT to abnormalities in acute head trauma is 63-75%" (p.
his conviction for conspiracy to sell methamphetamine,
700). However, the implication that such injuries have on
arguing that he was influenced by government agents to
mental capacity remains unknown.
commit the crime, and that the presence of a brain tumor can
In some cases, CT scans are being admitted as evidence
explain his susceptibility to influence. One defense witness,
in the courtroom for purposes it was not designed. Although
a psychologist, testified that the defendant had an unusually
brain scans may have important implications on the mental
large pituitary tumor, which caused irreversible brain
capacity or sanity of an individual, it is minimally capable of
damage. The court acknowledged that pituitary tumors may
defining the former, and is currently incapable of proving the
affect thyroid production, causing mood disorder, and
latter. The following cases demonstrate that CT evidence can
damage to the frontal, temporal and thalamic regions, which
be used or misused accordingly. The first case is a court case
may cause problems in "memory, decision-making,
involving CT evidence supporting the insanity defense. The
judgment, mental flexibility, and overall intellectual
second case involves CT evidence establishing mental
capacity" (p. 653).
Another defense witness, a neurologist, testified that the
In United States v. Hinckley
(1982), the defendant was
MRI showed that Sandoval-Mendoza had a tumor which
tried for his attempt to assassinate President Ronald Reagan.
shrank after treatment. Afterwards, the frontal lobe herniated
The defense presented an insanity defense, which they based,
into the empty space previously occupied by the tumor; the
in part, on CT scan evidence. The expert witness, a
tumor then caused atrophy in the left temporal lobe and
psychiatrist, argued for the defense and testified that the CT
further damage in other areas.
scan showed atrophy in the brain. The psychiatrist then
The court recognized that this kind of damage to the
argued that atrophy is associated with schizophrenia. A
brain affects judgment, memory, and emotional memory.
radiologist was also consulted and testified that the scans
Both witnesses agreed that such brain damage causes
showed brain abnormalities, but did not have any causal
disinhibition, but does not necessary increase "susceptibility
implications on the behavior or sanity for the defendant.
to inducement to commit crimes" (p. 653).
Nevertheless, the jury found Hinckley not guilty by reason of
witnesses, also consisting of neurologists and
insanity. It is likely that CT evidence had an effect on the
neuropsychologists, testified that although the MRI showed
verdict (Khoshbin & Khoshbin, 2007, p. 184), by
a pituitary tumor, the connection between cognition and
diminishing the responsibility of the defendant and
behavior remains questionable, and that the tumor should not
supporting his insanity defense. Such an inference from
be attributed to disinhibition (p. 653-654).
neuroimaging is not based on scientific evidence. This is one
The court also recognized that although expert
example of how brain scans can be used in a way it was not
testimonies on both sides were contradictory, they were not
intended. Neuroimaging is not capable of proving insanity.
potentially confusing and that "the jury was capable of
Although the images coincided with the psychiatric
weighing the conflicting medical expert opinion testimony
against the rest of the evidence presented and determining
9 Atrophy is a physiological process characterized by cell death,
whether or not predisposition existed" (p. 656). In this case,
causing a progressive decline in tissue.
NEUROSCIENCE AND LAW
assessment, it was unable to substantiate it. In this case, CT
In previous cases, it was demonstrated that the causality
evidence was admissible, but seemingly unreliable.
of brain injury can not be easily established. In the following
In re Estate of
Meyer (2001), the plaintiffs sued because
case, it seems equally difficult to establish causation between
they were unrightfully denied benefits from Meyer's trust.
brain injury and post-injury symptoms. In Lanter v.
The plaintiffs argued that Meyer was not mentally capable of
Kentucky State Police
the appellant sought "workers'
creating the trust and was possibly manipulated by his
compensation benefits due to a head injury" (p. 45) sustained
lawyer. Moriarty (2008) noted that the court allowed the
during a police training incident. Lanter had previously
plaintiffs to introduce CT scans of Meyer which indicated
received partial disability benefits. However, the appellant
various abnormalities including "brain atrophy, vascular
wanted total disability benefits and requested several brain
dementia and focal brain changes" (p. 41), which
scans to determine the extent of his injury. In order to
supported the claim that Meyer lacked the capacity to create
receive total benefits, the claimant must demonstrate that his
the trust. As mentioned earlier, CT scans have the ability to
work-related brain injury caused continuous emotional,
localize damage in the brain. However, the association
neurological, and behavioral symptoms. Several brain scans
between atrophy, dementia, and CT evidence is questionable.
of different types were admitted as evidence. The medical
Both early and recent reports have questioned the reliability
experts performed MRI, EEG and SPECT scans. One
of CT in measuring cognitive decline (Bird, 1982; van
expert diagnosed the appellant with a cerebral contusion and
Straaten, Scheltens, & Barkhof, 2004). According to the
post-concussive syndrome (Lanter
court, neuroimaging provided substantial proof to explain
Another expert performed and analyzed additional
Meyer's mental state, or lack thereof. In this case, CT
SPECT scans, which "revealed functional defects in the right
evidence was admissible, but reliability is debatable.
parietal and left occipital lobes of the claimant's brain" (p.
As shown in some of the previous cases, structural
48). However, these results did not indicate that the injury
imaging in the courtroom is relatively reliable. Functioning
caused his behavioral symptoms. The claim for disability
imaging is also applicable in legal cases.
benefits was denied, in part, because the medical experts for
the plaintiff did not establish causation between injury and
Single Photon Emission Computerized Tomography
affect. SPECT evidence in this case was admissible, but
Other cases have also admitted SPECT imaging as
Single photon emission computerized tomography
evidence for brain injury claims. For example, in Boyd v.
is a functional imaging technique that measures
(2005), the appellant, a former athlete, sustained head
metabolic activity and cerebral processes in various
injuries during sports activity. The appellant (Boyd)
structures. Scientists can use functional imaging to study the
requested SPECT scanning to determine the cause and extent
neurochemistry of the brain and develop a cognitive profile
of his organic brain injury in order to apply for additional
based on an increase or decrease in blood flow (Baskin et al.,
disability benefits. The radiologists appointed to the case
2007, p. 250). SPECT has a wide variety of clinical
confirmed the head injuries, but noted that the exact cause
applications. SPECT imaging studies have generated data on
was uncertain. Subsequently, the court ruled against the
psychiatric and neurological disorders, like dementia,
appellant, denying his claim for disability benefits, partly
epilepsy, schizophrenia, and depression, but with mixed
because there was no way to prove that his current
results (Bonne, Krausz, & Lerer, 1992).
physiological abnormalities were due to head injuries he
SPECT also has several disadvantages. Granacher
sustained in the past. SPECT evidence in this case was once
(2008) notes the clinical and legal limitations, stating that
again admissible, but unreliable.
"the reliability of SPECT…when applied forensically to
The following case shows that although SPECT imaging
MTBI [Mild Traumatic Brain Injury] or TBI cases, will not
is unlikely to establish causation, it can be used to
meet all Daubert criteria" (p. 326), and that "general
demonstrate incompetence. In United States v. Kasim
acceptance of the theory and technique within the relevant
the defendant, a pediatrician, was accused of conducting
scientific community…has not been achieved" (p. 327).
fraudulent insurance practices. The defendant filed for a
Metting and colleagues (2007) note the technological
competency evaluation in 2008. His defense team found that,
limitations, stating that SPECT has low spatial resolution,
in 2003, "Kasim was diagnosed with anoxic encephalopathy
limited availability, and is not routinely used as a clinical
caused by an acute myocardial infarction," as well as sleep
tool for assessing head injury. At the present time, there is no
apnea during hospitalization (p 8). The EEG produced
scientific consensus on the validity of SPECT. Furthermore,
abnormal results the following day. Days later, EEG and
"[r]eliable analysis of SPECT date remains a major
MRI results performed on Kasim were normal. Numerous
challenge" (Bonne et al., 1992, p. 298).
11 The electroencephalogram (EEG) is a functional technique used
to assess "cerebral maturation, for determining a patient's
10 Vascular dementia is a common neuropsychiatric disorder
physiological (awakening and sleep) and pathological (comas) level
characterized by cognitive decline and impairment, producing focal
of wakefulness and in epileptology" (Praline et al., 2007, p. 2149).
effects in the brain.
medical expert witnesses were consulted for further
scanner-specific or archived normative databases"; (5)
scanning. A SPECT was later performed, indicating a
"Nonuniform use of quantitative analyses in conjunction
reduction in blood flow in the temporal and frontal lobes.
with descriptive readings"; (6) "Availability of few
The frontal and temporal lobes are associated with executive
published standards defining the criteria for disease pattern
functioning and memory, respectively. The defendant
identification"; and a (7) "Lack of published determinations
exhibited deficits in both areas of cognition during
of sensitivity and specificity for scans to indentify specific
neurological and psychological testing. One medical witness
diseases and syndromes before their routine clinical use" (p.
diagnosed Kasim with frontal lobe dementia, based on the
1257). The clinical limitations of SPECT and PET should be
acknowledged in the courtroom. Interpretative errors in
Although at least one physician disagreed with the
neuroimaging could certainly compromise expert testimony.
diagnostic validity of SPECT in cases of dementia, or the
For this reason, and others, the courts have increasingly
extent of reduced blood flow in the frontal region, almost all
"rejected the use of scans when performed for less than well-
agreed that the defendant exhibited cognitive deficits.
established clinical indications" (p. 1257).
Despite the discrepancies in the neuroimaging results from
Yet, despite the skepticism on introducing neuroimaging
SPECT, EEG, and MRI, several medical witnesses testified
to litigation, many courts are accepting brain scans as
that normal results from EEG and MRI scans do not
reliable evidence. For instance, PET and SPECT have
necessarily imply normal brain functioning. The court
relatively high rates of admissibility. In fact, Feigenson
considered SPECT as an objective test of cognitive abilities.
(2006) states that "PET and/or SPECT evidence has been
Also, the court found that "Kasim's demeanor during various
admitted in more than four-fifths (73 of 89, 82.0%) of cases
medical evaluations portrayed poor judgment, an inability to
in which it has either been admitted or excluded" (p. 237).
concentrate, and an inability to understand the charges at
Feigenson (2006) also states that there have been over 130
hand" (p. 46). The court concluded that the defendant was
court opinions involving PET and SPECT evidence in U.S.
incompetent to stand trial. Neuroimaging evidence
federal and state courts. The rate of admissibility for PET
contributed to the outcome of the case, which was in favor of
and SPECT does not substantiate reliability, however.
the defendant. SPECT evidence in this case was admissible
In the following case, unreliable evidence was admitted
for the defendant, to confirm his claim of incompetence due
to Alzheimer's disease. In United States v. Gigante
Positive Emission Tomography (PET)
the defendant was being prosecuted by the federal
government for several counts of murder and other serious
Positive emission tomography (PET) is a functional
charges. The defendant requested a PET brain scan to
imaging technique that measures metabolic processes,
confirm Alzheimer's disease (AD) and demonstrate
including "blood flow, blood volume, and metabolism"
incompetency. According to the court opinion, the expert
(Baskin et al., 2007, p. 248). It is a relatively invasive
witness for the defense found that the "defendant was
procedure that requires an injection of radioactive elements
suffering from organic brain dysfunction, possibly due to
(or tracer molecules) into the circulatory system, which
Alzheimer's disease or multi-infarct dementia" (p. 147). The
eventually interact with other molecules to produce
witness was unable to determine the cause, but concluded
measurable changes in activity. Essentially, PET scans "use
that the defendant was incompetent to stand trial.
radioactivity to map differences in metabolic activity in areas
The prosecution team, however, found evidence that
of the brain" (Pettit, 2007, p. 320). They can also be used to
such abnormalities can be attributed to drug use (p. 147).
"measure reduced tissue perfusion" (Baskin et al. 2007, p.
The court noted that Gigante was taking medication at the
250), a characteristic of neurodegenerative disease, where a
time. This case exemplifies that neurological deficit does not
decrease in blood volume is observed in specific tissue.
imply psychological dysfunction, especially considering the
According to Metting et al. (2007), "PET studies generally
confounding variables in the neuroimaging results. Also, the
show cerebral dysfunction beyond the structural
defendant exhibited brain abnormalities which may or may
abnormalities demonstrated by CT and MRI" (p. 703);
not have existed during the commitment of the crime. The
however, PET has low spatial resolution and is not routinely
evidence probably undermined, rather than supported, the
used for assessing mild or moderate traumatic brain injuries.
defendant's case. In this case, PET evidence was
Although PET is more sensitive than SPECT, it is inferior in
admissible, but unreliable.
terms of specificity (Ebmeier, Donaghey, & Dougall, 2005). PET also has additional limitations in methodology.
The Society of Nuclear Medicine Brain Imaging
Council (1996) explains methodological issues with
There is one fundamental problem with the defense in this case.
structural neuroimaging. The council names seven sources of
In regard to a PET-based diagnosis of Alzheimer's dementia, "there
interpretive error in using SPECT and PET: (1) "Differences
are postmortem criteria.but in vivo
histological findings are rarely feasible" and "guidelines have generally not supported the routine
in patient behavioral conditions during acquisition"; (2)
use of functional imaging in the diagnostic evaluation of dementia"
"Processing and display variations"; (3) "Nonstandardized
(Ebmeier et al., 2005, p. 49).
definitions of normal and abnormal"; (4) "Availability of
13 This case was also reviewed elsewhere (Pettit, 2007, p. 335-336).
NEUROSCIENCE AND LAW
Sometimes neuroimaging is excluded as evidence
development and neuropsychiatric disorder" (Aron, Gluck,
because it is being used for reasons that are not clinically
& Poldrack, 2006, p. 1000).
valid, such as diagnosing injuries that lack clinical criteria in
The introduction of fMRI advanced the study and
PET studies. In McCormack v. Capital Electric Construction
science of the brain, and is considered to be technologically
(2005), the plaintiff, a carpenter, filed for
superior to PET and SPECT (Khoshbin & Khoshbin, 2007).
negligence after being electrocuted during work. The
However, fMRI has numerous limitations. The interpretation
plaintiff attempted to introduce PET brain scans to confirm
of brain activity patterns remains a question of debate among
his injuries and gain compensation. Experts testified that the
neuroscientists. Neuroimaging studies examine cognitive
scans showed abnormal brain activity. However, the
functions associated with specific brain patterns of neural
defendant argued that the PET "scans were inadmissible…as
activity. However, there is no indication that any particular
an unreliable method of diagnosing electric shock injuries"
pattern is necessary for any specific behavior (Desmond &
(p. 399). The court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, not because
Chen, 2002). Several confounded variables, such as head
of PET, but because of the alternative scientific evidence
movement and anatomical differences, also undermine the
presented, including neuropsychological and medical
interpretation of fMRI results (Desmond & Chen, 2002).
evaluations. Although the PET scan of the plaintiff provided
Also, another limitation in fMRI is its "meager temporal
the court with important information relating to the case, it
resolution" (Aharoni, 2008, p. 158).
was not sufficient to substantiate his claim. PET evidence in
Feigenson (2006) describes six additional reliability
this case was admissible, but unreliable.
issues noted with fMRI usage: (1) fMRI scans provide
In yet another legal case, the reliability of PET evidence
relative measures of brain activity, not absolute measures;
depends on the availability of control groups in clinical
(2) fMRI data in neuroimaging studies are not always based
studies; these studies are used to validate neuroimaging
on a same level of significance (e.g. p
< .05); (3) fMRI data
methods. In Penney v. Praxair, Inc.
(1997), the plaintiff
usually represents group averages of brain activity, and
sustained a motor vehicle accident, and sought awards for
results may not apply to individuals; (4) anatomical
brain damage. Experts for the plaintiff testified that PET
variability compromises the accuracy of structural
scans detected brain abnormalities, which indicated that
localization; (5) there are several confounded variables that
Penney had sustained traumatic brain injuries. However, the
may effect physiology, neurochemistry or cognition (e.g.
court found that the plaintiff "did not prove its results were
drugs and toxins); and (6) generalizing the results from fMRI
not affected by his age and his medications" (p. 330). PET
is difficult considering the lack of uniformity in the
results are believed to be compromised by age, medical
experimental methods used for neuroimaging studies (p.
history or medications. The reliability of PET results also
depends on the control groups used in PET studies. In this
Feigenson (2006) also refers to one brain researcher,
case, the plaintiff's age did not match the controls used for
who states that "[t]here is no single-subject reliability" in
PET experiments at the time. Nevertheless, the court ruled in
fMRI findings (Robinson, 2004, p. 716). Furthermore, fMRI
favor of the plaintiff, awarding damages to the plaintiff "for
also has several limitations in regard to diagnosis of injury.
past and future medical expenses related to injuries he
Granacher (2008) states that "[t]he evidentiary usefulness of
allegedly sustained" (p. 330). Furthermore, according to the
functional neuroimaging to provide mild TBI in a court of
court, the admissibility of scientific evidence does not
law lacks a sufficient scientific database and lacks sufficient
strictly depend on general acceptance in the scientific
scientific standards" (p. 327). Nevertheless, fMRI is a "non-
community, but the relevance and reliability of the method
invasive technique," which "does not require exposure to
, 1993). In this case, PET evidence was
ionizing radiation" and creates anatomically precise images
inadmissible and unreliable.
of the brain, while assessing the neural correlates of
cognition and behavior (Metting et al., 2007, p. 705).
Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)
Researchers speculate that fMRI is likely to be the
future of truth (or lie) detection in legal proceedings, and is
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a
superior to the polygraph in accuracy and reliability
brain scanning technology that measures "localized brain
(Kittay, 2007). Applebaum (2007) explains that lie detection
activity by determining blood flow and oxygen utilization in
with fMRI is based on the assumption that lying activates
portions of the brain" (Applebaum, 2007, p. 461). Aharoni et al. (2008) states that, "in general, abnormal activation could
manifest as hypoactivation, hyperactivation, positive or
14 Some argue that the development of science sometimes depends
negative activation, or some erratic pattern" (p. 152). Baskin
on diverse modifications of its methods. A universal method is
et al. (2007) notes fMRI and other forms of functional
potentially detrimental especially if the method retains weaknesses
imaging are "most advantageous for studying
that would otherwise be corrected in an alternative scientific
neurochemistry" (p. 248). Also, fMRI is "widely used for
approach to research methodology (Chalmers, 1999, p. 161-162). 15 A polygraph is an instrument used to record physiological data
imaging the neural correlates of psychological processes and
and changes in the sympathetic nervous system. The examiner
how these brain processes change with learning,
records the responses and determines whether the examinee is lying based on bodily reactions.
brain areas associated with executive functioning. Higher
detector" (Bellin, 2008, p. 711). Mosteller (2006) asserts that
cognitive processes would be necessary to suppress a truthful
"if there were a truly accurate lie detection technology, over
response and plan for deceit. Defendants being scanned by
time it would have a substantial impact both on how criminal
authorities would exhibit abnormally high levels of brain
cases are handled before trial and on how they are tried" (p.
activity in frontal areas when lying to investigators. This is
539). Truth or lie detection with neuroimaging is still a
one way in which fMRI would be considered useful.
process in development, and a subject of intense interest in
However, Appelbaum (2007) names seven limitations
neuroscience and law (Mosteller, 2006). There have been
that exist with fMRI lie detection: (1) There is no scientific
few cases involving fMRI evidence, and like with any other
consensus on the neural basis of deception; (2) fMRI studies
neuroimaging technique, "there may be real concerns about
use group norms to define activation levels in test
the reliability and relevance of fMRI based expert
participants, but these norms may not apply to individuals;
testimony" in legal proceedings (Feigenson, 2006, p. 251).
(3) fMRI studies of lie detection are fairly recent and lack
The following case is concerned with the relationship
substantial data; (4) false-positive and false-negative rates
between violence and cognition, rather than information
are not currently available, so an accuracy assessment is not
extraction or lie detection. In Entertainment Software
possible; (5) external validity is yet to be established –
Association [ESA] v. Blagojevich
(2005), the plaintiff sued
laboratory use and findings may differ from, or may not
the state (represented by the defendant, Blagojevich,
apply to, courtroom use; (6) there are confounded variables
Governor of the state of Illinois) and attempted to enjoin, or
like attention and emotion that would potentially affect the
forbid, the enforcement of a state law designed to prohibit
results of fMRI lie-detection; and (7) even if a physiological
the promotion of violent or explicit video games to minors
basis for lying and deception is defined, a measurement
without parental consent. The state wanted to regulate the
would have to be devised to differentiate between absolute
distribution of games because they believed exposure to
truth and partial truth, or absolute lies and partial lies (p.
violent media causes a lack of behavioral inhibition in
In theory, fMRI is a potential psychological profiling
The defendant used an fMRI study (Kronenberger et al.,
tool. Arrigo (2007) states that fMRI can be used for
2005) to justify anti-video game legislation. The defendant
"interrogating suspects of criminal wrongdoing or extracting
referred to this study as evidence demonstrating that
information from actual violations of the law" (p. 462). In
exposure to violent media has a negative effect on child
this regard, fMRI is inadequate, and such a method of use
behavior and brain function. Using fMRI, the Kronenberger
raises important questions concerning humanitarian ethics
et al. (2005) study found reduced frontal lobe activity in
and constitutional law. Arrigo (2007) contends that fMRI
subjects with disruptive behavior disorder in comparison to
"represents a form of coercion" and a violation of privacy
controls; a relationship between violent media exposure and
rights (p. 463-466). With further research and
changes in brain functioning was also found in both
development, it is only a matter of time before fMRI lie
experimental subjects and controls. The plaintiff consulted
detection is introduced in the courts to pick up where the
Dr. H.C. Nusbaum, a cognitive psychologist and expert
polygraph left off. Arrigo (2007) speculates that interactions
witness, who challenged the testimony of Dr. W.G.
between criminal justice and neuroscience will set a legal
Kronenberger in court.
foundation for biological laws to determine the criminal
In his review of the ESA v. Blagojevich
culpability of the defendant (p. 474).
Feigenson highlights some weaknesses which Dr. H.C.
As of yet, "there are no cases to date admitting fMRI
Nusbaum noted from Dr. W.G. Kronenberger's testimony
evidence as proof of deception or truth-telling" (Moriarty,
and fMRI study (Feigenson, 2006). First, the experimental
2008, p. 46). Furthermore, as one legal expert notes, "it is
design was fundamentally flawed: participants only
not clear…how courts will react to a scientifically valid lie
simulated video-game playing while being scanned, so alternations in brain wave activity can not be associated with
the actual playing of violent games but only a mere
16 Suggested readings are The Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the
simulation. Second, reduced frontal activity does not
United States Constitution which further elaborate on the legal
necessarily indicate susceptibility to violent or aggressive
implications of privacy and testimony that relate to fMRI in the courtroom (Pettit, 2007).
behavior, because other regions of the brain are also
17 Arrigo (2007, p. 464-466) applies anti-modernist and sociological
involved in aggression. Kronenberger testified that reduced
theories of French philosopher, Michel Foucault, to explain the
activity in the frontal lobe indicates lack of impulse control.
diametric struggle between social authority and individual privacy.
Nusbaum disagreed, and testified that the frontal lobe has
The implication for neuroimaging is that it contributes to the
various functions; a reduction in frontal activity can be
former, while undermining the latter. In this context, science is not
attributed to other mental and physical processes besides
a tool for justice, but merely a biosocial commodity of power and
exposure to violent media. Thus, a causal relationship
enforcement, used by legal and psychiatric authorities to
between negative behavior and altered brain activity can not
deconstruct and normalize the individual. From this perspective,
neuroimaging represents the most pervasive force against humanity, exerting itself onto one of the most intimate parts of the human
The court found that the Kronenberger et al. (2005)
study was invalid, and could not support the defendant's
NEUROSCIENCE AND LAW
claim that violent media exposure causes negative behavior,
and Protection of Sharlene
, 2006; In re estate of Meyer
thereby ruling in favor of the Plaintiff's motion to enjoin the
2001; State of Nebraska v. Kuehn
, 2007; Moriarty, 2008, p.
law prohibiting the sale of violent games to minors (ESA v.
40-41); functional imaging, like PET and SPECT scans, has
, 2005). Further developments in functional
been used in civil cases (e.g., Blodgett-McDeavitt v.
imaging techniques are necessary before implementing this
University of Nebraska
, 2004; Green v. K-Mart Corp.
technology in a legal context. In this case, fMRI evidence
Lanter v. Kentucky State Police
, 2005), criminal cases (e.g.,
was admissible, but unreliable.
People v. Goldstein
, 2004; People v. Williams
, 2004; State of
In summary of the previous cases, it seems that
Washington v. Marshall
, 2001; United States v. Mezvinsky
neuroimaging methods have a limited degree of admissibility
2002) and in the penalty phase of capital cases (e.g., Hoskins
and reliability in the court, despite their extensive use in the
v. State of Florida
, 1999; State of Tennessee v. Reid
clinic. The applicability of structural and functional
Regardless of why the evidence is being submitted,
neuroimaging depends on the type of case being presented.
litigants should carefully consider the reliability of
From the examples provided, MRI is able to confirm head
neuroimaging prior to admission. As one researcher notes,
injury (e.g. State of Delaware v. Vandemark
, 2004), but is
"[h]istorically, neurological data have been given great
unable to establish causation between injury and stroke (e.g.
evidentiary weight, often before the scientific basis
Siharath v. Sandoz Pharms. Corp.
, 2001) or to determine
warranted this degree of confidence" (Baskin et al. 2007, p.
susceptibility to criminal behavior (e.g. United States v.
258). Therefore, the evidentiary value of neuroimaging
, 2006); CT is certainly capable of
should be equally weighed in the scales of law and science to
defining mental capacity to some extent (e.g. In re Estate of
determine admissibility. Structural imaging seems to be
, 2001), but unable to prove insanity, although
more admissible and reliable than the functional type,
surprisingly influential in at least one case (e.g. United States
because it has been used and tested for a greater period of
, 1982); SPECT can help determine competency
time. However, this should not negate the potential of
to stand trial (e.g. United States v. Kasim
, 2008), but is
functional imaging. Although structural imaging has a more
unable to establish causation between injury and affect (e.g.,
extensive history in the legal system, functional imaging will
Lanter v. Kentucky State Police
, 2005), or the exact cause of
certainly compete with its technological predecessor, both in
organic brain problems (e.g. Boyd v. Bell
, 2005); PET can
terms of applicability and accuracy. While some emphasize
detect traumatic brain injuries or brain abnormalities (e.g.
the reliability of structural imaging (Pettit, 2007), others
Penney v. Praxair
, Inc., 1997), but is unable to diagnose
emphasize the potential of functional imaging (Mobbs et al.,
neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's (e.g. United
2007). Generally, U.S. courts have questioned the reliability
States v. Gigante
, 1997) or electric shock injuries (e.g.
of PET, SPECT and fMRI in contrast with MRI and CT, but
McCormack v. Capital Electric
and finally, fMRI is
researchers will continue to refine both structural and
unable to establish a connection between exposure to
functional techniques for clinical and legal use.
violence and aggressive behavior (e.g., ESA v. Blagojevich
2005), but is quite possibly the future of lie detection
Conclusion: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Neuroscience
Structural and Functional Neuroimaging II: A Comparison
The evidentiary value of neuroimaging evidence
depends on the validity of its use and its relevance to the
case. Brain imaging is more applicable in some court cases
Structural and functional neuroimaging have
than others. In conclusion, it seems that neuroimaging
significantly contributed to legal decision-making, providing
evidence is generally admissible, but usually unreliable when
key information about anatomy and behavior in neurolaw
it lacks a scientifically valid method. Clinical applications in
cases. However, there are considerable limitations to the
neuroimaging are more likely to be admitted and deemed
applicability of neuroimaging methods; controversy remains
reliable as evidence. Yet, the admissibility of unreliable
as to whether such techniques are being used according to
evidence is a reality that compromises legal integrity and
their capability. Researchers maintain that brain scans are
scientific credibility. There is still medical-legal debate on
only capable of providing anatomical, rather than behavioral
the extent to which neuroimaging and law should interact.
information. "At the present time, imaging technology
Most scientists and lawyers believe that neuroimaging can
reveals the anatomical structure of and blood flow patterns in
provide important details regarding the brain in both clinical
the brain but cannot directly provide information about
and courtroom settings, but, there is no legal or scientific
behavior" (Illes et al., 2009, p. 108). Moreover, in U.S.
consensus on which neuroimaging technology should be
courts, behavioral inferences from neuroimages are likely to
admissible or reliable – this will remain an open question for
be excluded as evidence (Moriarty, 2008).
Nevertheless, neuroimaging modalities are used in a
The evidentiary value of neuroimaging depends on its
variety of legal contexts (Moriarty, 2008). Structural
scientific reliability and legal admissibility. Technology will
imaging, like MRI and CT scans, have been used in the
increase the former, and consequently, improve the latter.
courts as proof of physical or mental illness (e.g., In re Care
With all likelihood, science will continue to advance,
whereas law will continue to adapt. Both neuroscientists and
validity and interpretation of activations. Brain and
lawyers should maintain their current dialogue on the legal
implications of neuroscience and law. The integration of
Ebmeier, K. P., Donaghey, C., & Dougall, N. J. (2005).
both fields does not necessarily imply a compromise in
Neuroimaging in dementia. International Review of
either: "Developments in neuroscience may well have
substantial impact on how the law views people and
Entertainment Software Association et al. v. Blagojevich et
behavior, but the legal system should be able to assimilate
al., 404 F. Supp. 2d 1051 (N.D. Ill. 2005).
and use even revolutionary science [such as neuroimaging]
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The author is a recent graduate with a M.S. degree in Neuroscience and Education from Teachers College. This article was originally submitted as a Master's Thesis in December of 2008 as a humble attempt to examine the newly emerging field of "neurolaw." I would like to dedicate this paper to my step-father. I would also like to offer my thanks to all those who motivated me to write.
INSTALLATION AND MAINTENANCE MANUAL Original instructions MAN3300010 rel. 03 dated 27.09.2011 www.rheavendors.com Caffè Europa by this manual is intended to describe the Caffè Europa vending machine in its three versions: basic, multimedia and multitouch; by using the same basic components, the three machines differ from each other in components and in the
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