Copyright (c) 2011 Walter F. George School of Law, Mercer University
Mercer Law Review
ARTICLE: Functional Magnetic Resonance Detection of Deception: Great as Fundamental Research, Inadequate as Substantive Evidence
Mercer Law Review
62 Mercer L. Rev. 885
by Charles Adelsheim*
Essential to the law's pursuit of truth, justice, and the efficient resolution of conflict is assessing the veracity of statements made by individuals both in and out of court. In this judicial context, untruthful statements can be, and no doubt are, made regularly by plaintiffs, defendants, and other witnesses. Humans are generally very skilled at deceiving others, yet they are poor at detecting deception. Because of this disparity, there is a strong demand for reliable scientific techniques to detect deception. The most popular technique is currently the polygraph examination. However, polygraph-based evidence is inadmissible as substantive evidence in nearly all jurisdictions. There are a number of techniques being developed with the hope of filling this unmet demand, one of which is the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to detect deception.
While fMRI detection of deception shows promise, and while excellent fundamental research is being conducted, fMRI is not yet ready for deployment in the courtroom. To explain this conclusion, this Article consists of four sections: (1) a discussion of the phenomena of deception and the difficulties attendant to detecting deception; (2) an accessible primer on MRI, fMRI, and BOLD fMRI technology; (3) a review and analysis of the existent research studies of fMRI detection of deception; and (4) an analysis of why, given the research to date, fMRI detection of deception should not be admitted as substantive evidence in a court of law.
II. The Phenomena of Deception
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