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Brain Fingerprinting: Science or Quackery?

Richard Norman rsnorman at mediaone.net
Sun Dec 10 23:08:11 EST 2000

<Jeffrey Peter>; "M.D." <drkid at my-deja.com> wrote in message
news:911gb8$cu4$1 at nnrp1.deja.com...
> In article <3A342451.E5322A0 at bellatlantic.net>,
>   jtnews <jtnews at bellatlantic.net> wrote:
> > Anyone watch 60 Minutes tonight on Brain Fingerprinting?
> >
> > What do you think of the technology?  Is it real science
> > or quackery?
> >
> > Should such evidence be used in court?
> >
> > How can it be abused?
> >
> > Can you ever get a false positive? False negative? How?
> >
> I have not seen the 60 minutes episode. However, I have read a little
> about it. If I am not mistaken, all the technology shows is that the
> person has a certain memory encoded in his brain. However, there is no
> way to determine if the memory is correct or where it came from. So, if
> I were accused of say killing someone on the way home from work at a
> particular bar which I do not frequent, the test would try to show that
> I had a memory of the bar. Perhaps I visited the bar while I was under
> investigation. The test could come up positive, because I was in the
> bar. Plus I might have memories about the murder from reading about it
> in the papers, seeing it on TV and questions from the Police.
> I think the test definitely needs much more validation before using it
> in court.
> Jeff Utz

I very much agree.  The test determines (to an unknown degree of
reliability) that the displayed item is "recognized" or "familiar".  But
much depends on the way in which it is applied or interpreted.  And
the show did specify that a witness to a crime would likely have the
same recognition to specific details as the perpetrator. lt is also
probably not at all known whether specific individuals might have
aberrant responses that would generate either false negatives or
false positives.

The current polygraph was also considered highly scientific and,
therefore, accurate when it was first introduced.  And DNA evidence
is much more capable of proving innocence than of guilt.

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