Brain Imaging in the Courtroom: The Quest for Legal Relevance

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This article addresses the question of the relevance of brain imaging to legal criteria that are behavioral, that is, that require evaluation of a defendant's actions or mental states. It begins with the legal standard for the admissibility of scientific and technical evidence. Then it considers the relevance of imaging to behavioral legal criteria. The problem is translating mechanistic neuroscience data into the law's folk psychological standards. It uses examples from the criminal law, but the analysis generalizes to behavioral criteria in the civil law. The central question is, “How, precisely, does the proffered scan or data based on scanning answer the specific legal question it supposedly helps answer?” I conclude that, at present, brain imaging has little relevance to behavioral legal criteria. The final section takes note of a rampant disorder, brain overclaim syndrome, and offers a remedy, cognitive jurotherapy.

Publication Title

American Journal of Bioethics-Neuroscience

Publication Citation

5 Am. J. Bioethics-Neuroscience 24 (2014)

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