- Published: June 8, 2015
The prospect of one day understanding the intricacies of cognitive function is fascinating, but that day is still far away. However, with the advent of techniques such as electroencephalography and fMRI, scientists seem to have gained a foothold in scaling this seemingly insurmountable task. These techniques allow scientists to measure the mental states of individuals based on physiological events in their brains. They could also be a powerful tool in the hands of a legal practitioner, and could influence legal proceedings. In Brent Garland and Paul Glimcher’s paper, Cognitive neuroscience and the law, they discuss the problems with applying these techniques, which are inadequately tested in situations other than the strict experimental conditions maintained in the laboratory. The authors argue that the use these techniques in the court of law, an application which they were not originally intended, poses a serious risk to the legal system. In this respect, the authors encourage neuroscientists to be careful in writing scientific papers that may have unexpected legal ramifications, and to be more active in educating and conversing with the legal community to prevent potential misuses of scientific findings.
Garland, B., and P. Glimcher. 2006. Cognitive neuroscience and the law. Current Opinion in Neurobiology 16:130-134.