It happens to us all the time: we’re convinced we are correct in a pedestrian argument with a friend, but when we look up the answer, it turns out we were wrong. What causes these false memories, and how is it that we can be so sure of something that is factually incorrect? It turns out that this causal, mechanistic question is harder to answer, but a 2007 Nature News article that details the work of Roberto Cabeza, a neuroscientist at Duke Univeristy, suggests that the difference between recollection and familiarity may be empirically noticeable on fMRI. Cabeza’s work suggests that while false memories may be indistinguishable from true memories for a person, the person’s brain processes these false and true memories in different regions. These results could have a substantial impact in the assessment of eyewitness testimony. Cabeza shows that when subjects were confident in a correct answer, blood flow was increased to the medial temporal lobes. However, when subjects were confident in an incorrect answer, an event that occurred approximately 20% of the time, blood flow was shunted towards the frontoparietal region of the brain. Because previous studies have shown that the human capacity for recollection deteriorates over time but that our sense of familiarity remains intact, Cabeza’s findings may play a crucial role in uncovering accidental lies in eyewitness testimony. I agree that the human mind is fallible, and when numerous studies denoting the lack of accuracy in the human assessment of truth from lie suggest that eyewitness testimony, even with good intentions, can be incorrect and mislead a jury or judge, I find studies like Cabeza’s to be very intriguing. If we could test all of our witnesses to ensure that their recollection of the crime is accurate, and simultaneously discredit the statements that appear to be false memories, we could remove all doubt from the judicial process of witness testimony, right? Theoretically, yes. Currently, no. While I find Cabeza’s findings extremely interesting, I don’t think we should implement fMRI neuroimaging for the purpose of witness testimony assessment just yet because there is currently still confounding data that exists. A type of memory known as “phantom recollection” – where people’s minds create false memories with details from other true memories – also activates the medial temporal lobes. Besides this uncertainty, I find it very impractical that in today’s world, with all of the legal implications and bureaucratic red tape associated with implementation of a controversial technology such as this, that we as a society would allow for every witness to be subject to an fMRI procedure. Until this technology proves to have minimal error and we can find a way to implement it into courtrooms without interfering with witness’s rights, it should not be allowed for the assessment of eyewitness testimony. However, this technology seems very promising, and if it can remove much of the doubt and error of eyewitness testimony, could prove to be a very valuable addition to the field of law.