Heavily criticized brain scans made legal in India

Sitting in a small dark room with a two-sided mirror, you wait with fearful anticipation. A dark figure enters. With latex gloves he places several small electrodes on your head and begins to read aloud specifics from the murder last week. “Shhh. Don’t speak,” he says. “You’ve had your chance to speak. Now we will see what your brain wants to tell us.”

Though the technology is new and relatively untested, courts in Mumbai, India, have begun to admit brain scans as legal evidence.

Equipped with the latest in neuro-technology, prosecutors take pictures of the suspect’s brain in action. The pictures highlight sections of the brain that are stimulated. They are then analyzed to determine whether the suspect actually has memories of the crime or has merely heard about it.

It sounds like something out of a bad Tom Cruise movie, but in fact it is very real and is quickly becoming common in our world courts today.

This June, the first suspect was tried and convicted using the brainwave scanners as key evidence.

According to The New York Times, the judge ruled that the defendant had “experiential knowledge” of the crime that only the killer could possess.

The defendant’s name was Aditi Sharma; she was accused of poisoning her former fiancé at a McDonald’s in Pune, India.

A prosecutor wired Sharma with 32 electrodes and began reading detailed statements about the crime. When he spoke of buying arsenic and other case-specific clues, relevant sections of her brain connected with memory became highly stimulated. Upon conviction she was sentenced to life in prison.

In a world where terrorism is at an all time high, scientists have been working to find a use for this interesting new technology.

On one hand you have psychologists and neuro-scientists, the foremost experts in the field who are unhappy with the leap the Indian government has made. Some critics have called applying brain scans in legal situations “ridiculous,” “chilling,” and “unconscionable.”

“Technologies which are neither seriously peer-reviewed nor independently replicated are not, in my opinion, credible,” said Dr. Peter Rosenfeld, a psychologist and neuroscientist at Northwestern University to The New York Times. “The fact that an advanced and sophisticated democratic society such as India would actually convict persons based on an unproven technology is even more incredible.”

On the other side, forensic investigators and scientists in Maharashtra, India, advocate the scans, explaining that extensive testing has been done and test results are very reliable. They claim the expert scientists who criticize their methods have never actually come to see the latest technology.

While the brain scans will continue in India, we will not be starting the scan tests in the United States just yet.

Since we are learning more about brain patterns everyday, we will soon be faced with some serious legal, moral, and social issues surrounding this fascinating new technology.