Could a jury use a brain scan to determine if someone is in pain, mentally ill or culpable of a crime?
As fMRIs and other brain-imaging techniques make their way into courtrooms, scientists and legal scholars must determine the acceptable uses for such evidence, says Michael S. Gazzaniga, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. To that end, Gazzaniga is heading up the recently launched Law and Neuroscience Project, which will be funded from a $10 million, three-year grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
To begin, teams of scholars will review existing research and identify where more is needed. Later, the group will fund studies and host conferences to fill those gaps.
"One of the other goals is to actually develop a primer for judges, laying out what evidence...should be used and what should not be used," Gazzaniga says.