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The Present and Future Impact of Neuroscience Evidence on Criminal Law
By Kristen Gartman Rogers
In the 1960s, Bob Dylan sang, “[I]f my thought-dreams could be seen, they’d probably put my head in a guillotine. But it’s alright, Ma, it’s life, and life only.”1 Nearly 45 years later, Dylan’s fear of an appointment with Madame Guillotine might not be entirely unfounded. Developments in neuroscience, which is, broadly speaking, the study of the brain and nervous system, have made it more than theoretically possible to analyze a person’s “thought-dreams” in a laboratory. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is the latest and most promising technique for measuring and depicting brain function. If the technique’s potential is fully realized, it could transform our criminal justice system. At the very least, it will be offered in court in criminal cases as proof of defendants’ mental states and capabilities — if not by criminal defense practitioners, then by the opposition. This introduction to fMRI technology outlines its potential uses in criminal cases and the hurdles defense
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