CMU profs use imaging to read minds
Neuroscientists at Carnegie Mellon University used enhanced brain imaging techniques coupled with sophisticated computers to read minds and identify emotions in controlled laboratory settings.
This week, a PBS special will examine the implications of such developments — which producer Graham Chedd calls “both troubling and tantalizing” — in the courtroom.
The two-part series, “Brains on Trial, with Alan Alda,” airs on PBS at 10 p.m. Wednesday and Sept. 18, revolving around a fictional convenience store holdup gone wrong and the trial that follows.
“Imagine not just replaying the videotape of what went on in the convenience store, but replaying the mental videotape of what went on in the person's mind. It is raising tremendously interesting issues,” said CMU professor Marcel Just.
The show focuses on the minds of jurors, the defendant, the judge and witnesses and examines the ethical and legal issues that emerging brain science might hold for the courts.
Legal experts and neuroscientists, including Just, weigh in during interviews with Alda. Just is featured on Sept. 18 in the segment “Deciding Punishment.”
“It is very easy to over-read this and get carried away with the notion that you can really see what is going on inside somebody's head,” Chedd cautioned. “And the critical issue is: ‘Can you see what was going on in someone's mind at the time of the crime?' We can't, but many researchers believe we will be able to do it within the next decade.”
Just, who directs the Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging and consulted on the PBS special, said research is heading in that direction.
“The ultimate privacy is: ‘What were your thoughts?' The judicial system judges not only acts, but takes into consideration what is going through your mind when you act, and later, at sentencing, whether there is remorse,” he said.
He is encouraged that legal experts are weighing the implications of such developments.
Jane Campbell Moriarity, a law professor at Duquesne University, said courts permit the introduction of brain scans during the guilt phase of sentencing as evidence of impaired cognitive functioning. Moriarity was not involved with the PBS project but has written extensively about such issues.
She said a federal appeals court ruled last fall that brain imaging technology was not reliable enough to be admitted for purposes of lie detection.
Moriarity fears another court could take a different stand.
“I see the idea of lie detection while forcibly looking into someone's head as fraught with peril. I can think of all the ways this could be misused against people and how much power it would give the government,” she said.
For more information on “Brains on Trial,” visit brainsontrial.com.
Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at 412-320-7996 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Beloved teacher at 3 Western Pa. schools hears from students across nation
- Oakland eatery Fuel & Fuddle to reopen under new owners
- Feds admit cooperation remains obstacle with corporations, cyber threats
- Duquesne teen to stand trial on charges he shot, killed unborn child
- 2 sentenced for avoiding arrest after Steelers player was stabbed
- Foreign influx in Allegheny County at ‘tipping point’
- Victim identified in Pleasant Hills apartment fire
- Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Bucar upset with DA Zappala for alert
- 30 cited for blocking street at union rally at UPMC facility
- Private parking lots slow to follow Pittsburgh’s increase in rates
- Corbett christens $960K bus shelter, bicycle station in Robinson