F.A.C.T.

Falsely Accused Carers and Teachers
Fighting injustice – lobbying for change

Detecting Lies the Brainy Way
An article by Iris Jensen from our ‘In my opinion’ series ‘In

An article in The Daily Mail, (Thursday, September 22nd 2005) tells of American Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania, who have refined a version of the type of brain scanners used in hospitals to detect brain tumours and have produced a lie detector which they claim is 99% accurate. The equipment is called functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, (fMRI), and they claim that it is accurate enough to expose terrorists and other criminals. Although the equipment cannot forecast whether suspects are likely to engage in terrorist or criminal activity in the future, it can be used to find concealed information. Psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Langleben of the University of Pennsylvania says that in the brain, the process of telling a lie is more complicated than telling the truth. The fMRI tracks nerve cell activity in the frontal lobes of the brain – the part that springs to life when someone tries to suppress the truth. The machine is able to spot the brain ‘lighting up’ as a lie is told. The scientists believe that, unlike traditional polygraph tests, their technique cannot be fooled. While suspects under questioning can learn to control give away signs of nerves, they have little control over the workings of their brains. What an interesting article. My first thoughts were to sympathise with the poor “victims”, as the police insist on calling them. Imagine putting more strain on their brains, (what brains, I hear you ask) by telling lies than by simply telling the truth. Maybe they earned their massive pay outs in return for all that effort. There again – maybe not! Looking again at the article, there seem to be endless possibilities to which such a discovery could be put. Is it possible that in a few years time we could have “Quick-Fix” Justice? Or even, as the equipment is American, “Kwik Fix” justice? It certainly sounds rather like the gimmickry so beloved by the present Government as an alternative to Justice. Maybe that is a little harsh. Is it possible that the use of such equipment really would ensure justice. Let us imagine a Court scene with the pathetic “victim” telling his sad tale of woe to the gullible jury. Don’t forget, his brain already hurts from telling lies to the police, and here he is, prepared to suffer all over again to tell the same story to the jury. This sorry tale of how nasty men abused him when he was only a little lad in some place he can’t remember, at a time he can’t recall, and the details of which are, hazy to say the least. The learned judge, a keen cricket fan, has had enough and decides to call on the ‘third umpire’ alias the fMRI machine. Then, lo and behold, the little darling’s brain’ lights up’, all is revealed. The truth, the real truth becomes known. The judge becomes really excited. He hasn’t had a much fun since England regained the Ashes and there is no stopping him now. “Recall the police sergeant”, he orders. Back into the witness box comes the Sergeant who had given such convincing testimony. (Convincing, if you plastered over the cracks with a very large trowel.) The Judge orders his new toy to be used once more. The Court is hushed, the cogs whirr, the sergeant’s brain ‘lights up’ and the Judge accuses him of
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perjury. By this time, the whole of the court has got into the mood. The ushers have armed themselves with boards which say on one side “PERJURY” and on the other, “CONTEMPT OF COURT” and turn to the appropriate sides to display them to all and sundry. The jury join in the fun with ribald chants while learned counsel for the prosecution sits glumly by eating his wig. If one takes it a step further, we actually could have quick fix justice, without the need for recourse to a Court of law. A complainant says he was abused as a child many years previously. He is told to take a seat while they fetch the fMRI and its operator and lo, the complainant’s brain ‘lights up’ and his complaint is clearly false. Since it is said that the equipment is foolproof, greedy lawyers on the make would not be able to coach their clients to outwit the machine. This might sound rather like Utopia, but it leaves one very large unanswered question. That is the ethics that surround the use of such a machine. Is it fair to use such equipment on suspected criminals when, for patently obvious reasons it is likely to ‘blow a gasket’ if used widely on politicians, police of the National Trawling Division, on-themake-lawyers, etc. etc? I.M.Jensen September 2005.

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