June 1, 2010

Federal judge rules against fMRI lie detector

The widely awaited ruling on the admissibility in court of fMRI for lie detection purposes has just come down, and it's bad news for proponents of the novel brain-scanning technology. In a potentially landmark opinion, a federal magistrate ruled yesterday that the technology is unreliable and has not been accepted by the scientific community. The 39-page opinion followed a closely watched evidentiary hearing in Tennessee (see my previous post HERE).

Detailed coverage of testimony at the Daubert evidentiary hearing can be found HERE. As reported by Science Insider, Judge Tu Pham held that the novel scientific technique has been subjected to testing and peer review, but is not general accepted by scientists nor are its error rates established. The judge's ruling also highlighted the distinction between laboratory research and performance in real-world settings.

Lorne Semrau, a psychiatrist facing trial on multiple counts of Medicare and Medicaid fraud, had sought to introduce his fMRI results as evidence of lack of fraudulent intent.

The full ruling is online HERE.

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