Tag Archives: fMRI

Request to admit No Lie MRI report in California case is withdrawn

The Stanford Center for Law and Biosciences has decided to leave the WordPress servers for greener pastures: namely, the Stanford Law School blog aggregator.

This address will no longer be updated. All posts from this address have been migrated to the new address:

http://blogs.law.stanford.edu/lawandbiosciences/

Please update your bookmarks and RSS feeds accordingly.

The Center for Law and Biosciences received this very gracious (and unnecessary!) thank you letter today from the dependent’s counsel, Gary Seiser.  I speak on behalf of Emily, Hank and myself when I say it was a pleasure assisting you, Gary.  We are very happy with the outcome. To see the background on this case that has been made public, see Emily’s blog entry here and the Wired article covering the story, here.     — Teneille

______

Professor Henry “Hank” Greely
Director, Center for Law and the Biosciences
Stanford Law School

March 25, 2009

Dear Hank:

I wanted to thank you for agreeing to co-counsel the evidentiary hearing on the admissibility of fMRI for lie detection, and for all the help you gave me in preparing for the hearing.

I also wanted to thank Emily Murphy, Ph.D., and Teneille Brown, J.D., both at Stanford, for all they did for me.  As someone who had never heard of fMRI, let alone fMRI for lie detection, their almost daily explanations, suggestions, and help were invaluable.

Three others also deserve thanks.  Anthony Wagner, Ph.D., at Stanford gave me a broader understanding of fMRI.  Rich Haier, Ph.D., at UC Irvine was extremely helpful answering questions and providing me with material.  And Andy Kozel, M.D., of the University of Texas Southwestern, for agreeing to talk with me and to share his latest articles; his openness and honesty were very welcome.

Special mention should go to Marcus Raichle, M.D., of Washington University in St. Louis, for agreeing to take time out of his very busy schedule to fly to San Diego and testify that use of fMRI for lie detection is not yet generally accepted by the relevant scientific community as reliable, especially for real world, high-stakes situations involving individuals.  Talking with a senior scientist of his stature and knowing he would be our witness was an honor.

I could not have adequately prepared for this evidentiary hearing on admissibility without all of you.  Now I understand both the great potential of fMRI for lie detection, and the many hurdles yet to be overcome before it is ready for the courtroom.  It has definitely been a learning experience.

As you know, this week the proponents of the evidence withdrew their request to have it admitted, thus ending the issue in our case.  I won’t speculate on why they did that.  I will only say I was confident that with all the help I had received, you assisting as co-counsel, and Marc Raichle on the stand, we would have prevailed.  In a way, we did.

As you understand, the confidential nature of our proceedings prevents me from saying more at this time, but please know the help from all of you in the legal and scientific communities was greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Gary Seiser

Gary C. Seiser, Senior Deputy
Office of County Counsel
Juvenile Dependency Division
4955 Mercury Street
San Diego, CA  92111-1703

Certified Child Welfare Law Specialist (CWLS)
National Association of Counsel for Children
Accredited by the State Bar of California
Board of Legal Specialization

Advertisements

Patent on Pain Detection?

The Stanford Center for Law and Biosciences has decided to leave the WordPress servers for greener pastures: namely, the Stanford Law School blog aggregator.

This address will no longer be updated. All posts from this address have been migrated to the new address:

http://blogs.law.stanford.edu/lawandbiosciences/

Please update your bookmarks and RSS feeds accordingly.

Shortly after our conference on Pain and Neuroimaging, I learned that Dr. Robert England received a patent on pain detection, entitled “Objective Determination of Chronic Pain in Patients,” issued on December 9, 2008 (U.S. Patent No. 7,462,155).

The claims are directed to methods for determining whether a patient claiming to suffer chronic pain in fact has chronic pain.  By observing neuron activity, the patent claims that the determination can be made without subjective input from the patient.   In essence, the broadly claimed methods compare differences in brain activity between a person claiming chronic pain when a pain stimulus is applied and people who are not in pain when the stimulus is applied.

The claims may not be adequately supported by the disclosure, such as the step of “deciding that the patient claiming to suffer chronic pain suffers chronic pain if the neuron activity observed in the patient while the stimulus is applied is judged to be statistically significantly increased from the neuron activity in the plurality of patients who are free of pain.”  How much of a statistically significant increase must be observed to make that decision?  Insurers would likely prefer a dramatically significant increase, while claimants would want the lowest possible level to show they are in pain.

It’s not clear whether an increase or decrease in brain activity of a patient, when compared with a “control” group, demonstrates the presence or absence of chronic pain when a stimulus is applied.  Because brain activity in response to pain differs from person to person (and one person may rate an experience as more painful with less brain activation, or less painful with more brain activation), any such comparison would likely not help in determining malingering.

-Brenda Simon

“Neurolaw” at UCI

The Stanford Center for Law and Biosciences has decided to leave the WordPress servers for greener pastures: namely, the Stanford Law School blog aggregator.

This address will no longer be updated. All posts from this address have been migrated to the new address:

http://blogs.law.stanford.edu/lawandbiosciences/

Please update your bookmarks and RSS feeds accordingly.

I was privileged to give a talk last night at UC Irvine, as part of the Forensic Science Series sponsored by the Newkirk Center for Science and Society and the Center for Psychology and Law.  The talk gave a broad overview of the emerging field of “neurolaw,” which I tried to define as an emerging field of study with potential for cautious application to the law.  What do I think are the problems in “neurolaw”?  Simply put as follows: the science isn’t perfect – particularly in terms of translation from research to forensic value – but that we tend to think it is. I think there is potential for real advances to come from neuroscience that can change aspects of the legal system for the better, but I also think that eager, early, and inappropriate adoption risk damaging the field irreparably and undermining public and judicial trust in any value of neuroscience.

The research to forensic translation is critical for neuroscience as evidence, particularly because I think it may be very vulnerable to a) confirmatory bias in experimental design and b) extremely clever legal arguments.  For example, one side offering a brain scan as evidence could cite the huge number of published research studies using the technology as proof that it is generally accepted in the field and thought to be highly accurate and reliable.  To someone who is not a researcher in the field, this sounds pretty impressive and convincing.  Of course, those who work in the field know that there are huge problems in comparing individuals to group scans, as well as many factors that should limit the forensic inferences that can be reasonably drawn from a single functional scan (Bayesian, neurophysiological limitations, ruling in or out alternative causes, individual variability in functional architecture, and so forth).

In the discussion period, I heard several stories from practicing lawyers about the brain scans they’ve brought to and responded to in the courtroom.  Coming from a research background myself, it is fascinating – and sometimes worrying – to see how the (ideally) objective science and the research community may potentially be manipulated in the adversarial process of a trial.

The talk started with a reference to last week’s (9/15) New York Times article reporting on an Indian case where a woman was convicted of poisioning her former fiance at least partly on the basis of an EEG assessment that proved her “experiential knowledge” of the crime.  We are trying to get a hold of the judge’s opinion from that case, which was reported to have 9 pages dedicated to the defense of the technology.  What this should remind us of is that “neurolaw” is already being applied to invesigation and courtroom phases of the legal system.  If serious mistakes are made, the consequences could be grave both for the people whose lives may be harmed, and for the credibility of the field itself.