brain fingerprinting

Watched 60 Minutes yesterday, and they had a segment on a new forensic tool, Farwell Brain Fingerprinting.

A link to his brief explaination is here:

My skeptic meter shot way up, especially because of claims of 100% accuracy in his tests.

Is anyone familar with his studies, and has their been any independent replication using his machine? Where are the studies? The reason it concerns me is as this invention has the potential to affect the legal industry, and is, according to the televsion program, about to be introduced into court proceedings. Also, as a student of psychology, I’m not familar with the theories that back up his machine and interpretation of the machines results. The segment was completely biased towards the technology, and provided no real explanation on how the results (in terms of a subjects guilt or innocence) were interpreted.

I’m going to continue my own research into this, but if anyone has any links on the data, I’d be interested in seeing it. Thanx so much.

From reading the explanation it looks like the technology is similar to a polygraph (i.e., measuring physiological responses to stimuli relevant to the alledged crime). I imagine it will be treated similarly; an investigative tool, but probably not admissable in criminal cases in most states.

Friedo, I am not an expert, but if you are a psychologist, you got to know what is a better “tester”: EEG or PETscan. I know that changes are seen on both when the brain is syimulated visually, but if a tested subject presented with a photograph of his wife, would his brain react differently if he is presented with a photograph of his neighbor or his nakea neighbor and could the difference be analyzed?

I’ve just been perusing his paper here:

It hasn’t been published yet, and the tech is going to be used in courts? I guess the fact that the FBI is funding him has nothing to do with it?

I’m not a psychologist, but this is not exactly what I was getting from the explanation. I think it’s more along the lines of showing the person a picture of the murder weapon, and observing brain signs for fear and nervousness. Or showing a picture of the victim and seeing whether the brain looks sad or angry.
Or something.

As I recall, it was recognition that was supposedly being measured rather than emotion (ie, fear or nervousness).

(For some reason I couldn’t edit my response above, so I’ll just expand on it here…)

For example, one of the detailss pointed out during the show was that Brain Fingerprinting can’t distinguish between a person who committed a crime and a person who witnessed it - they both will have seen the same event, so they both will presumably recognize items associated with it.

Found this article today:

At last, some dissenting opinion!

But according to Polich and other researchers consulted by WebMD, Farwell may be overestimating the capabilities of his brainchild. In fact, his mentor, Emmanuel Donchin, PhD, with whom Farwell published a paper on the technique in 1988, testified in the Council Bluffs hearing against the admissibility of the test.
“I thought it was grossly premature, and his claims are highly inflated,” says Donchin, professor of psychology at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. “We did say in the paper, 10 years ago or so, that this was a very preliminary, laboratory-based feasibility test, and that a lot of additional research is required before this could be a useable applied technique. That research was never done by anybody. We didn’t do it, the CIA decided not to continue supporting us on that project, and Larry went on his own and became a private entrepreneur. As far as I know, none of the research that I consider absolutely necessary to go from the laboratory demonstration to a forensic application has been done.”


“The techniques of using brain waves to detect deception are quite promising. Our lab has been using it diagnostically in terms of false memories and in terms of [thinking] deficits in people with head injury, and I think the potential is very great,” says J. Peter Rosenfeld, PhD, professor of psychology at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.
But Rosenfeld parts company with Farwell when it comes to claims of accuracy or applicability to incrimination or exoneration of criminal suspects. “As far as forensic use is concerned, depending upon how you look at it, there have been either no field tests, or one field test from Japan, which had a diagnostic hit rate of about 44%. In other words, you could flip a coin and do about as well.”