Visions of Deception: Neuroimages and the Search for Truth

25 Pages Posted: 18 Jun 2009

See all articles by Jane Campbell Moriarty

Jane Campbell Moriarty

Thomas R. Kline School of Law of Duquesne University

Date Written: June 17, 2009


The historical use of science in the search for truth has posed consistent evidentiary problems of definition, causation, validity, accuracy, inferential conclusions unsupported by data, and complications of real-world applications. As the Innocence Project exoneration data show and the National Academy of Science Report on Forensic Science suggest, our reach in this area may well exceed our grasp. This article argues that the neuroimaging of deception - focusing primarily on the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies done to date - may well include all of these problems. This symposium article reviews briefly the types of neuroimaging used to detect deception, describes some of the specific criticisms leveled at the science, and explains why these small group of studies are not yet courtroom-ready. Arguing that the studies meet neither the general acceptance nor reliability standards of evidence, the article urges courts to act with restraint, allowing time for further studies, further robust criticism of the studies, additional replication studies, and sufficient time for moral, ethical, and jurisprudential rumination about whether the legal system really wants this type of evidence.

Keywords: evidence, neuroscience, fMRI

JEL Classification: K1

Suggested Citation

Moriarty, Jane C., Visions of Deception: Neuroimages and the Search for Truth (June 17, 2009). Akron Law Review, Vol. 42, p. 739, 2009, University of Akron Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-13, Available at SSRN:

Jane C. Moriarty (Contact Author)

Thomas R. Kline School of Law of Duquesne University ( email )

600 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15282
United States

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