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Brain Imaging for Legal Thinkers: A Guide for the Perplexed

49 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2010  

Owen D. Jones

Vanderbilt University - Law School & Dept. of Biological Sciences

Joshua Buckholtz

Vanderbilt University, Neuroscience Program

Jeffrey D. Schall

Vanderbilt University - Department of Psychology

Rene Marois

Vanderbilt University - Department of Psychology
Center for Integrative and Cognitive Neuroscience

Date Written: December 20, 2009

Abstract

It has become increasingly common for brain images to be proffered as evidence in criminal and civil litigation. This Article - the collaborative product of scholars in law and neuroscience - provides three things.

First, it provides the first introduction, specifically for legal thinkers, to brain imaging. It describes in accessible ways the new techniques and methods that the legal system increasingly encounters.

Second, it provides a tutorial on how to read and understand a brain-imaging study. It does this by providing an annotated walk-through of the recently-published work (by three of the authors - Buckholtz, Jones, and Marois) that discovered the brain activity underlying a person's decisions: a) whether to punish someone; and b) how much to punish. The annotation uses the 'Comment' feature of the Word software to supply contextual and step-by-step commentary on what unfamiliar terms mean, how and why brain imaging experiments are designed as they are, and how to interpret the results.

Third, the Article offers some general guidelines about how to avoid misunderstanding brain images in legal contexts and how to identify when others are misusing brain images.

The Article is a product of the 'Law and Neuroscience Project', supported by the MacArthur Foundation.

Keywords: brain, brain imaging, brain scan, neuroscience, law & neuroscience, litigation, evidence, functional magnetic resonance imaging, Daubert, behavioral biology, fMRI, MRI, EEG, MEG, PET

Suggested Citation

Jones, Owen D. and Buckholtz, Joshua and Schall, Jeffrey D. and Marois, Rene, Brain Imaging for Legal Thinkers: A Guide for the Perplexed (December 20, 2009). Stanford Technology Law Review, Vol. 5, 2009; Vanderbilt Public Law Research Paper No. 10-09. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1563612

Owen D. Jones (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Law School & Dept. of Biological Sciences ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/bio/owen-jones

Joshua Buckholtz

Vanderbilt University, Neuroscience Program ( email )

Nashville, TN 37232-0685
United States

Jeffrey D. Schall

Vanderbilt University - Department of Psychology ( email )

Nashville, TN 37240
United States

Rene Marois

Vanderbilt University - Department of Psychology
Center for Integrative and Cognitive Neuroscience ( email )

Nashville, TN 37240
United States

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