An engaging series of articles on the ethics of neuro-deception-detection appeared in the American Journal of Bioethics last year. The lead article, by Wolpe et al., argued that,
"Premature commercialization will bias and stifle the extensive basic research that still remains to be done, damage the long-term applied potential of these powerful techniques, and lead to their misuse before they are ready to serve the needs of society."
Wolpe PR, Foster KR, Langleben DD.
Emerging neurotechnologies for lie-detection: promises and perils.
Am J Bioeth. 2005 Spring;5(2):39-49.
These authors went on to chastise those who are trying to profit from this venture before the methods are scientifically proven. Particularly taken to task was Lawrence Farwell and his patented "brain fingerprinting" technology, which uses EEG recordings instead of fMRI. The technique is based on the "oddball" P300, an ERP component that is elicited by "guilty knowledge" probe stimuli scattered among irrelevant items. Farwell and Donchin first presented the results at the 1986 meeting of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and later published a paper in 1991. Dr. Emanuel Donchin, P300 guru, states that the science behind the method is not the problem.
Instead, the specific questions posed to the suspect are problematic. [Donchin] argues that "the success of the technique depends on the construction of the stimuli and there is no analytic, systematic way of constructing the question. It depends on the subjectivity of the person. It’s an art, not a science."
taken from Brain Fingerprinting: Picture-perfect crimes
By Tami Abdollah
Farwell's Brain Fingerprinting Laboratories, Inc. makes rather exaggerated claims for applications in counterterrorism, criminal justice, medicine, advertising, etc.
J. Peter Rosenfeld, Ph.D. was actually the first to publish a journal article on lie dection and P300. He and his colleagues did a recent study on how to beat the P300 guilty knowledge test. The countermeasures are similar to those described for beating a polygraph test: ask the subjects to generate large covert responses to irrelevant stimuli (or to the "control" questions on a polygraph).
NOW back to the ethics article by Wolpe, Foster, & Langleben on the perils of premature adoption. Imagine The Neurocritic's surprise with the discovery that Dr. Langleben is on the Science Board for a company called No Lie MRI, Inc., and that he holds a patent for the lie detection fMRI technology!
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