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Forensic Evidence From 'Black Mirror' Is a Work in Progress

By William Vogeler, Esq. on January 24, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If we lived in the Black Mirror world, we could be condemned by our memories.

That's because authorities in the sci-fi drama can see memories just like we can watch a DVD. Press rewind to the time of the crime, and your life is literally on display.

Thank goodness (or too bad, depending on your perspective) that kind of forensic evidence is just for television. Or is it?

Brain Scanning

When a hair or a drop of DNA can link you to a crime, the future may be closer than you think. Adam Banner, writing for the ABA Journal, says brain-scanning technology already exists.

It's called "functional magnetic resonance imaging," a next generation version of MRI that focuses on brain activity.

"An fMRI won't display a movielike re-enactment of your memories, but the scan does depict blood flow within the regions of the brain as a measure of neural activity," Banner says. "Proponents suggest the images depicting brain activity allow researchers to tell whether a person is telling the truth or lying, among other uses."

So isn't that like blushing when you are caught in a lie, only your face is the display screen? Objection, argumentative.

Painful Truths

You get the point: brain-scanning for truth-telling is a work in progress. However, it has been used as evidence to show pain in personal injury cases.

According to Nature's International Journal of Science, the neuroscience offers an objective measure of pain. Assessing pain is usually subjective, based on responses by an afflicted patient, but brain-scanning gives answers directly from the brain.

Until such technologies pass the admissibility test, however, it may be a few more years before they become common indicators of truth in courtrooms. Who knows, maybe by then the memory scanners will have made it to the real world also.

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