India uses controversial brain scan to convict murderer

Indian courts are accepting brain scans as evidence in criminal trials, even though the technique has not been validated by an independent study or peer-reviewed. Twenty-four-year-old Aditi Sharma was accused of poisoning her former fiancé with arsenic while they were eating at a McDonalds in the city of Pune. She denied the crime but agreed to participate in a Brain Electrical Oscillations Signature test ( BEOS), developed by neuroscientist Champadi Raman Mukundan. When details of the crime were read out, sections of Ms Sharma’s brain lit up. The prosecutor successfully argued that this proved "experiential knowledge" of the murder.

Reactions from American experts ranged from scepticism to outrage. "Technologies which are neither seriously peer-reviewed nor independently replicated are not, in my opinion, credible," said J Peter Rosenfeld, a psychologist and neuroscientist at Northwestern University. "We keep looking for a magic technological solution to lie detection," said Hank Greely, of Stanford University. "Maybe we'll have it someday, but we need to demand the highest standards of proof before we ruin people's lives based on its application."

India may be the first country where this novel technology has been used to obtain a conviction. But police and counter-terrorist agencies around the world are interested. Israel and Singapore are reportedly looking into the BEOS. Ideally, it could end a purported need for torture. But if it is flawed, innocent people could be jailed or executed. ~ International Herald Tribune, Sept 8

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