Brain fingerprinting not reliable

It seems the scientific community has again blurred the line between fact and science fiction. A scientist in Iowa has evidence that alleged criminals could be cleared or convicted of a crime based on a technique called “brain fingerprinting.”

While the process seems good in theory, the idea of going into people’s brains to determine criminal activity smacks of Minority Report: a good movie, but not something to try in reality.

Lawrence Farwell started his company, Brain Fingerprinting Inc. 12 years ago, but his experimentation has recently gained notoriety due to its use in some trials. While one accused murderer ended up confessing two days after his brain was “fingerprinted,” according to, another judge refused to admit the test results involved with a retrial, stating they may not have affected an original trial. Until judges come to an agreement, the results should be inadmissible.

Farwell has great faith in his test, but the proof needed to substantiate his claims is not there. If Minority Report showed moviegoers anything last summer, it was that relying on brainwaves for life or death decisions is not the smartest or most reliable thing to do.

Research on “brain fingerprinting” is its early stages, scientifically speaking, but the fact it is being taken seriously is a scary thought. There are many other things about the brain that are not known. Researchers could spend their time and effort discovering more beneficial things, besides split-second impulses in the brain that may finger someone as a possible criminal.

Relying on a placed electrode in someone’s brain to determine his or her guilt or innocence is a scary notion. Scientists, and Farwell in particular, had better be incredibly positive that their “brain fingerprinting” has no chance of smudging.