Do neuroscientific techniques have a place in the court of law?

By Leslie Gladstone

A recent review published in Frontiers in Neuroscience examined the use of advanced brain science in law and its implications under the US Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Historically, neuroscientific techniques such as brain scans, lie detectors and mental examinations have been used in legal contexts. However, the emergence of advanced applications offer the possibility of discovering an individual’s guilt without their informed consent.

The use of such neurologic evidence in court has the potential to infringe on civil liberties that protect an individual’s right to privacy. Professor James Giordano, co-author of the review, explains, “Threats to individual rights persist when considering the use of neurological evidence. These threats include vague definitions of what constitutes the “private domain” of the mind, how this relates to the right of privacy, and a lack of guidelines for informed consent when using neuroscientific evidence.”

Although improved neuroscience could provide the necessary tools to administer justice, experts emphasize the need for further investigation on the intersectionality of neuroscience and law. This review initiates discussion and reveals the need for a more explicit definition of the law and its allowances for the brain sciences. Further debate and scholarship will be necessary before we see the integration of new neuroscientific techniques in the court of law.


Frontiers. (2018, February 2). Can your brain testify against you? Defined set of guidelines required for neuroscientific techniques to be used correctly and effectively in law. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 11, 2018 from