Brain Scans From A New Research May Reveal Whether Crime Was Committed Knowingly Or Recklessly
Mar 24, 2017 08:00 AM EDT
The human brain is inarguably the most complicated thing in existence and has proven difficult to decipher. As an addition to that, a team of researchers has discovered that images from brain scans have the potential to reveal whether someone committed a crime knowingly or recklessly.
The United States Model Penal Code considers criminal culpability through the lens of a suspect's awareness and intentions. According to Fox News, Read Montague, a neuroscientist at Virginia Tech who led the study said, "People can commit the same crime in all elements and circumstances, and depending on their mental states, the difference could be one would go to jail for 14 years and the other would get probation."
Montague and his team scanned the brains of 40 people and used machine-learning algorithms to study the images of brain scans and determine whether the participants knew they were committing crimes. In a given thought experiment, participants were first asked to decide whether or not to carry a suitcase across a border.
They were given varying probabilities that the suitcase contained illicit drugs, which aimed to differentiate between those who knowingly committed a crime, and those who accepted the risk associated with the act. By monitoring the parts of the brain that were activated in each brain scan, the researchers were able to identify the participants who knew they were carrying drugs and participants were simply acting recklessly.
The research was published in the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, according to Virginia Tech News. Although it may seem like a small discovery, it will still bring a significant impact to the courtroom as a suspect's actions are often considered on a scale of severity that includes purposeful, knowing, reckless, and negligent. And being able to decipher that, perhaps, makes it clear that those acting against the law is subject to stricter penalties of crime compared to those who didn't.