Brain 'Fingerprinting': Latest Tool for Law Enforcement

By Burke, Tod W. | Law & Order, June 1999 | Go to article overview

Brain 'Fingerprinting': Latest Tool for Law Enforcement


Burke, Tod W., Law & Order


Brain fingerprinting is the latest in computer-based technology that allows investigators to identify or exonerate subjects based upon measuring brain-wave responses to crime related pictures or words presented on a computer screen.

According to Dr. Larry Farwell, the inventor of this technology, "Brain Fingerprinting is based on the principle that the brain is central to all human activities; it plans, executes and records information." Therefore, if a subject has information pertaining to a crime, this information is permanently recorded in the brain. With proper training and technology, the memories stored in the brain can be retrieved.

How Brain Fingerprinting Works

According to Farwell, to determine if a subject was present or has specific knowledge concerning a crime, words or pictures relevant (and irrelevant) to that crime are flashed on a computer screen. For scientific assurance, three types of stimuli are used during the process: Irrelevant (that which is immaterial to the case and person); Targets (that which the subject will recognize and respond); and Probes (those related specifically to the crime).

The subject is attached to a headband equipped with sensors that measure his/her electroencephalograms, or EEG, for short. The subject is instructed to press a particular button for target responses and another button for all other responses. Each stimulus appears for a fraction of a second. If the subject recognizes the pictures, words or phrases (target or probe), a MERMER (Memory and Encoding Related Multifacted Electroencephalographic Response) will occur.

Farwell said, "for a subject with knowledge of the investigated situation, the probes are noteworthy due to that knowledge, and therefore these probes will elicit a MERMER. For a subject lacking this knowledge, that is, information not stored in the brain, probes are indistinguishable from the irrelevant stimuli, thus will not elicit a MERMER."

In other words, when details of a crime known to the subject are present, a MERMER will be detected. A MERMER will not occur in an innocent subject or someone who has no knowledge of the crime. Farwell added that a computer then analyzes the brain response to these MERMERS (or lack of MERMERS) to scientifically determine if a subject has specific information related to the crime stored in his/her brain.

Law enforcement has other investigative tools at their disposal to determine if a subject was at a crime scene, such as fingerprint identification, DNA analysis and polygraph examinations. There is no doubt that fingerprint and DNA analysis are both reliable and valid in determining the guilt or innocence of subjects, but they are not always available. It has been estimated that DNA and/or fingerprints are only available in one percent of all crime scenes.

Farwell noted that "DNA fingerprinting can only be successfully applied when investigators collect and preserve the specific kind of evidence demanded by the technique." Additionally, "collecting and preserving fingerprints and biological samples involves significant costs in time, resources and money." With Brain Fingerprinting, the information stored in the brain is always present, similar to a video camera recording events.

Brain Fingerprinting is frequently mistakenly compared to the polygraph. The polygraph determines a person's level of deception by measuring galvanic skin response, respiration, heart rate and blood pressure. Farwell said "Brain Fingerprinting depends only on brain information processing, it does not depend on the emotional response of the subject."

Brain Fingerprinting does not directly seek the distinction between lies versus truth, it merely indicates whether a person has information specifically related to the crime in question. There is also the issue of deception. According to F.B.I. Physiologist and Special Agent Dr. Drew Richardson, "the polygraph can be beat with just 10 minutes of training, even by a 10-year-old. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Brain 'Fingerprinting': Latest Tool for Law Enforcement
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.