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The Topic Of Brain Fingerprinting Criminology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 3019 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Brain fingerprinting is based on finding that the brain generates a unique brain wave pattern when a person encounters a familiar stimulus Use of functional magnetic resonance imagingin lie detection derives from studies suggesting that personsasked to lie show different patterns of brain activity thanthey do when being truthful. Issues related to the use of suchevidence in courts are discussed. The author concludes thatneither approach is currently supported by enough data regardingits accuracy in detecting deception to warrant use in court.

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In the field of criminology, a new lie detector has been developed in the United States of America. This is called “brain fingerprinting”. This invention is supposed to be the best lie detector available as on date and is said to detect even smooth criminals who pass the polygraph test (the conventional lie detector test) with ease. The new method employs brain waves, which are useful in detecting whether the person subjected to the test, remembers finer details of the crime. Even if the person willingly suppresses the necessary information, the brain wave is sure to trap him.


Brain Fingerprinting is a controversial proposed investigative technique that measures recognition of familiar stimuli by measuring electrical brain wave responses to words, phrases, or pictures that are presented on a computer screen. Brain fingerprinting was invented by Lawrence Farwell. The theory is that the suspect’s reaction to the details of an event or activity will reflect if the suspect had prior knowledge of the event or activity. This test uses what Farwell calls the MERMER (“Memory and Encoding Related Multifaceted Electroencephalographic Response”) response to detect familiarity reaction. One of the applications is lie detection. Dr. Lawrence A. Farwell has invented, developed, proven, and patented the technique of Farwell Brain Fingerprinting, a new computer-based technology to identify the perpetrator of a crime accurately and scientifically by measuring brain-wave responses to crime-relevant words or pictures presented on a computer screen. Farwell Brain Fingerprinting has proven 100% accurate in over 120 tests, including tests on FBI agents, tests for a US intelligence agency and for the US Navy, and tests on real-life situations including actual crimes.

What is Brain Fingerprinting?

Brain Fingerprinting is designed to determine whether an individual recognizes specific information related to an event or activity by measuring electrical brain wave responses to words, phrases, or pictures presented on a computer screen.  The technique can be applied only in situations where investigators have a sufficient amount of specific information about an event or activity that would be known only to the perpetrator and investigator.  In this respect, Brain Fingerprinting is considered a type of Guilty Knowledge Test, where the “guilty” party is expected to react strongly to the relevant detail Existing (polygraph) procedures for assessing the validity of a suspect’s “guilty” knowledge rely on measurement of autonomic arousal (e.g., palm sweating and heart rate), while Brain Fingerprinting measures electrical brain activity via a fitted headband containing special sensors.  Brain Fingerprinting is said to be more accurate in detecting “guilty” knowledge distinct from the false positives of traditional polygraph methods, but this is hotly disputed by specialized researchers.


The person to be tested wears a special headband with electronic sensors that measure the electroencephalography from several locations on the scalp. In order to calibrate the brain fingerprinting system, the testee is presented with a series of irrelevant stimuli, words, and pictures, and a series of relevant stimuli, words, and pictures. The test subject’s brain response to these two different types of stimuli allow the testor to determine if the measured brain responses to test stimuli, called probes, are more similar to the relevant or irrelevant responses.

The technique uses the well known fact that an electrical signal known as P300 is emitted from an individual’s brain approximately 300 milliseconds after it is confronted with a stimulus of special significance, e.g. a rare vs. a common stimuls or a stimulas the prOband is asked to count. The novel interpretation in brain fingerprinting is to look for P300 as response to stimuli related to the crime in question e.g., a murder weapon or a victim’s face. Because it is based on EEG signals, the system does not require the testee to issue verbal responses to questions or stimuli.

Brain fingerprinting uses cognitive brain responses, brain fingerprinting does not depend on the emotions of the subject, nor is it affected by emotional responses. Brain fingerprinting is fundamentally different from the polygraph (lie-detector), which measures emotion-based physiological signals such as heart rate, sweating, and blood pressure. Also, unlike polygraph testing, it does not attempt to determine whether or not the subject is lying or telling the truth.

Four phases of Farwell Brain Fingerprinting:

In fingerprinting and DNA fingerprinting, evidence recognized and collected at the crime scene, and preserved properly until a suspect is apprehended, is scientifically compared with evidence on the person of the suspect to detect a match that would place the suspect at the crime scene. Farwell Brain Fingerprinting works similarly, except that the evidence collected both at the crime scene and on the person of the suspect (i.e., in the brain as revealed by electrical brain responses) is informational evidence rather than physical evidence. There are four stages to Farwell Brain Fingerprinting, which are similar to the steps in fingerprinting and DNA fingerprinting:

1. Brain Fingerprinting Crime Scene Evidence Collection;

2. Brain Fingerprinting Brain Evidence Collection;

3. Brain Fingerprinting Computer Evidence Analysis; and

4. Brain Fingerprinting Scientific Result.

In the Crime Scene Evidence Collection, an expert in Farwell Brain Fingerprinting examines the crime scene and other evidence connected with the crime to identify details of the crime that would be known only to the perpetrator. The expert then conducts the Brain Evidence Collection in order to determine whether or not the evidence from the crime scene matches evidence stored in the brain of the suspect. In the Computer Evidence Analysis, the Farwell Brain Fingerprinting system makes a mathematical determination as to whether or not this specific evidence is stored in the brain, and computes a statistical confidence for that determination. This determination and statistical confidence constitute the Scientific Result of Farwell Brain Fingerprinting: either “information present” – the details of the crime are stored in the brain of the suspect – or “information absent” – the details of the crime are not stored in the brain of the suspect.


Counter terrorism:

Brain fingerprinting can help address the following critical elements in the fight against terrorism:

1: Aid in determining who has participated in terrorist acts, directly or indirectly.

2: Aid in identifying trained terrorists with the potential to commit future terrorist acts, even if they are in a “sleeper” cell and have not been active for years.

3: Help to identify people who have knowledge or training in banking, finance or communications and who are associated with terrorist teams and acts.

4: Help to determine if an individual is in a leadership role within a terrorist organization.

Brain fingerprinting technology is based on the principle that the brain is central to all human acts. In a terrorist act, there may or may not be peripheral evidence such as fingerprints or DNA, but the brain of the perpetrator is always there, planning, executing, and recording the crime. The terrorist has knowledge of organizations, training and plans that an innocent person does not have. Until the invention of Brain Fingerprinting testing, there was no scientific way to detect this fundamental difference.

Brain Fingerprinting testing provides an accurate, economical and timely solution to the central problem in the fight against terrorism. It is now possible to determine scientifically whether or not a person has terrorist training and knowledge of terrorist activities.

With the Brain Fingerprinting system, a significant scientific breakthrough has now become a practical applied technology. A new era in security and intelligence gathering has begun. Now, terrorists and those supporting terrorism can be identified quickly and accurately. No longer should any terrorist be able to evade justice for lack of evidence. And there is no reason why an innocent individual should be falsely imprisoned or convicted of terrorist activity. A Brain Fingerprinting test can determine with an extremely high degree of accuracy those who are involved with terrorist activity and those who are not.

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Criminal justice:

A critical task of the criminal justice system is to determine who has committed a crime. The key difference between a guilty party and an innocent suspect is that the perpetrator of the crime has a record of the crime stored in their brain, and the innocent suspect does not. Until the invention of Brain Fingerprintingtesting, there was no scientifically valid way to detect this fundamental difference.

Brain Fingerprinting testing does not prove guilt or innocence. That is the role of a judge and jury. This exciting technology gives the judge and jury new, scientifically valid evidence to help them arrive at their decision. DNA evidence and fingerprints are available in only about 1% of major crimes. It is estimated that Brain Fingerprinting testing will apply in approximately 60 to 70% of these major crimes. The impacts on the criminal justice system will be profound. The potential now exists to significantly improve the speed and accuracy of the entire system, from investigations to parole hearings. Brain Fingerprinting testing will be able to dramatically reduce the costs associated with investigating and prosecuting innocent people and allow law enforcement professionals to concentrate on suspects who have verifiable, detailed knowledge of the crimes.


‘Brain Fingerprinting’ is the patented technology that can measure objectively, for the first time, how memory and cognitive functioning of Alzheimer sufferers are affected by medications. First generation tests have proven to be more accurate than other routinely used tests, and could be commercially available in 18-24 months.

The 30 minute test involves wearing a headband with built-in electrodes; technicians then present words, phrases and images that are both known and unknown to the patient to determine whether information that should be in the brain is still there. When presented with familiar information, the brain responds by producing MERMERs, specific increases in neuron activity. The technician can use this response to measure how quickly information is disappearing from the brain and whether the drugs they are taking are slowing down the process.

Additional Applications:

In advertising, Brain Fingerprinting Laboratories will offer significant advances in measuring campaign and media effectiveness. Most advertising programs today are evaluated subjectively using focus groups. We will be able to offer significantly more advanced, scientific methods to help determine the effectiveness of campaigns and be very cost competitive with current methodologies. This technology will be able to help determine what information is actually retained in memory by individuals. For example, in a branding campaign do people remember the brand, the product, etc. and how do the results vary with demographics? We will also be able to measure the comparative effectiveness of multiple media types. In the insurance industry, Brain Fingerprinting Laboratories will be able to help reduce the incidence of insurance fraud by determining if an individual has knowledge of fraudulent or criminal acts. The same type of testing can help to determine if an individual has specific knowledge related to computer crimes where there is typically no witness or physical evidence.

Case studies:

The biggest breakthrough, according to Farwell, was its role in freeing convicted murderer Terry Harrington, who had been serving a life sentence in Iowa State Penitentiary for killing a night watchman in 1977. In 2001, Harrington requested a new trial on several grounds, including conflicting testimony in the original trial.

Farwell was faced with an immediate and obvious problem: 24 years had passed since the trial. Evidence had been presented and transcripts published long ago; the details of the crime had long since come to light. What memories of the crime were left to probe? But Farwell combed the transcripts and came up with obscure details about which to test Harrington. Harrington was granted a new trial when it was discovered that some of the original police reports in the case had been missing at his initial trial. By 2001, however, most of the witnesses against Harrington had either died or had been discredited. Finally, when a key witness heard that Harrington had “passed” his brain fingerprinting test, he recanted his testimony and the prosecution threw up its hands. Harrington was set free.

In Macon County, Mo., Sheriff Robert Dawson learned about the method from his secretary, who had also seen it featured on television. In 1999, Dawson ordered a test on J. B. Grinder, accused of raping and murdering a 25-year-old woman. Grinder had admitted and denied the allegations so many times that, according to Dawson, “We didn’t know what to believe anymore.” Confronted with the test results, which seemed to confirm one of Grinder’s many confessions, Grinder pled guilty to the charges and also admitted to killing three other girls in Arkansas. When another murder investigation ran into problems earlier this year, Dawson turned again to brain fingerprinting. He refrained from discussing the details of the case with the suspect and with the media so that the P300 probes would be valid. While the suspect denied knowing anything about the case, Farwell’s test suggested otherwise.

Comparison with other technologies:

Conventional fingerprinting and DNA match physical evidence from a crime scene with evidence on the person of the perpetrator. Similarly, Brain Fingerprinting matches informational evidence from the crime scene with evidence stored in the brain. Fingerprints and DNA are available in only 1% of crimes. The brain is always there, planning, executing, and recording the suspect’s actions.

Brain Fingerprinting has nothing to do with lie detection. Rather, it is a scientific way to determine if someone has committed a specific crime or other act. No questions are asked and no answers are given during Farwell Brain Fingerprinting. As with DNA and fingerprints, the results are the same whether the person has lied or told the truth at any time.

Admissibility of Brain Fingerprinting in court:

The admissibility of Brain Fingerprinting in court has not yet been established. The following well established features of Brain Fingerprinting, however, will be relevant when the question of admissibility is tested in court. 1) Brain Fingerprinting has been thoroughly and scientifically tested. 2) The theory and application of Brain Fingerprinting have been subject to peer review and publication. 3) The rate of error is extremely low — virtually nonexistent — and clear standards governing scientific techniques of operation of the technology have been established and published. 4) The theory and practice of Brain Fingerprinting have gained general acceptance in the relevant scientific community. 5) Brain Fingerprinting is non-invasive and non-testimonial.

Record of 100% Accuracy:

At the time of this first field application, Dr. Farwell’s successes in the scientific laboratory with his invention were already well known. In collaboration with FBI scientist Dr. Drew Richardson, Dr. Farwell achieved 100% accuracy in using Farwell Brain Fingerprinting to identify FBI agents based on their brain responses to words and phrases only an FBI agent would recognize. Tests conducted by Dr. Farwell for the US Navy in collaboration with Navy LCDR Rene S. Hernandez, Ph.D., also resulted in 100% accurate results. In research on contract with a US government intelligence agency, Farwell Brain Fingerprinting achieved 100% accuracy in proving the presence or absence of a wide variety of evidence stored in the brains of individuals involved in over 120 cases. Dr. Farwell has published extensively in the scientific literature and presented his research to many scientific and technical audiences throughout the world . Farwell Brain Fingerprinting has been subjected to rigorous peer review under US government sponsorship, and has been found scientifically viable as well as revolutionary in its implications.


Brain Fingerprinting is a revolutionary new scientific technology for solving crimes, identifying perpetrators, and exonerating innocent suspects, with a record of 100% accuracy in research with US government agencies, actual criminal cases, and other applications. The technology fulfills an urgent need for governments, law enforcement agencies, corporations, investigators, crime victims, and falsely accused, innocent suspects.


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