The Sci-Files – 06/14/2020 – Dhaval Gandhi – Neuroscience and the Courtroom

Chelsie Boodoo and Daniel Puentes

Dhaval Gandhi
Dhaval Gandhi

On this week’s The Sci-Files, your hosts Chelsie and Danny interview Dhaval Gandhi. Dhaval is an undergraduate student at MSU in the departments of Neuroscience (College of Natural Science) and History Philosophy & Sociology of Science (Lyman Briggs College). He examines how neuroscience has slowly crept its way into various fields like marketing, philosophy, and law. Chiefly, Dhaval focused his research efforts on the ways neuroscience has begun to influence the legal system, creating a new niche field dubbed by others as ‘neurolaw.’

Historically, phrenology, an early tool to observe the brain’s ability by examining the natural surface of an individual’s head, was prevalent in the legal setting in the mid-1800s. Fortunately, American judges were quick to dismiss phrenological evidence as it lacked scientific evidence. In the last century, neuroscience has been slowing reintegrating back into the American legal system with polygraphs and MRI technology. Polygraphs were used as a measure of an individual or a witness was being fully honest. Moderately, the scientific basis of polygraphs has been questioned. Now, Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) technology is being used for lie detection. This is unsettling as the machines used are unreliable, the results can be misleading, and the current legal system has inconsistencies that can make the matter more complicated. For these reasons, it’s crucial that society separates the two fields of neuroscience and American law once again, as we did with phrenology until there is more scientific grounding for neuroscience-based legal evidence. Through his research and reasoning, he argues against the use of ‘neurolaw’ until better technologies and practices are developed.

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