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Psychiatric Neuroimaging Evidence: A High-Tech Crystal Ball?

Jennifer Kulynych
Stanford Law Review
Vol. 49, No. 5 (May, 1997), pp. 1249-1270
Published by: Stanford Law Review
DOI: 10.2307/1229252
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1229252
Page Count: 22
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Psychiatric Neuroimaging Evidence: A High-Tech Crystal Ball?
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Abstract

Neuroimages, which may appear to be deceptively similar to photographs of a person's brain, have been used as evidence in court cases to support psychiatric diagnosis. These images are scientific evidence, and courts should evaluate the admissibility of such evidence under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. But psychiatric evaluations of a person's mental state are "soft" science, which may or may not be evaluated as scientific evidence. When a psychiatrist's testimony makes reference to "hard" science evidence such as neuroimages, there is a danger of undue prejudice because the finder of fact may be confused. In this note, Jennifer Kulynych describes this problem and proposes a two-pronged evidentiary standard as a solution. She suggests that courts evaluate the hard science aspects of neuroimaging evidence under established doctrine, and evaluate the soft science evidence under a social science framework. Given the current state of psychiatric neuroimaging research, Ms. Kulynych concludes that the amount of neuroimaging evidence admitted under her proposed standard would appropriately be quite small.

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