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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 imaging in lie detection derives suggesting that persons asked to lie show different patterns of brain activity than they do when being truthful. This approach is currently supported by enough data regarding its accuracy in detecting deception to warrant use in court. In the field of criminology, a new lie detector has been developed which 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, according to the experts, who are very excited about the new kid on the block. Keywords: Fingerprinting, Forensic, Brain Fingerprinting


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. Shimla, Sept 4 (PTI) India has become the second country after United States to introduce 'brain finger printing' for detection of white collar crimes, M S Rao, Chief Scientist and Director of National Forensic Science Laboratory, said Saturday

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.

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 technique is described in Dr. Farwell's paper “Using Brain MERMER Testing to Detect Concealed Knowledge Despite Efforts to Conceal. The paper describes a test of brain fingerprinting, a technology based on EEG that is purported to be able to detect the existence of prior knowledge or memory in the brain. The P300 occurs when the tested subject is presented with a rarely occurring stimulus that is significant in context (for example, in the context of a crime) . When an irrelevant stimulus is presented, a P300 is not expected to occur . The P300 is widely known in the scientific community, and is also known as an oddball-evoked P300 .While researching the P300, Dr. Farwell created a more detailed test that not only includes the P300, but also observes the stimulus response up to 1400 ms after the stimulus. He calls this brain response a MERMER, memory and encoding related multifaceted electroencephalographic response. The P300, an electrically positive component, is maximal at the midline parietal area of the head and has a peak latency of approximately 300 to 800 ms. The MERMER includes the P300 and also includes an electrically negative component, with an onset latency of approximately 800-1200ms .


The technique uses the well known fact that an electrical signal known as P300 is emitted from an individual's brain beginning approximately 300 milliseconds after it is confronted with a stimulus of special significance, e.g. a rare vs. a common stimulus or a stimulus the subject is asked to count.
The person to be tested wears a special headband with electronic sensors that measure the EEG from several locations on the scalp. The subject views stimuli consisting of words, phrases, or pictures presented on a computer screen. Stimuli are of three types: 1) “irrelevant” stimuli that are irrelevant to the investigated situation and to the test subject, 2) “target” stimuli that are relevant to the investigated situation and are known to the subject, and 3) “probe” stimuli that are relevant to the investigated situation and that the subject denies knowing. Probes contain information that is known only to the perpetrator and investigators, and not to the general public or to an innocent suspect who was not at the scene of the crime. Before the test, the scientist identifies the targets to the subject, and makes sure that he/she knows these relevant stimuli. The scientist also makes sure that the subject does not know the probes for any reason unrelated to the crime, and that the subject denies knowing the probes. Since brain fingerprinting uses cognitive brain responses, brain fingerprinting does not depend on the emotions of the subject, nor is it affected by emotional responses.
By comparing the responses to the different types of stimuli, the brain fingerprinting system mathematically computes a determination of “information present” (the subject knows the crime-relevant information contained in the probe stimuli) or “information absent” (the subject does not know the information) and a statistical confidence for the determination. This determination is mathematically computed, and does not involve the subjective judgment of the scientist.

Expert evidence in a criminal trial would be just a fraction of the totality of the evidence on the appreciation of which the judge or jury takes decision. Even after the validity of the technique of brain fingerprinting , its application as a forensic tool in individual cases will depend upon the authenticity of the probes and other factors. The test would not be applicable in a case in which two suspects in an investigation were both present at a crime, but one was a witness and the other a perpetrator. The technique can only detect information from their memory that would place both at the scene of the crime and it cannot determine what their roles were, thereby creating a distinct possibility of an innocent eye-witness becoming a suspect of the crime and giving a dubious opportunity to the real culprit to create a situation of doubt. Furthermore, the technique would not be definitive in a case in which investigators do not know sufficient information about a crime to be able to test a suspect for crime-relevant information stored in the brain. The brain fingerprinting test detects the presence or absence of information and not guilt or innocence per se. In some cases, a person may possess virtually all the available information about a crime, even though he is not a perpetrator. In such cases, possessing crime relevant information will not identify that individual as the perpetrator and the test cannot be applied to solve the case.

Brain Fingerprinting has two primary applications: 1) detecting the record of a specific crime, terrorist act, or incident stored in the brain (Farwell & Smith 2001, Dalbey 1999), and 2) detecting a specific type of knowledge, expertise, or training, such as knowledge specific to FBI agents, Al-Qaeda -trained terrorists, or bomb makers (Farwell 1992b, Farwell 1993, Farwell et al. 2006).The seminal paper by Dr. Farwell and Emmanuel Donchin (Farwell & Donchin 1991) reported successful application of the technique in detecting knowledge of both laboratory mock crimes and real-life events, with no false positives and no false negatives.
In a study with the FBI, Dr. Farwell and FBI scientist Drew Richardson, former chief of the FBI’s chem-bio-nuclear counterterrorism unit, used brain fingerprinting to show that test subjects from specific groups could be identified by detecting specific knowledge which would only be known to members of those groups .The CIA has also funded Farwell’s research. In a study funded by the CIA, Farwell and colleagues used brain fingerprinting to detect which individuals had US Navy military medical training. In another CIA-funded study, a group of subjects enacted a simulated espionage scenario and were then tested on relevant stimuli in the form of pictorial probes. Brain fingerprinting correctly identified all individuals who were “information present” and “information absent”.

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.

In the years since Dr. Farwell first began applying the technology in the real world, proponents. Critics, including some scientists, and those whose criminal activities have been thwarted by brain fingerprinting have advocated further delay in applying the technique.
Farwell and colleagues as well as other, independent scientists who have precisely replicated Farwell’s research or used similar methods, have obtained accuracy rates approaching 100% in both laboratory and field conditions . Controversy has arisen over the best explanation for the fact that Farwell and others who use similar scientific methods have achieved near-100% accuracy (Farwell et al. 2006), while Rosenfeld’s alternative method yielded variable accuracy, sometimes as low as chance (Rosenfeld et al. 2004). Proponents advocate continuing the use of brain fingerprinting to bring criminals and terrorists to justice and to free innocent suspects, while at the same time more research is continuing. Dr. Farwell are among the scientists who advocate continuing the use of brain fingerprinting in criminal investigations and counterterrorism, without delay, as well as ongoing research on the technology.
Proponents of the continued use of brain fingerprinting in criminal and counterterrorism cases cite the peer-reviewed research on the accuracy of brain fingerprinting in the laboratory and the field, the fact that it has been ruled admissible in court, the vital counterterrorism applications, and the benefits of bringing criminals such as serial killer to justice and freeing innocent convicts.

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.

• Abdollah, T. (2003). “Brain Fingerprinting – Picture-perfect crimes,” Berkeley Medical Journal Issues, Spring 2003. Accessed July 20, 2008.
• Allen J.J.B. and Iacono W.G. (1997). “A comparison of methods for the analysis of event-related potentials in deception detection.” Psychophysiology 34:234-240.
• CBS 60 Minutes: Mike Wallace interviews Dr. Lawrence Farwell, December 10, 2000.
• Dalbey, B. (1999). “Brain Fingerprinting Testing Traps Serial Killer in Missouri.” The Fairfield Ledger. Fairfield, IA, August, 1999, p 1.
• Dale, S.S. (2001). “THE BRAIN SCIENTIST: Climbing Inside the Criminal Mind.” TIME Magazine, Nov. 26, 2001, pp 80-81.
• Druckman, D. and Lacey J.I. (1989). Brain and cognition: some new technologies. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

Dr. Manjul Tiwari
MDS ,Oral Pathology & Microbiology
Senior Lecturer ,Hindustan Institute of Dental Sciences
Plot No. 32-34 , Knowledge Park – III
Greater Noida -201306
Uttar Pradesh

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