Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (Fmri) and Phrenology Essay
Nov. 28th, 2012
Discuss whether the functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) is a new form of “phrenology”. Is it reliable enough to be used as evidence in court?
After fMRI was first introduced, it has been under criticism that it is not hard science. The most common technique, the BOLD (blood oxygen level-dependent) fMRI, measures the increase in regional cerebral blood flow in response to increased metabolism, which is to be caused from heightened activity of neuron firing (Menon & Kim, 1999). Some neurologists believe that this is an indirect way of measuring brain activity, and is not sufficient to support any idea.
By many scientists fMRI is often compared to phrenology, a study that once gained …show more content…
Compared with the old phrenology, fMRI shares the same view that brains have localized functions. However, fMRI takes a more scientific approach than the old phrenology. Although it has its limitation in presenting spatial information, it does contribute in relating brains structure and the mind’s function.
Although the ‘old’ phrenology is labeled ‘pseudoscience’ and no longer acknowledged in the field of science anymore, it has had its contributions. It sparked the idea that mind can be localized, such as language and memory. In the same context fMRI can contribute, only much more than the ‘old’ phrenology. Although fMRI’s blood flow measurement and the actual neural activity do not perfectly correspond with each other (Dobbs, 2005), significant correlation can be drawn from the fMRI scanning.
As for the usage as court evidence, I see fMRI scan valuable as evidence, for fMRI does show some level of correlation of parts of brains and certain activity. fMRI should not be criticized and banned from court just because of its possibility of erroneous conclusion (Hughes, 2010). Even witnesses’ testimonies are bound to be