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Memory on Trial: fMRI Pattern Analysis and Mental Privacy

By Erin Morrow
The cost of wrongful incarceration manifests with devastating consequence - over 2,500 prisoners currently reside on death row in the United States (Death Penalty Information Center, 2020), with 20 individuals having been exonerated via biological evidence as of mid-2019 with an average of over a decade spent in prison (Innocence Project, 2020). The potential to reduce the number of erroneous convictions in addition to accurately identifying guilty individuals is immediately relevant to the well-being of the innocent and the well-functioning of the legal system. At times fraught with contention and faced with public demands for reconsideration of evidence, it is easy to see how this system might benefit from a clarifying tool that generalizes to crimes outside of those implicating bodily fluids (and therefore DNA evidence). In particular, the domain of memory becomes extremely important. The consequences of assessing memory accurately in a legal context are paramount d…

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