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26 Behav. Sci. & L. 1 (2008)

handle is hein.journals/bsclw26 and id is 1 raw text is: 



Behavioral Sciences and the Law
Behav. Sci. Law 26: 1 6 (2008)
Published online in Wiley InterScience
(www.interscience.wiley.com) DOI: 10.1002/bsl.801


                        Introduction to this Issue:
                        International Perspectives on
                        Brain Imaging and the Lawt

                        Alan R. Felthous, M.D.*
                        and Henning Sa, M.D.




Forensic mental health experts are not uncommonly asked to confirm, for the benefit
of the fact finder, that theirs is an inexact science. The question itself is, of course,
misleading because forensic psychiatry and forensic psychology represent disciplines
that artfully employ several different scientific fields. Nonetheless, the difference in
accurately assessing a compromised psychological function and a broken bone is
obvious. One can see the latter, at least on x-ray. Still, A brain image is not a crystal
ball into the brain (Reeves & Billick, 2003, p. 727).
   Today with the help of modem neuroimaging techniques psychiatrists and
psychologists can see structures of the living brain. Structural and functional
anomalies can be visually discerned, in some respects with more information (e.g.
variable rates of glucose metabolism) than would be possible with the naked eye
alone. In some clinical instances, the diagnostic value of brain imaging is much
like that of x-rays in diagnosing fractures. The diagnosis of stoke for example can be
quite accurate when the pattern of psychological and neurological dysfunction
corresponds to the arterial distribution whose blockage is visible though imaging
techniques. Brain imaging is proving to be useful in the assessment of traumatic
brain injury for forensic purposes (Granacher, 2000).
   Brain imaging for assessment of criminal responsibility, however, would not be
appropriate. Even for diagnosing common mental disorders and character pathology
forensic application is limited to none. Brain imaging is providing intriguing infor-
mation about psychopathic disorders, prominently featured in this issue, dementia
and schizophrenia. With supporting research, a CT scan was used by a psychiatric
expert to support the diagnosis of schizophrenia in the trial of John Hinckley (U.S. v.
Hinckley, 1982) and his effective insanity defense following Hinckley's attempt to
assassinate President Reagan. Its potential for assessment of disorders and



*Correspondence to: Alan R. Felthous, M.D., Forensic Psychiatry Division, Department of Neurology
and Psychiatry, Saint Louis University, School of Medicine, 1438 South Grand Boulevard, Saint Louis,
MO 63104-1094, U.S.A.
tSubstantial portions of this introduction are taken, with permission, from SaB, H. (2007). Editorial:
Willensfreiheit, Schuldflihigkeit und Neurowissenschaften [Free will, criminal responsibility and the
neurosciences]. Zeitschrift ffir forensische Psychiatrie, Psychologie und Kriminologie, 1(4), 237 240 (in
German). Reproduced by permission of Steinkopff Verlag.


Copyright c 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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