MadSci Network: Neuroscience

Re: brain waves and patterns for criminal thoughts

Date: Tue Dec 26 02:07:37 2000
Posted By: Sam Reyes, Grad student, MD/PhD Audiology, SUNY Buffalo
Area of science: Neuroscience
ID: 971814713.Ns

I would be extreemely skeptical of any physician who tells you that he 
knows what types of thoughts you are having based on an EEG pattern.  The 
brain is an incredibly complex system, and the EEG is a very crude means of 
measuring a amall amount of the activity it generates.  Understanding the 
brain using only EEG has been likened to understanding the working of a 
Formula One race car using a transistor radio.  I say this tongue in cheek 
since much of my disseration will be using EEG measures of perceptual 
activity.  As a scientist, I would be wary of those claiming to offer 
behavioral modification or bio-feedback treatments based on EEG as 
treatment for criminal thoughts, particularly if they are expensive and 
not covered by insurance.  I am not claiming that these do not work, but I 
am unaware of any studes that have shown this to be effective at modifying 
behavior or thought patterns.  

     If you are looking for scientific journal articles as to appropriate 
use of EEG in criminal behavior diagnosis or modification, I would look at 
the epilepsy litereature.  There has been some increase in legal defenses 
claiming that criminal behavior was the result of epileptic activity and 
thus not voluntary.  This is very rare and if thought to exist, should be 
evaluated by a neurologist with significant expertise in epilepsy.  A 
typical evaluation should include combined EEG and video documentation of 
the behavior and a thorough neurologic and psychologic history.  This 
behavior should be aggressive and this aggressiveness should be 
characteristic of the patient's habitual seizures.  (Treiman DM., 
Epilepsia. 27 Suppl 2:S77-104, 1986.)

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