Forensic neurosciences: from basic research to applications and pitfalls

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Purpose of reviewIn recent years, there has been growing interest in the application of genetic and neuroscientific methods to the investigation of the criminal mind. Here we summarize the results of recent studies and discuss their potential implications for the criminal system.Recent findingsThe results of studies published so far have implications for theoretical aspects of the law. For example, a series of studies have indicated that conscious sense of volition may not be a driving force in the initiation of willed behavior but rather may arise as a consequence of such behavior. According to some, this challenges the very notion of conscious will on which the criminal system is based. The results also have implications for practical aspects of the law. For instance, genetic and neuroscientific methods may provide objective, biological data which can be used to reduce controversy in forensic psychiatric evaluations of mental insanity and minimize errors in detecting malingering. Another potential practical application is lie and memory detection, which at present appears to be susceptible to countermeasures.SummaryGenetic and neuroimaging techniques may provide information which, when considered in combination with other sources of evidence, might prove useful in advancing knowledge about mens rea.

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