Business of brain scans

As regular BB readers know, fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) machines that scan the brain in real-time are now being used for a variety of unusual and interesting purposes, from studying fear to "neuromarketing" to lie detection. Yesterday's New York Times looks at the trend and profiles start-ups Omneuron, which plans to treat pain, addiction, and depression, No Lie MRI, a firm that sells "truth verification" via brain scans. From the article:
Ed Boyden, an assistant professor at the Media Lab of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a researcher in neuroengineering, distinguishes sharply among different brain-scanning ventures. “If you want to commercialize this technology,” he said, “then the use has to approximate real-world situations.”

In his view, tests of fMRI truth verification don’t meet that criterion. For instance, in studies at the University of Pennsylvania in 2002 and 2005, subjects were told to conceal the identity of a card under questioning. FMRI was able to distinguish falsification 77 percent of the time.

(No Lie MRI chief exec Joel) Huizenga was so inspired by this research that he decided to start his company, confident that fMRI would soon identify lies 90 percent of the time.

But Dr. Boyden says he believes that being asked to tell a falsehood that everyone knows is a falsehood is not the same thing as lying to deceive someone. Thus, whatever brain patterns fMRI detects when a person constructs such a requested fiction may be different from whatever happens when we lie.

By contrast, Dr. Boyden says: “What I like about Omneuron is that it’s working with real-world situations. They gave people visualization strategies which they could monitor – and which produced real, measurable results.”
Link (Thanks, Marina Gorbis!)

Previously on BB:
• Reading minds with fMRI Link
• Neuroscience of altrusium Link
• Shocking Pac-Man-like game used to study fear Link
• Neurology of humor Link
• Science of forgetting Link
• Neuromarketing soda Link
• Brain scans predict buying behavior Link
• This is your brain on Super Bowl ads: research conclusion Link
• Neuroscience of branding Link
• Lie-detection via fMRI: mind-reading or coercion? Link
• Neuroeconomics: sub-prime mortgages exploit a bug in our brains Link

UPDATE: BB reader Karen Green points out that an article from the New Yorker last month about fMRI and lie detection is now available free at the magazine's site. Link