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Use of brain scans in crime cases opposed

LONDON -- Criminal behavior can't be blamed on how a person's brain is wired, at least not yet, says a report from British experts who examined how neuroscience is being used in some court cases.

"Having a psychotic brain is not a general defense against a criminal charge," said Nicholas Mackintosh, emeritus professor of experimental psychology at the University of Cambridge, who led the group that produced the report. "There's no such thing as a gene for violence."

The report was done by the Royal Society. It is part of the group's continuing investigation of the effects of recent advances in neuroscience on various parts of society, including education and the law.

After examining the state of neuroscience and how it might apply to the legal system in the United Kingdom, the Royal Society concluded it's too soon for the law to be swayed by scientists' understanding of the brain.

Brain scans have been cited in an increasing number of cases in the United States. The report's authors said the scans could one day prove useful for matters such as parole hearings when trying to predict whether someone will commit another crime.

The scientists said that while some criminals, such as psychopaths, have different brain structures from most people, these differences aren't enough to release them from being legally responsible for their actions.

Some said it was too simplistic to think brain scans could explain human actions.

"When we see a brain image, we want to assume a blob correlates to a complex behavior," said Carl Senior, a neuroscience expert at Aston University in Birmingham. He said other factors such as a person's upbringing and the circumstances of a particular crime determine whether a crime was committed, and that a brain scan wouldn't be able to show that. -- AP

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