Brain Scanning for Recidivism
So, we all love the work that neuroscientist Kent Kiehl and his group does involving fMRI and incarcerated offenders, right? He’s the only guy I know out there workin’ the beat, going door to door (prison to prison), uphill both ways,
not really. ok really (science drama), with a mobile scanner collecting brain scan data from prisoners. This week, his latest study is all over the place with headlines parading how this technique can predict who will reoffend. And it’s not way off.
The idea: it’s all about impulsivity. The data links those with low activity in the ACC and poor impulse control…and:
Inmates with relatively low anterior cingulate activity were roughly twice as likely as inmates with high anterior cingulate activity to be rearrested for a felony offense within 4 years of their release, even after controlling for other behavioral and psychological risk factors.
Correlations are cool obvs, since they allow for predictions to be made, but this doen’t imply causality or tell us anything about the underlying factors that spur the relationship. Kiehl tells us this is not where near real world use, but it will be really interesting when the results from his entire group of 3000 inmates is processed, vs the 96 for this study (which is still a lot for fMRI work). We can talk about issues pertaining to beating the scanner then. Soon, we can compare old school nelly forensic psych assessment tools to the scans for risk assessment and seeing how these findings will effect sentencing (does this negate or reinforce mandatories?), probationary proceedings or even program development. I have a feeling a matrix design is coming on.
[via, img: mine]