(Received 2 December 1998; accepted 14 February 2000)
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This experiment examined the accuracy and reliability of the memory and encoding related multifaceted electroencephalographic response (MERMER) technique for detecting information related to events subjects have experienced, despite subjects' efforts to conceal that knowledge. Information obtained through interviews was used to develop stimulus sets consisting of words and phrases presented to subjects visually by computer. Sets were composed of three types of stimuli: life experience-related (Probes), stimuli the subject was asked to memorize and respond to (Targets), and irrelevant information (Irrelevants). Each set of stimuli was tested on two individuals: (1) one individual who had participated in the event in question—and thus had the relevant information stored in his/her brain, and (2) one who had not. Six subjects were tested. Electrical brain responses to the stimuli were recorded non-invasively from the scalp and analyzed. MERMERs, (memory and encoding related multifaceted electroencephalographic responses), of which the P300 is a sub-component, were used to determine whether the subject had the relevant information stored in his brain (information present) or not (information absent), thus indicating whether or not each subject had participated in the real-life event in question. Bootstrapping was used to analyze and compare the responses to the three types of stimuli. As predicted, MERMERs were elicited by Probe stimuli only in the subjects who had participated in the investigated event, by Target stimuli in all subjects, and in no case by Irrelevant stimuli. For each of the six subjects, brain MERMER testing correctly determined whether the subject had participated in and consequently knew about the event in question (information present) or had not participated (information absent). The statistical confidence for this determination was 99.9% in five cases and 90.0% in one case. The article concludes with a discussion of areas of future research and the potential for using this new technology as an investigative tool in criminal cases.
Director and chief scientist, Brain Wave Science, Human Brain Research Laboratory, Inc., Fairfield, Iowa
Supervisory special agent, Behavioral Science Unit, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington, DC
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