Brain scans may now decide if child can be prosecuted

A brain scan could in future decide whether a child should be prosecuted for a crime.

Last Updated: Sep 25, 2010, 00:30 AM IST

London: A brain scan, which can show our maturity levels, could in future decide whether a child should be prosecuted for a crime.
An MRI scan can tell one`s age after just five minutes because of the difference in structure between an adult`s and a child`s brain.

Now scientists say that defence lawyers could use these scans to argue that their client`s brain was not mature enough for him/her to truly understand what she/he has done, the journal New Scientist said.

Jay Giedd at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Marlyand, US, said: "The findings are going to make a splash."

But critics claim that by the age of 10, most children should already know the difference between right and wrong, the Daily Mail reported.

Washington University School of Medicine researchers in St. Louis believe the maturity of a person`s brain is directly linked to his behaviour.

The amount of grey matter is at its highest in childhood before decreasing as adults grow older.

The connections between the different parts of the brain, known as white matter, increase as people grow older and allow different parts of the brain to chat with one another.

The research team says that because the prefrontal cortex (PFC) is the last part of the brain to mature, a child is less able to appreciate the consequences of its actions.

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore from the University College London said: "We know the brain of a 10-year-old is extremely immature compared to an adult, both structurally and functionally."

IANS