February 22, 2005
IEEE Delaware Bay Section meeting
Location: Clayton Hall Conference Center, UD

Peering into the Brain: New Polygraph Techniques and Their Ethical Challenges 
Speaker: Dr. Kenneth Foster  

Dr. Foster, a University of Pennsylvania professor in the Department of Bioengineering, is well known as a speaker on issues concerning technology and the brain. He is an IEEE Distinguished Lecturer for the Society on Social Implications of Engineering and Engineering in Medicine and Biology.

Some of the high points from his talk, which dealt with "lie detection," were:

  • An interesting fact: The inventor of the polygraph test also invented the comic strip "Wonder Woman"
  • The polygraph is only really effective because the person taking the test thinks it will work, and clever sequencing of questions by the administrator. People trained in how the polygraph works can defeat it with relative ease. This is the reason the polygraph is not legal evidence in most states. 
  • Some newer technologies that could actually detect the kind of brain activity present when "lies" are being created are:
    * Near infrared light scattering 
    * Thermal facial screening, where the temperature around the eyes is monitored
    * Magnetic Resonance Imaging, where blood flow in cognitive areas of the brain is monitored
    * A technique called P300 brain waves, called brain fingerprinting.