Review By: Jack Gottschalk, The Journal of Psychiatry and Law - October 26, 2009
This is the latest in a long list of books by this author. The audience for the book will consist principally of trial attorneys, law school professors, judges and, to some extent neuroscience professionals.
.. The theme and purpose of the book are to set out the myths and truths about the mind, the brain, and related subjects briefly at the begining of each chapter, and then to explore those myths and truths at length later in the chapter.
... The author saves some of his most significant observations for the latter part of the book. There he criticizes the drug companies for the manner in which there product are created for use in psychiatry and neuropshychiatry.
... Dr Uttal also raises the releventquestion about whether or not several well-known psychiatric "dissorders are actually "diseases." These include autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ("ADHD"), and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder ("PTSD").
... It is Obvious that a great deal of effort went into creating this book, and it should be considered a scholarly contribution to knowledge. Despite this reviewer's criticisms of this thought-provoking book, it is a "must read" for those with a serious interest in the field of neuroscience and its application to the law.
Review By: Enrico Pelazzo, Forensic Teacher Magazine - November 6, 2009
We all have a brain, and we all have a mind. However, the author begins this book by noting there isn’t now, nor has there ever been, a way of examining the brain and knowing what’s going on in the mind of an individual. MRI scans, PET studies, and gut feelings of knowing what someone is thinking can never convey what is going on in someone’s mind. And this can be problem for lawyers.
The first two chapters are concerned with the mind and the brain respectively. The author shows how and why it is impossible to look at a person’s behavior and be able to discern the underlying mental processes that spurred that behavior. Thus, a person’s mind cannot be read despite mathematical theory, laboratory experimentation, introspective report, or behavioral observation. The brain, however, has been documented for thousands of years, but understood in structural terms for much less than that. Many theories exist about how the brain produces the mind, but all suffer from limitations.
The next chapter discusses lie detectors and the mental process of lying. The author notes that brain imaging during the act of deception is no more accurate than the polygraph because no particular brain region is responsible for the process of lying. Chapter Four discusses that our knowledge about the role of particular brain regions in determining aggressive behavior is inconsistent and incomplete. Chapter Five examines why the neuroscience of cognitive dysfunction still does not meet the Daubert criteria, for ADD, PTSD, and other examples of cognitive dysfunction of interest to both cognitive neuroscientists and the law. A fascinating chapter, it also examines mental illness.
Chapter Six sums up the findings in the book and notes the difficulties of applying cognitive neuroscience to the courtroom because of the danger of judicial misuse by premature, fallacious, and pseudoscientific findings and theories. The author’s purpose is to address the technical issues concerning how the brain and mind are related, and how this information may or may not be applied to the courtroom. He notes the list of ethical issues is long, and the dichotomy between theoretical and empirical knowledge in this field is so vast as to make its introduction into legal proceedings little more than a smokescreen to shift responsibility from the individual to an organic condition.
When I initially saw this book my first thought was that it dealt with the mind, lying, and testimony from a scientific standpoint. It does. My second thought was to substitute the word "Classroom" for "Courtroom" and "Teacher" for "Lawyer". The gist of the book remained the same, and it’s a very interesting examination of the concept of truth, whether in the courtroom or the classroom, especially since the vocabulary of neuroscientists and lawyers often differ in meaning for the same words.
The book is well thought out, extensively documented, and, while it doesn’t apply so much to the classroom, it does offer a fascinating, step-by-step examination of the legal and scientific issues of defining if the mind can be read.