Debunking “Brain Fingerprinting” Know your Facts

On September 10, 2010 the infamous Wired magazine published an article on “How to Catch a Terrorist: Read His Brainwaves – Really?” by Spencer Ackerman.

Describing a psychologist, J. Peter Rosenfeld, writing in the Journal of Psychophysiology that he could predict and prevent terrorist attacks using so called P300 brainwave recordings. Not surprisingly on September 23, 2010 another reporter, Christina Hernandez from, published an interview with Peter Rosenfeld “How Brain Waves Could Unravel Terrorist Plots

Let’s first investigate the scientific literature citing P300 studies:

In 1993 Dr. Lawrence approached the US Government with the same claims as described in the above articles, which were based on P300 measurement of “rare, meaningful or noteworthy stimuli” coined as “Brain Fingerprinting”. After spending $2,000,000 of US Government money to test the validity of Brain Fingerprinting in October of 2001, the United States General Accounting Office very quietly published a report “Federal Agency Views on the Potential Application of Brain Fingerprinting

Critical opinions of three scientists intimately familiar with this field of research were cited in this report:

–  Dr. Donchin is a coauthor of Dr. L. Farwell (see publications at above citing).
–  Dr. Iacono from the publication of J.J.B. Allen and W.G. Iacono (1997). “A comparison of methods for the analysis of event-related potentials in deception detection.” Psychophysiology 34:234-240; and
–  J. Peter Rosenfeld, who is the hero of the above media frenzy.

Joined conclusions of FBI, CIA and DoD were: The report fairly reflects the FBI’s belief that this technique has limited applicability and usefulness to FBI investigative and personnel security matters. The FBI continues to support the view that this technique has limited utility. We also think that it is important to point out that the rest of the federal community shares the FBI’s view that Dr. L. Farwell’s “Brain Fingerprinting” has very limited applicability and usefulness.

It seems that J. Peter Rosenfeld does not have powerful Senator Charles Grassley as his ally. How much do you think this old/new technique will dazzle the security community? I’m sorry, I forgot to mention, J. Peter Rosenfeld added the measurement of P900 to his technique in addition to the P300. This will definitely change the whole meaning of his experiment in the field of investigations and personnel security matters.

Just imagine security forces stopping a suspect, placing electrodes on him and flashing words from a security thesaurus to see for which words his P300 will be present. According to J. Peter Rosenfeld, in the absence of P300 checking, if the P900 is present it will explain that the suspect is resisting response to these words.

Northam Psychotechnologies is an advocate of science AS WELL AS scientific application. We do not doubt the science being used here, however we doubt the pure speculatory claims made about the real life application of their science. What they are measuring is real in the hands of laboratory scientist however it has no practical, real world application and the applications they claim their science has is nothing more than pure speculation.

NPT has technologies like SSRM Tek – Semantic Stimuli Response Measurement, as well as SMART – Semantic Mediated Analysis of Responses and Teaching that can reliably and accurately measure the responses of the subconscious mind, which contains every piece of information that makes you who you are, the practical measurement of which can provide numerous real world applications.

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