Reading terrorists’ minds about imminent attack may soon be possible

July 31st, 2010 - 2:40 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, July 31 (ANI): Ever thought about a technology that allows you to get inside the mind of a terrorist to know how, when and where the next attack will occur? Well, this is not nearly as far-fetched as it seems, says a new Northwestern University study.

The researchers claim that if the test conducted in the Northwestern lab ultimately is employed for real-world scenarios, the research suggests, law enforcement officials ultimately may be able to confirm details about an attack - date, location, weapon — that emerges from terrorist chatter.

In the Northwestern study, when researchers knew in advance specifics of the planned attacks by the make-believe “terrorists,” they were able to correlate P300 brain waves to guilty knowledge with 100 percent accuracy in the lab, said J. Peter Rosenfeld.

For the first time, the researchers used the P300 testing in a mock terrorism scenario in which the subjects are planning, rather than perpetrating, a crime.

The P300 brain waves were measured by electrodes attached to the scalp of the make-believe “persons of interest” in the lab.

And the most intriguing part of the study in terms of real-word implications, Rosenfeld said, is that even when the researchers had no advance details about mock terrorism plans, the technology was still accurate in identifying critical concealed information.

“Without any prior knowledge of the planned crime in our mock terrorism scenarios, we were able to identify 10 out of 12 terrorists and, among them, 20 out of 30 crime- related details. The test was 83 percent accurate in predicting concealed knowledge, suggesting that our complex protocol could identify future terrorist activity,” said Rosenfeld.

“Since 9/11 preventing terrorism is a priority. Sometimes you catch suspicious people entering a building. You suspect that they’re terrorists, and you have some leads from the chatter. You’ve heard they’re going to attack one city or another in one fashion or another on one date or another. Our hope is that our new complex protocol - different from the first P300 technology developed in the 1980s - will one day confirm such chatter in the real world,” said Rosenfeld.

In the laboratory setting, study participants only had about 30 minutes to learn about the attack and to detail their plans.

Thus, encoding of guilty knowledge was relatively shallow, said Rosenfeld.

It is assumed that real terrorists rehearse details central to a planned attack repeatedly, leading to deeper encoding of related memories, he said.

“We suspect if our test was employed in the real world the deeper encoding of planned crime-related knowledge could further boost detection of terrorist intentions,” he added.

The study has been published in the journal Psychophysiology. (ANI)

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