Brain Imaging and Brain Privacy: A Realistic Concern?
Functional neuroimaging has been used to study a wide array of psychological traits, including aspects of personality and intelligence. Progress in identifying the neural correlates of individual differences in such traits, for the sake of basic science, has moved us closer to the applied science goal of measuring them and thereby raised ethical concerns about privacy. How realistic are such concerns given the current state of the art? In this article, we describe the statistical basis of the measurement of psychological traits using functional neuroimaging and examine the degree to which current functional neuroimaging protocols could be used for this purpose. By analyzing the published data from 16 studies, we demonstrate that the use of imaging to gather information about an individual’s psychological traits is already possible, but to an extremely limited extent.