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Now in its second decade, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) localizes changes in blood oxygenation that occur in the brain when an individual performs a mental task. Physicians and scientists use fMRI not only to map sensory, motor, and cognitive functions, but also to study the neural correlates of a range of sensitive and potentially stigmatizing conditions, behaviors, and characteristics. Poised to move outside the traditional clinical and research contexts, fMRI raises a number of ethical, legal, and social issues that are being explored within a burgeoning neuroethics literature. In this Article, I place these issues in their proper historical context. The ethical, legal, and social issues raised by advances in functional neuroimaging are challenging and somewhat distinctive, but they are not entirely new. Earlier methods of body imaging and brain mapping, including phrenology, x-ray, positron emission tomography, and single-photon emission computed tomography, raised similar issues, and perhaps we can use our experiences with these sciences and technologies to help guide current functional neuroimaging policy.

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33 American J.L. & Medicine 193 (2007)