Professor C R Mukundan
Ketan Tanna speaks to the man whose liedetector technology is so loved by the police
In the mind games being played out on an increasingly splattered chessboard between intelligence agencies and terror groups, a portly, 67-year-old professor from Bangalore could turn out to be the crucial bishop.
Professor Mukundan Champadi Raman is the man behind a brain signature profiling technique, whose official name is Brain Electrical Oscillations (BEOS). It is now a favourite forensic tool of investigators desperate for a lead.
Professor Mukundan says the psychological logic behind BEOS is that while an individual may lie about an experience to others, he cannot lie to himself. How does it work? A specially designed auditory probe extracts a signature from the scalp of the suspect. Continuous video footage of changes in the brain is captured and integrated with the data. The examiner presents the suspect with several scenarios and probes, not merely to test his knowledge but to provoke remembrance of a past event. The suspectâ€™s mind produces results which form a pattern or signature, and later, the entire result is processed by a computer using a special software.
In India, Gandhinagar and Mumbai have established BEOS laboratories. Recently, the Gujarat police claimed to have cracked the Gujarat bomb blasts with the help of BEOS, and in June this year, again with the help of BEOS, Punebased MBA students Aditi Sharma and her lover Pravin Khandelwal were found guilty for conspiring to murder a fellow student by giving him prasad laced with arsenic. Earlier in January, a supari shop employee was convicted in Mumbai for hammering a colleague to death. The supari shop employee was also taken to the forensic laboratory in Kalina.
But Mukundan is unhappy with the media going to town about it, exaggerating his achievements and â€œmisquoting himâ€™â€™. The former head of department of clinical psychology at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore, says that BEOS cannot be used to convict a person. â€œI believe they cannot even chargesheet a person using the findings. It is unfortunate that the facts have been misrepresented repeatedly. To my knowledge, it is used as an aid to investigation, and may be cited as corroborative evidence, but BEOS findings have never been used as primary evidence,â€™â€™ he says in a phone interview.
Even though he downplays hysterical media reports, the professor is quick to defend his invention. Last year, a government committee, the Nagaraja Committee, rejected brain mapping and BEOS as unscientific. Mukundan says that the committee never visited the forensic labs where the technology is being used, and even if they had, BEOS is so complex that it needs an explanation from an expert to understand its functioning.
The mind fascinates Mukundan. The Malayali professor taught English, science and social studies in a small school in Ochanthuruth, Kerala, for 10 months after graduating in physics and mathematics from Kerala University. He went to get a Ph.D from NIMHANS in clinical and neuro psychology and spent the next 30 years studying the mind at NIMHANS. In this journey, dozens of psychiatrists and psychologists have been his guides but the works of two persons that have influenced him the most are Bertrand Russell, who he says made him a hardcore reductionist, and Peter Senge, who made him look beyond reductionism (understanding the nature of complex things by reducing them to interactions of their parts). â€œIt was the works of Eysenck JJ (an eminent psychologist in the 1970s and 1980s) that got me interested in experimental psychology, whereas Luria A R (a Russian neuropsychologist who started the school of cultural and historical psychology) got me fixed forever in neuropsychology.â€™â€™ he says.
His comment on the terror ripping through India is that the mind of criminals and terrorists differ from ordinary humans. Over a period of time, he says, normal humans have developed higher forms of emotions, such as love and compassion which foster social harmony, creative thinking and other related activities. â€œBut some people (terrorists and criminals) have not given importance to the inculcation of these emotions. They develop emotions at an animal level and for them an eye for an eye theory holds true.â€™â€™ TNN