News and Commentary Archive

Explore recent scientific discoveries and news as well as CLBB events, commentary, and press.

Mission

The speed of technology in neuroscience as it impacts ethical and just decisions in the legal system needs to be understood by lawyers, judges, public policy makers, and the general public. The Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior is an academic and professional resource for the education, research, and understanding of neuroscience and the law. Read more

World Congress of Psychiatric Genetics: “Redefining Mental Illness Through Genetics”

Last week, the 21st annual World Congress of Psychiatric Genetics (WCPG) was held in Boston, co-chaired by CLBB faculty member Jordan Smoller, M.D., Sc.D., with Lynn DeLisi, of the Boston VA and Harvard Medical School (HMS). The conference featured leading international scholars in personal genomics, psychiatric genetics, epidemiology, psychiatry, stem cell research, bioethics, and pharmacogenetics.

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Prisoners of Profit

This two-part investigative reporting series from the Huffington Post by Chris Kirkham explores the privatization of the juvenile corrections systems.

Florida’s Lax Oversight Enables Systemic Abuse At Private Youth Prisons

From a glance at his background, one might assume that James F. Slattery would have a difficult time convincing any state in America to entrust him with the supervision of its lawbreaking youth.

Over the past quarter century, Slattery’s for-profit prison enterprises have run afoul of the Justice Department and authorities in New York, Florida, Maryland, Nevada and Texas for alleged offenses ranging from condoning abuse of inmates to plying politicians with undisclosed gifts while seeking to secure state contracts. more…

Private Prison Empire Rises Despite Startling Record Of Juvenile Abuse

Youth Services International confronted a potentially expensive situation. It was early 2004, only three months into the private prison company’s $9.5 million contract to run Thompson Academy, a juvenile prison in Florida, and already the facility had become a scene of documented violence and neglect.

One guard had fractured an inmate’s elbow after the boy refused instructions to throw away a cup, according to incident reports. Another guard had slammed a boy’s head into the floor after an argument. The prison was infested with ants and cockroaches, toilets were frequently clogged and children reported finding bugs in their meager portions of food. more…

Neuroscience Experts on the Stand

The use of neuroscience in the courtroom has a long and controversial history (Baskin, Edersheim, & Price, 2007). Some observers will recall introduction of computerized tomography (CT) scans to support a diagnosis of Schizophrenia at the John Hinckley Jr. trial for his attempted assassination of President Reagan (United States v. Hinckley, 1982). In subsequent years, much has changed in neuroscience and the law. Recent advances in technology and methods for collecting and analyzing imaging data, coupled with decreasing costs and greater availability of training, has resulted in an explosion of neuroscientific research (Rosen & Savoy, 2012). The ability to track fluctuating brain activity (i.e., functional data), as opposed to examining structural or anatomical images, has allowed for research in a wide-array of applied fields.

It is not surprising that techniques that could presumably measure thought patterns, identify lying, detect psychopathology, and assess for violence and impulsivity, incite interest in the legal community (Jones, Wagner, Faigman, & Raichle, 2013). The MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience has tracked peer-reviewed publications in the field of neurolaw (application of neurosciences to legal questions). Between 2003 and 2013, the total number of articles skyrocketed from less than 100 to more than 1,100 (Jones et al., 2013). A debate has ensued about the appropriate use of neuroscience research in the courtroom. Many researchers urge strong caution in applying this nascent field to complicated psycho-legal questions (Appelbaum, 2009; Rushing & Langleben, 2011). Continue reading »

Giving Back By Promoting Alzheimer’s Awareness

Bruce H. Price, M.D. and Meredith Vieira at the Harvard Alzheimer’s Symposium

On Saturday, September 28, 2013, CLBB co-director Bruce Price, M.D. was one of the featured speakers at the first annual Harvard Alzheimer’s Symposium. Sponsored by the Harvard College Alzheimer’s Buddies program and hosted by television personality Meredith Vieira, the event brought together experts, those affected by the illness, and students.

“The Harvard Alzheimer’s Symposium is not just an effort to raise awareness, but also an effort to turn that awareness into active contribution in the fight against Alzheimer’s Disease,” Vieira said.

According to Harvard Medical School professor Ruth Kandel, Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., affecting about 5.4 million Americans, or one in nine elderly people.

CLBB is actively at work on ways to protect those in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementing illness, like Parkinson’s Disease, from financial fraud and other forms of abuse.

Alzheimer’s Buddies is an organization that pairs high school and college students with patients suffering from dementia.

 

CLBB board member receives Emmy for Documentary about Interracial Marriage

CLBB applauds the efforts of its community of faculty and board members committed to social justice. This week, one of CLBB’s principal board members, Marshall Sonenshine, received kudos for the powerful film on interracial marriage, on which he served as executive producer.

“The Loving Story” garnered an Emmy Award for Outstanding Historical Programming.  The film chronicles the life and marriage of Richard and Mildred Loving, who fought to live together as an interracial married couple in Virginia, a state that prohibited interracial marriages.

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