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

CLBB and Harvard Law School announce “Joint Venture in Law and Neuroscience;” Pain Fellow

306115_10150591296547062_163009943_nNeuroscience is rapidly increasing our understanding of human behavior. As our understanding grows, so should the law and policy which is concerned with these behaviors. New neuroscientific knowledge has many imminent implications for the legal realm, including questions of responsibility, memory, and the role of neuroscientific evidence in the courtroom.

With already-established programs in seminal areas at the intersection of law and neuroscience, including criminal responsibility, lie detection, financial decision making, and memory, CLBB looks forward to producing scholarship in a new program area, pain & suffering.

Beginning Fall 2014, CLBB and the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School will launch a joint “Project on Law and Applied Neuroscience.” The collaboration, which will extend through 2016, will include a Senior Fellow-in-residence, research and public symposia devoted to a specific issue at the intersection of neuroscience and law, and a Law and Neuroscience Seminar taught at Harvard Law School by the Hon. Nancy Gertner. Amanda Pustilnik, JD will be the Project’s first Senior Fellow in Law & Applied Neuroscience, in 2014-2015, focusing on scholarship on the role of pain in legal domains.

Pustilnik is currently a Professor of Law at the University of Maryland School of Law and a CLBB faculty member. In Cambridge, Pustilnik will pursue research, mentoring, and public engagement related to issues of pain and the law. Pustilnik will also be involved in the execution of expert symposia and public events to promote focused discussion on questions at the intersection of pain, addictions, and the law.

Professor Nancy Gertner’s Law and Neuroscience Seminar will introduce students to this complex and growing translational field. The Hon. Gertner is a member of Harvard Law, Petrie-Flom, and CLBB Faculty. The course will be cross-listed for Harvard Medical School students, and will draw on HLS and CLBB’s interdisciplinary legal and scientific faculty.

For more on the Petrie-Flom Center, see their website and bioethics blog.

The press release is available here.

Pair allegedly swindled $450,000 meant for cat

John R. Ellement | The Boston Globe | April 17, 2014

Two Brighton roommates allegedly concocted a brazen scheme to bilk an ailing, elderly neighbor of $450,000 by agreeing to use the money to care for the woman’s beloved cat as long as it lived.

But instead of safeguarding the assets for the pet, a tabby named Puddy Cat, the two women are accused of going on a spending spree, buying a $28,000 Mini Cooper car, an iPad, a Vitamix blender, and a Netflix subscription — all while the 74-year-old woman, who suffers from dementia, was in a nursing home. They also siphoned off tens of thousands of dollars in cash, Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Michele Granda said in Suffolk Superior Court Thursday.

A Primer on Criminal Law and Neuroscience

Released in 2013, this landmark handbook condenses three years of interdisciplinary study supported by the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience, and edited by neurolaw scholars Adina Roskies and Stephen J. Morse.

The varied chapters provide a range of opinions and insights as to the usefulness of neuroscience in criminal law, while the book’s approach is to address both conceptual problems and empirical evidence relating to the relevance of neuroscience in the courtroom.

More information on the Primer can be found on the publisher’s website.

Predictive accuracy in the neuroprediction of rearrest

By E. Aharoni, J. Mallet, G. Vincent, C. L. Harenski, V. D. Calhoun, W. Sinnott-Armstrong, M. S. Gazzaniga, and K. A. Kiehl | Social Neuroscience | 10 April 2014

Abstract

A recently published study by the present authors reported evidence that functional changes in the anterior cingulate cortex within a sample of 96 criminal offenders who were engaged in a Go/No-Go impulse control task significantly predicted their rearrest following release from prison. In an extended analysis, we use discrimination and calibration techniques to test the accuracy of these predictions relative to more traditional models and their ability to generalize to new observations in both full and reduced models. Modest to strong discrimination and calibration accuracy were found, providing additional support for the utility of neurobiological measures in predicting rearrest.

Read the full paper here.

In Defense Of 12 Steps: What Science Really Tells Us About Addiction

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In a recent WBUR interview, Dr. Lance Dodes discussed his new book, which attempts to “debunk” the science related to the effectiveness of 12-step mutual-help programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as 12-step professional treatment. He claims that these approaches are almost completely ineffective and even harmful in treating substance use disorders.

What he claims has very serious implications because hundreds of Americans are dying every day as a result of addiction. If the science really does demonstrate that the millions of people who attend AA and similar 12-step organizations each week are really deluding themselves as to any benefit they may be getting, then this surely should be stated loud and clear.

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