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

How Solitary Confinement Hurts the Teenage Brain

The Atlantic | Laura Dimon | June 30, 2014

Lately, Josh has been having delirious dreams, often waking in cold sweats, panicked and disoriented. “I started to feel like I was going crazy,” he said. The episodes are unpleasant, but they’re not unfamiliar; they’re reminiscent of the time he spent in solitary confinement as a teenager 16 years ago.

Josh’s story is a glimpse into a troubling practice that is sometimes considered too cruel for adults, and even more so when used on minors. The effects are damaging and lasting, and ultimately, they’re not just a problem for the child, but for society as a whole. Continue reading »

Why Teenagers Act Crazy

The New York Times | Richard Friedman | June 28, 2014

ADOLESCENCE is practically synonymous in our culture with risk taking, emotional drama and all forms of outlandish behavior. Until very recently, the widely accepted explanation for adolescent angst has been psychological. Developmentally, teenagers face a number of social and emotional challenges, like starting to separate from their parents, getting accepted into a peer group and figuring out who they really are. It doesn’t take a psychoanalyst to realize that these are anxiety-provoking transitions.

But there is a darker side to adolescence that, until now, was poorly understood: a surge during teenage years in anxiety and fearfulness. Largely because of a quirk of brain development, adolescents, on average, experience more anxiety and fear and have a harder time learning how not to be afraid than either children or adults. Continue reading »

Law and neuroscience: recommendations submitted to the President’s Bioethics Commission

Owen D. Jones, Richard J. Bonnie, B. J. Casey, Andre Davis, David L. Faigman, Morris Hoffman, Read Montague, Stephen J. Morse, Marcus E. Raichle, Jennifer A. Richeson, Elizabeth Scott, Laurence Steinberg, Kim Taylor-Thompson, Anthony Wagner and Gideon Yaffe | Journal of the Law and Biosciences | June 2014

It has become increasingly clear that implications for criminal justice—both negative and positive—emerge from the rapid, important, and challenging developments in cognitive neuroscience, the study of how the brain thinks. Two examples will illustrate.

First, lawyers are ever more frequently bringing neuroscientific evidence into the courtroom, often in the forms of testimony about, and graphic images of, human brains. This trend has produced many new challenges for judges as they attempt to provide fair rulings on the admissibility of such technical evidence, consider its proper interpretation, and assess whether the probative value of such testimony may be outweighed by its potentially prejudicial effect on juror deliberation, and hence on trial outcomes.

Second, the fast expansion of new imaging and analytic techniques has generated the hope that neuroscience, properly deployed, might help to further the goals of criminal justice. For example, given that the criminal justice system already makes predictions about future antisocial conduct for purposes of sentencing and parole, some believe that neural markers might eventually improve the accuracy of those predictions. Continue reading »

Mass. House OKs parole for juvenile killers

By Laura Crimaldi and Travis Andersen | The Boston Globe | June 18, 2014

The state House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill that would make juveniles convicted in Massachusetts of first-degree murder eligible for parole after serving between 20 and 30 years of their sentence.

The measure, which now goes to the state Senate, passed by a margin of 128-16, according to House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo’s office.

“As public servants our most pressing responsibility is ensuring the safety of the public,” DeLeo said in a statement Wednesday. “Following state and federal court actions, the House felt it was necessary to create a strong framework for protecting our residents while accounting for the special circumstances associated with juvenile offenders. I am grateful for the input from the many committed organizations, families and legislators who helped craft this fair and balanced bill.” Continue reading »

Brain Matters: Reporting from the Front Lines of Neuroscience

During summer 2014, WBUR ran a special series on the current state, potential, and limitations of neuroscience. The series covered:

Part 1: Are we entering a golden age of neuroscience?

Brain Images: New Techniques And Bright Colors
5 Ways The Brain Stymies Scientists And 5 New Tools To Crack It, an interview with CLBB Faculty member Steve Hyman
Unlocking The Brain: Are We Entering A Golden Age Of Neuroscience?
11 Young Neuroscientists Share Their Cutting-Edge Research
Continue reading »