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

Myth vs. Fact: Violence and Mental Health

By Lois Beckett | ProPublica | June 19, 2014

After mass shootings, like the ones these past weeks in Las Vegas, Seattle and Santa Barbara, the national conversation often focuses on mental illness. So what do we actually know about the connections between mental illness, mass shootings and gun violence overall?

To separate the facts from the media hype, we talked to Dr. Jeffrey Swanson, a professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Duke University School of Medicine, and one of the leading researchers on mental health and violence. Swanson talked about the dangers of passing laws in the wake of tragedy ― and which new violence-prevention strategies might actually work. Continue reading »

I don’t feel your pain

By Ruth Graham | The Boston Globe | June 15, 2014

If you stopped the average person in an emergency room and asked why she’s there—not just her guess at the problem, but what really motivated her to show up—the number one answer would be “pain.”

Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from migraines; African-Americans were 1.4 times as likely as whites to report recent pain that interfered with their lives; both white and black test subjects rate blacks’ pain as less intense than whites; women are up to 25 percent less likely than men to receive opiod painkillers when they come to the ER with acute abdominal pain.

Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from migraines; African-Americans were 1.4 times as likely as whites to report recent pain that interfered with their lives; both white and black test subjects rate blacks’ pain as less intense than whites; women are up to 25 percent less likely than men to receive opiod painkillers when they come to the ER with acute abdominal pain.

For all that modern medicine has learned about disease and treatment, it’s alleviating pain that still lies at the heart of the profession. And in recent years, the notion of treating “pain” as its own entity has been rising to the forefront in medicine. Pain management now has its own journals, conferences, clinics, and specialists, and pain relief is sometimes referred to as a human right. The Institute of Medicine reports there are more than 100 million chronic pain sufferers in the United States, and others have estimated the problem costs $60 billion a year in lost productivity. In September, a coalition that includes the FDA, the CDC, and the NIH is expected to release a long-awaited “National Pain Strategy.”

But as pain rises on the agenda for clinicians and patients, research is uncovering some unsettling facts about how it really affects people. First, not everyone experiences pain similarly. In experiments, women and black people have frequently shown lower pain tolerance when asked to do things like hold their hands in ice water. Gender differences in pain prevalence and intensity emerge in adolescence, and for reasons not fully understood, women are particularly vulnerable to conditions including migraines, back pain, and fibromyalgia. Low-income Americans, too, are more likely to suffer pain than their high-income peers: They are likelier to be engaged in manual labor, to eat poorly, and to go to the doctor less often, to name just a few causes. Among pain patients, blacks and Hispanics are likelier to report their pain is severe. Continue reading »

Sterling to Face Trial on Mental Capacity

By Noah Gilbert and Scott Cacciola | The New York Times | June 11, 2014

LOS ANGELES — He did not know what season it was. He could not remember two objects after three minutes. He had difficulty drawing a clock.

A Los Angeles doctor described Donald Sterling, the embattled owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, as “unable to reasonably carry out the duties of trustee,” according to legal documents filed Wednesday by Sterling’s estranged wife, Rochelle.

Donald Sterling’s lawyers disputed that characterization, maintaining that “he has all of his capacities about him” and that he should not be stripped of his control of the Clippers. Continue reading »

A Model for Juvenile Detention Reform

The New York Times | June 8, 2014 | Editorial Board

See also: Why are we putting teenagers in solitary confinement?

States are sending fewer and fewer children to juvenile correctional facilities, partly in response to research showing that locking up young people increases the risk that they will eventually drop out of school and become permanently entangled with the justice system.

This is all to the good. But dealing with low-risk children through community-guidance programs leaves behind a population of severely troubled children who often wind up in solitary confinement instead of receiving the special help they need. Continue reading »

Board Approves Parole for Man Convicted as Juvenile

Boston Magazine | Steve Annear | June 5, 2014

The Massachusetts Parole Board announced Thursday that Frederick Christian, who was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole as a juvenile, is eligible for release.

Christian, who was convicted in 1998 for his role in the murder of two men during an armed robbery in Brockton, is the first inmate scheduled to be released from the custody of the Department of Corrections as a result of recent decisions from both the Supreme Court and the state Supreme Court.

“After careful consideration of all relevant facts, including the nature of the underlying offense, the age of the inmate at the time of the crime, criminal record, institutional record, the inmate’s testimony at the hearing, and the views of the public as expressed at the hearing or in writing, we conclude by unanimous vote that the inmate is a suitable candidate for parole,” according to parole officials’ findings. Continue reading »