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

A New MRI Masking Technique Based on Multi-Atlas Brain Segmentation in Controls and Schizophrenia: A Rapid and Viable Alternative to Manual Masking

By Elisabetta C. del Re, Yi Gao, Ryan Eckbo, Tracey L. Petryshen, Gabriëlla A.M. Blokland, Larry J. Seidman, Jun Konishi, Jill M. Goldstein, Robert W. McCarley, Martha E. Shenton, and Sylvain Bouix | Journal of Neuroimaging | November 20, 2015

Abstract:

Brain masking of MRI images separates brain from surrounding tissue and its accuracy is important for further imaging analyses. We implemented a new brain masking technique based on multi-atlas brain segmentation (MABS) and compared MABS to masks generated using FreeSurfer (FS; version 5.3), Brain Extraction Tool (BET), and Brainwash, using manually defined masks (MM) as the gold standard. We further determined the effect of different masking techniques on cortical and subcortical volumes generated by FreeSurfer.

METHODS

Images were acquired on a 3-Tesla MR Echospeed system General Electric scanner on five control and five schizophrenia subjects matched on age, sex, and IQ. Automated masks were generated from MABS, FS, BET, and Brainwash, and compared to MM using these metrics: a) volume difference from MM; b) Dice coefficients; and c) intraclass correlation coefficients.

RESULTS

Mean volume difference between MM and MABS masks was significantly less than the difference between MM and FS or BET masks. Dice coefficient between MM and MABS was significantly higher than Dice coefficients between MM and FS, BET, or Brainwash. For subcortical and left cortical regions, MABS volumes were closer to MM volumes than were BET or FS volumes. For right cortical regions, MABS volumes were closer to MM volumes than were BET volumes.

CONCLUSIONS

Brain masks generated using FreeSurfer, BET, and Brainwash are rapidly obtained, but are less accurate than manually defined masks. Masks generated using MABS, in contrast, resemble more closely the gold standard of manual masking, thereby offering a rapid and viable alternative.

Read the entire article here.

 

Cognitive Ability in Childhood and the Chronicity and Suicidality of Depression

By Galen Chin-Lun Hung, Stefanie A. Pietras, Hannah Carliner, Laurie Martin, Larry J. Seidman, Stephen L. Buka, and Stephen E. Gilman | The British Journal of Psychiatry | November 2015

Abstract:

Background

There is inconsistent evidence regarding the influence of general cognitive abilities on the long-term course of depression.

Aims

To investigate the association between general childhood cognitive abilities and adult depression outcomes.

Method

We conducted a cohort study using data from 633 participants in the New England Family Study with lifetime depression. Cognitive abilities at age 7 were measured using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children. Depression outcomes were assessed using structured diagnostic interviews administered up to four times in adulthood between ages 17 and 49.

Results

In analyses adjusting for demographic factors and parental psychiatric illness, low general cognitive ability (i.e. IQ<85 v. IQ>115) was associated with recurrent depressive episodes (odds ratio (OR) = 2.19, 95% CI 1.20–4.00), longer episode duration (rate ratio 4.21, 95% CI 2.24–7.94), admission to hospital for depression (OR = 3.65, 95% CI 1.34–9.93) and suicide ideation (OR = 3.79, 95% CI 1.79–8.02) and attempt (OR = 4.94, 95% CI 1.67–14.55).

Conclusions

Variation in cognitive abilities, predominantly within the normal range and established early in childhood, may confer long-term vulnerability for prolonged and severe depression. The mechanisms underlying this vulnerability need to be established to improve the prognosis of depression among individuals with lower cognitive abilities.

Read the full article here.

Does Developmental Timing of Exposure to Child Maltreatment Predict Memory Performance in Adulthood? Results from a Large, Population-Based Sample

By Erin C. Dunn, Daniel S. Busso, Miriam R. Raffeld, Jordan W. Smoller, Charles A. Nelson, Alysa E. Doyle, and Gigi Luk | Child Abuse & Neglect | November 13, 2015

Abstract:

Although maltreatment is a known risk factor for multiple adverse outcomes across the lifespan, its effects on cognitive development, especially memory, are poorly understood. Using data from a large, nationally representative sample of young adults (Add Health), we examined the effects of physical and sexual abuse on working and short-term memory in adulthood. We examined the association between exposure to maltreatment as well as its timing of first onset after adjusting for covariates. Of our sample, 16.50% of respondents were exposed to physical abuse and 4.36% to sexual abuse by age 17. An analysis comparing unexposed respondents to those exposed to physical or sexual abuse did not yield any significant differences in adult memory performance. However, two developmental time periods emerged as important for shaping memory following exposure to sexual abuse, but in opposite ways. Relative to non-exposed respondents, those exposed to sexual abuse during early childhood (ages 3-5), had better number recall and those first exposed during adolescence (ages 14-17) had worse number recall. However, other variables, including socioeconomic status, played a larger role (than maltreatment) on working and short-term memory. We conclude that a simple examination of “exposed” versus “unexposed” respondents may obscure potentially important within-group differences that are revealed by examining the effects of age at onset to maltreatment.

Read the entire paper here.

Racial and Ethnic Differences in Prenatal Life Stress and Postpartum Depression Symptoms

By Cindy H. Liu, Rebecca Giallo, Stacey N. Doan, Larry J. Seidman, and Ed Tronick | Archives of Psychiatric Nursing | November 13, 2015

Abstract:

This study determined the risk of core depression symptoms based on life stress domains during pregnancy, and whether stressors varied by race/ethnicity. The sample consisted of 2,344 White, African American, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander (API) Massachusetts women who recently gave birth. African Americans and Hispanics who endorsed high relational and high financial stress were more likely to report high depressed mood and loss of interest; high physical stress was associated with high depressed mood among API. Screening based on life stress domains may be informative in determining risk for core depression symptoms during the postpartum period especially for minority groups.

Read the full article here.

Dr. Edersheim Explains the Insanity Defenses for Juvenile Killers

CLBB Co-Director Dr. Judith Edersheim spoke with VICE on the insanity defense and its unique application in cases with juvenile defendants. She also spoke generally about the ongoing trial of Philip Chism, 16, who is accused of rape and murder and who, the defense argues, suffers from severe mental illness. In an interview with Susan Zalkind, Dr. Edersheim notes:

“The law has an insanity standard that is premised on an examination of behavior. Is this person at the moment of this offense behaving in a folk-psychology way that indicates that he or she has a defect of reason or volition, an inability to control themselves, or an inability to think reasonably? You could ask those same questions of juveniles or adults.

The more complicated answer is philosophical moral and neuroscientific. Adolescents are so different [from adults] that we ought to have different standards for them in light of the emerging adolescent neuroscience and how that intersects the moral underpinnings of law.”

Read the rest of the piece from VICE, “An Expert Explains the Complexities and Confusion of Insanity Defenses for Juvenile Killers”, by Susan Zalkind, published November 20, 2015.