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

Hard Time Gets a Hard Look by Judge Nancy Gertner

The Harvard Gazette covers a new Harvard Law School course led by CLBB’s Judge Nancy Gertner (ret.), which approaches the problem of mass incarceration from interdisciplinary perspectives. The course, also co-taught by Harvard sociologist Bruce Western and Vincent Schiraldi of Harvard Kennedy School, examines the origins of U.S. mass incarceration and helps students generate solutions to the issue. About the course and faculty, Judge Gertner notes:

“Each of us in different ways has been teaching and working on the problem of criminal justice policy. We thought there would be some unique value in bringing together three perspectives: the social science on problems of crime and criminal justice, the perspective of policy research and analysis, and law.

None of us ever believed that we would be in a world in which people are talking about reducing incarceration and letting people out of prison…. the discussion goes from the abstract to the concrete.”

About her experience with the problem of mass incarceration and commitment to resolving it, she comments on her time as a federal judge:

“Eighty percent of sentences that I was obliged to impose in drug cases were unjust, disproportionate, and inequitable, she told the class of working as judge within a strict sentencing framework ushered in by the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984. After retiring in 2011, she embarked “on a trajectory of wanting to know more,” she said, and pressing for change.

Read the full article, “Hard Time Gets a Hard Look”, by Colleen Walsh, published by the Harvard Gazette on November 29, 2016.

NFL Doctors Should Not Report to Teams, Harvard Study Recommends

This article highlights a recent report published by the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School, entitled, “Protecting and Promoting the Health of NFL Players: Legal and Ethical Analysis and Recommendations”

By Rick Maese | The Washington Post | November 17, 2016

A new report from Harvard University proposes drastic changes in the way health care is administered in the NFL, urging the nation’s most popular sports league to upend its system of medicine and untangle the loyalties of the doctors and trainers charged with treating players.

Asserting that the long-standing current structure has inherent conflicts of interest, the 493-page report outlines a new system in which a team’s medical staff is devoted solely to players’ interests and no longer reports to team management or coaches.

“The intersection of club doctors’ dual obligations creates significant legal and ethical quandaries that can threaten player health,” the report states. Continue reading »

WATCH — The Vulnerable Brain

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Click poster to RSVP.

As the American population ages, the medical and legal systems will have to balance concerns about protecting the elderly from fraud and victimization with fundamental autonomy rights. In this event, the Center for Law, Brain & Behavior will present a case that concerns a tragic trajectory caused by undetected brain disease and discuss both missed opportunities to intervene and the implications for legal and social policy. Weaving a narrative that highlights the subject’s personal life and neurological decline, experts in psychiatry, law, and neurology will consider: what can be done to protect the vulnerable, aging brain?

Examining everything from forensic reports, to medical records, to a literal brain, CLBB Co-Director Dr. Judith Edersheim and CLBB Faculty Member Dr. Brad Dickerson (of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School) will tell a story that exemplifies how vulnerable an ailing, elderly person can be. CLBB Co-Director Dr. Bruce Price will join as a discussant during the Q&A session with the audience.

This event will be held on Thursday, December 15, 2016, at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Bornstein Amphitheater, from 7:00-8:30 pm.

Make sure to RSVP before the event!

This event is free and open to the public. A brief reception will precede the event from 6:30-7:00 PM. Continue reading »

The Varieties of Anger

By Lisa Feldman Barrett | The New York Times | November 12, 2016

Bitterness. Hostility. Rage. The varieties of anger are endless. Some are mild, such as grumpiness, and others are powerful, such as wrath. Different angers vary not only in their intensity but also in their purpose. It’s normal to feel exasperated with your screaming infant and scornful of a political opponent, but scorn toward your baby would be bizarre.

Anger is a large, diverse population of experiences and behaviors, as psychologists like myself who study emotion repeatedly discover. You can shout in anger, weep in anger, even smile in anger. You can throw a tantrum in anger with your heart pounding, or calmly plot your revenge. No single state of the face, body or brain defines anger. Variation is the norm. Continue reading »