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

Redefining the Role of Limbic Areas in Cortical Processing

By Lorena Chanes and Lisa Feldman Barrett | Trends in Cognitive Science | December 15, 2015

Abstract:

There is increasing evidence that the brain actively constructs action and perception using past experience. In this paper, we propose that the direction of information flow along gradients of laminar differentiation provides important insight on the role of limbic cortices in cortical processing. Cortical limbic areas, with a simple laminar structure (e.g., no or rudimentary layer IV), send ‘feedback’ projections to lower level better laminated areas. We propose that this ‘feedback’ functions as predictions that drive processing throughout the cerebral cortex. This hypothesis has the potential to provide a unifying framework for an increasing number of proposals that use predictive coding to explain a myriad of neural processes and disorders, and has important implications for hypotheses about consciousness.

Read the full article here.

Creative Cognition and Brain Network Dynamics

By Roger E. Beaty, Mathias Benedek, Paul J. Silvia, and Daniel L. Schacter | Trends in Cognitive Science | November 6, 2015

Abstract:

Creative thinking is central to the arts, sciences, and everyday life. How does the brain produce creative thought? A series of recently published papers has begun to provide insight into this question, reporting a strikingly similar pattern of brain activity and connectivity across a range of creative tasks and domains, from divergent thinking to poetry composition to musical improvisation. This research suggests that creative thought involves dynamic interactions of large-scale brain systems, with the most compelling finding being that the default and executive control networks, which can show an antagonistic relation, tend to cooperate during creative cognition and artistic performance. These findings have implications for understanding how brain networks interact to support complex cognitive processes, particularly those involving goal-directed, self-generated thought.

Read the full paper here.

Rewiring juvenile justice: the intersection of developmental neuroscience and legal policy

By Alexandra O. Cohen and BJ Casey | February 2014 | Trends in Cognitive Sciences

The past decade has been marked by historic opinions regarding the culpability of juveniles by the US Supreme Court. In 2005, the death penalty was abolished, 5 years later, life without parole for crimes, other than homicide, was banned, and then just last year, mandatory life sentences for any crime was abolished. The court referenced developmental science in all these cases. In this article, we highlight new scientific findings and their relevance to law and policy.

The past decade has witnessed a series of US Supreme Court decisions relevant to differential treatment of juvenile versus adult offenders that reference developmental science. In 2005 (Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551) the majority held that execution of offenders under the age of 18 violated the Eighth Amendment barring ‘cruel and unusual punishments’. That decision moved nearly 100 inmates off death row in a dozen states. In Graham v. Florida (2010), the Court held that juvenile offenders could not be sentenced to life in prison without parole for nonhomicide crimes. At that time, an estimated 100 inmates were serving Juvenile life without parole sentences for nonhomicide offenses. The 2000 or more inmates serving Juvenile life without parole for homicide were unaffected. Then, just last year (2012) in Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs, the Supreme Court held that mandatory sentences of life without parole for juveniles violate the Eighth Amendment. The ruling only stated that a juvenile could not be subjected to a mandatory sentence of life without parole. Therefore, inconsistencies in the treatment of juveniles remain, because these laws are regulated predominantly by the state that allows jurisdictions to impose different penalties on juvenile offenders. Continue reading »