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

Psychopaths Actually Do Feel Regret, New Research Finds—They Just Don’t Change

CLBB Faculty Member Dr. Joshua Buckholtz is featured in this article for his research indicating that psychopaths feel regret, contrary to popular, previously-held notions of antisocial behavior. About the novel findings, he notes,

“This really shifts the focus in psychopathy from the idea that they are just these cold-blooded, emotionless individuals to people who may have normal emotional experiences, or are capable of having normal emotional experiences, but they do bad things because the mechanisms that we use to make better choices, good decisions are broken in these folks…. Our hope is that this will point to a new direction in psychopathy research.”

Read the full article, “Psychopaths Actually Do Feel Regret, New Research Finds — They Just Don’t Change”, published by Quartz on December 4, 2016.

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.

Clues to How ‘Super-Agers’ Retain Young Memories

CLBB Faculty Members Dr. Bradford Dickerson and Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett were featured for their recently-published research on older adults with extraordinary memory capacities. According to the article, “The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, is the first step in a research program aimed at understanding how some older adults retain youthful thinking abilities and the brain circuits that support those abilities.” Dr. Feldman Barrett notes:

“We also examined a group of regions known as the salience network, which is involved in identifying information that is important and needs attention for specific situations, and found preserved thickness among super-agers in several regions, including the anterior insula and orbitofrontal cortex.”

About the significance of the study, Dr. Dickerson comments:

“We desperately need to understand how some older adults are able to function very well into their seventh, eight, and ninth decades. This could provide important clues about how to prevent the decline in memory and thinking that accompanies aging in most of us.”

Read the full article, “Clues to How ‘Super-Agers’ Retain Young Memories”, published in the Harvard Gazette on September 13, 2016.

Jeffrey Rosen on the Legacy Of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

CLBB Faculty member and constitutional scholar Jeffrey Rosen is author of the new book, Louis D. Brandeis: American Prophet, and spoke with WBUR about why he calls Louis Brandeis “the most prescient judicial philosopher of the 20th Century.” Speaking with host Meghna Chakrabarti, Jeffery Rosen reflected on Brandeis’s resistance towards big government and big corporations. About the book:

According to Jeffrey Rosen, Louis D. Brandeis was “the Jewish Jefferson,” the greatest critic of what he called “the curse of bigness,” in business and government, since the author of the Declaration of Independence. Published to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of his Supreme Court confirmation on June 1, 1916, “Louis D. Brandeis: American Prophet” argues that Brandeis was the most farseeing constitutional philosopher of the twentieth century…. Combining narrative biography with a passionate argument for why Brandeis matters today, Rosen explores what Brandeis, the Jeffersonian prophet, can teach us about historic and contemporary questions involving the Constitution, monopoly, corporate and federal power, technology, privacy, free speech, and Zionism.

Listen to the entire Radio Boston segment below, or go to WBUR for more on the conversation.

Dr. Rebecca Brendel on What Happens During Hospitalizations For Mental Health Issues

CLBB Director of Bioethics Dr. Rebecca Brendel spoke with WBUR’s Morning Edition to talk about the process that occurs when someone is hospitalized for mental health issues. Dr. Brendel, also director of the master’s program in bioethics and an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School, commented,

“What the evaluators in the emergency room really would be looking for would be symptoms consistent or supporting a risk of harm…and has the individual taken steps toward the plan to actually harm themselves or harm somebody else?”

Listen to the entire segment below, or go to WBUR for more on the interview.