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

Video: Steven Pinker: “The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century”

On Thursday, November 20, 2014, at the Bornstein Amphitheater at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, CLBB and the Boston Society for Neurology and Psychiatry co-sponsored a talk by Steven Pinker, renowned Harvard cognitive psychologist, linguist, and popular author, to discuss his most recent book, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. Video of the event is included below in its entirety and at our Vimeo page. Continue reading »

Watch: “Free Will: What Can Physiology Explain?”

While we may believe that we choose and direct our movements consciously, the physiology of human motor control provides compelling evidence that this sense of conscious decision – free will – is a perception only.

On Thursday, October 2, 2014, at the Bornstein Amphitheater at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, CLBB and the Boston Society for Neurology and Psychiatry co-sponsored an event exploring how an understanding of human motor control can contribute to the question of free will. Video of the event is included below in its entirety and at our Vimeo page. Continue reading »

Dispatch: “Neuro-interventions and the Law” Conference

Dr. Ekaterina Pivovarova

Dr. Ekaterina Pivovarova

On September 12-14, 2014, the Atlanta Neuroethics Consortium was held at Georgia State University. The topic, Neuro-Interventions and the Law: Regulating Human Mental Capacity, brought together leading scholars on philosophy, neuroscience, law, cognitive and clinical psychology, psychiatry, and bioethics. The participants included Judge Andre Davis, Nita Farahany, Stephen Morse, Francis Shen, Walter Sinnot-Armstrong, Nicole Vincent, and Paul Root Wolpe. The conference panels, talks, and keynotes addressed pressing issues about managing and appropriately utilizing novel neuroscientific technologies as they relate to legal issues. Continue reading »

Using Data to Predict Fate: Future Insight or Folly?

Data that can predict future outcomes has the potential to impact society by improving social services, medicine, and law.  How should we use such data? What are the limitations? What are the risks? This upcoming Harvard Mind Brain Behavior panel will discuss the promise and challenge of predictive data. CLBB Co-Director Dr. Judith Edersheim is a featured panelist, and Faculty Member Dr. Joshua Buckholtz will moderate the discussion.

This event will be held on February 9, 2017 in Harvard University’s William James Hall, B1 (33 Kirkland Street, Cambridge, MA), from 5:45-6:45 pm. A reception will follow the event. More information can be found here.

This event is sponsored by the Harvard Mind Brain Behavior Interfaculty Initiative. 

The Mayhem of a Misdiagnosis

Click poster to RSVP.

In this event, the Center for Law, Brain & Behavior will present a case that concerns a tragic trajectory caused by undetected brain disease and the interpersonal and larger societal havoc that can be wreaked by a misdiagnosis. 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 prevent the mayhem of a misdiagnosis?

This event will be held on Tuesday, March 7, 2017, at Interface (140 W. 30th Street, New York, NY), from 6:00-8:00 pm.

Make sure to RSVP before the event!

This event is co-sponsored by New America and the MGH Center for Law, Brain & Behavior. 

How to Become a ‘Superager’

By Lisa Feldman Barrett | The New York Times | December 31, 2016

Think about the people in your life who are 65 or older. Some of them are experiencing the usual mental difficulties of old age, like forgetfulness or a dwindling attention span. Yet others somehow manage to remain mentally sharp. My father-in-law, a retired doctor, is 83 and he still edits books and runs several medical websites.

Why do some older people remain mentally nimble while others decline? “Superagers” (a term coined by the neurologist Marsel Mesulam) are those whose memory and attention isn’t merely above average for their age, but is actually on par with healthy, active 25-year-olds. My colleagues and I at Massachusetts General Hospital recently studied superagers to understand what made them tick. Continue reading »

You’re an Adult. Your Brain, Not So Much.

CLBB Faculty Member Leah Somerville and her work on adolescent development are featured in the following article, which highlights the difficulty in determining a distinct line between adolescence and adulthood. Additional coverage about how her work intersects with the CLBB can be found here.

By Carl Zimmer | The New York Times | December 21, 2016

Leah H. Somerville, a Harvard neuroscientist, sometimes finds herself in front of an audience of judges. They come to hear her speak about how the brain develops.

It’s a subject on which many legal questions depend. How old does someone have to be to be sentenced to death? When should someone get to vote? Can an 18-year-old give informed consent?

Scientists like Dr. Somerville have learned a great deal in recent years. But the complex picture that’s emerging lacks the bright lines that policy makers would like. Continue reading »

Five Questions for Judith Edersheim

CLBB Co-Director and Co-Founder Dr. Judith Edersheim is interviewed in-depth to comment on what neuroimaging can and cannot reveal about the “criminal brain”. 

By Chloé Hecketsweiler | Undark Magazine | December 6, 2016

CAN BRAIN SCIENCE predict when someone will commit a crime, or tell whether a defendant knew right from wrong? In recent decades, scientists and criminal justice experts have been trying to answer tantalizing questions like these — with mixed success.

The science of predicting crime using algorithms is still shaky, and while sophisticated tools such as neuroimaging are increasingly being used in courtrooms, they raise a host of tricky questions: What kind of brain defect or brain injury should count when assessing a defendant’s responsibility for a crime? Can brain imaging distinguish truth from falsehood? Can neuroscience predict human behavior? Continue reading »