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

How ‘Confused’ Could Jeff Sessions Have Been?

By Nancy Gertner | The Boston Globe | March 6, 2017

That Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a false statement under oath before a congressional committee is clear. He said, “I did not have communications with the Russians,” when in fact he had met twice with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The only question is what the consequences should be. Continue reading »

A Revised Portrait of Psychopaths

The Harvard Gazette covers a recent study by CLBB Faculty Member Dr. Joshua Buckholtz that challenges the traditional view of psychopaths. The study found that psychopaths struggle to make accurate predictions about the consequences of their actions, challenging the previously-held notion that they simply are unable to feel empathy, remorse, or regret. About the significance of the findings, Dr. Buckholtz notes:

“There are two components to regret. There is retrospective regret, which is how we usually think about regret — the emotional experience after you learn you could have received a better outcome if you had made a different choice. But we also use signals from our environment to make predictions about which actions will or won’t result in regret. What differentiated psychopaths from other people was their inability to use those prospective regret signals, to use information about the choices they were given to anticipate how much regret they were going to experience, and adjust their decision-making accordingly.

“It’s almost like a blindness to future regret. When something happens, they feel regret, but what they can’t do is look forward and use information that would tell them they’re going to feel regret to guide their decision-making.”

On the relationship between the study’s novel findings about psychopathy and criminal behavior, he observes:

“Contrary to what you would expect based on these basic emotional-deficit models, their emotional responses to regret didn’t predict incarceration. We know psychopathy is one of the biggest predictors of criminal behavior, but what we found was that behavioral regret sensitivity moderated that, raising the suggestion that intact behavioral regret sensitivity could be a protective factor against incarceration in psychopathic individuals.

Finally, when commenting on the importance of the research, he notes:

“We actually know very little about how psychopaths make choices. There have been all sorts of research into their emotions and emotional experience, but we know next to nothing about how they integrate information that we extract from the world as a matter of course and use it to make decisions in daily lives. Getting better insight into why psychopaths make such terrible choices, I think, is going to be very important for the next generation of psychopathy research.”

Read the full article, “A Revised Portrait of Psychopaths”, published in the Harvard Gazette on February 2, 2017.

States Raising the Age for Adult Prosecution Back to 18

In this article by the American Bar Association Journal, CLBB’s Dr. Judith Edersheim offers insight into how adolescent brain development research has propelled the argument against incarcerating teens with adults. After describing the unique neurodevelopmental occurrences that are a feature of adolescence — and how they might influence behavior –, she comments on the dangers of incarcerating teenagers with older adults:

“If you don’t provide an adolescent with an opportunity to develop a social competency or self-esteem, if you don’t put them in contact with pro-social peers, then you’re setting trajectories which actually might persist through adulthood. Adolescents are really these neurologic sponges for their environment.”

Read the full article, “States Raising Age for Adult Prosecution Back to 18”, published by the ABA Journal on February 1, 2017.

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.