Brain science is discovering more about the inner workings of the mind that we’ve ever known before—but we’re still a long way from being able to apply those findings toward predicting or even understanding individuals’ behavior, experts say.
Speaking at a discussion on “Neuroscience and the Law” organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C., CLBB faculty member Steven Hyman, Director of the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research, Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, emphasized the practical limitations of current research.
In cases of violent crime, for example, even if a brain scan found abnormal activity in a region associated with impulse control or emotion regulation, it would show only correlation, not causation, meaning the information would have little use in court. “I would never tell a parole board to decide whether to release somebody or hold on to somebody based on their brain scan as an individual, because I can’t tell what are the causal factors in that individual,” he said.
“I think we’re going to understand a lot more,” Hyman said. “But it’s really early days.”
Also participating in the April 25 event, the first of a series on “Neuroscience and Society” organized by AAAS in partnership with the Dana Foundation and co-sponsored by the International Neuroethics Society and the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience, were Judge Barbara Rothstein, a visiting U.S. District Judge from the Western District of Washington state and past director of the Federal Judicial Center in Washington, D.C., and Owen D. Jones, director of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience and a professor of both law and biology at Vanderbilt University.