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

WATCH – January 23, 2015 – “Translation 2.0: A Forum on Transforming Public Understanding of Science”

Click to view event poster.

The gap between the scientific community and the public is widening.  Whether considering climate change or mental health, policymakers and gatekeepers of the legal system routinely mischaracterize scientific consensus, with potentially devastating consequences for the moral health of our society and our collective future. It’s never been more crucial to examine how public understanding of science can be transformed – through better storytelling, deeper dialogue among disciplines, and the simple art of persuasion – and also how science can be better informed (and guided) by the ongoing needs of society.

On Friday, January 23, 2015 at the Norton’s Woods Conference Center of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in Cambridge, CLBB presented “Translation 2.0: A Forum on Transforming Public Understanding of Science.”  Leading thinkers from science, the law, and journalism discussed the art of persuasion (F. Lee Bailey), the successful OpEd (Nancy Gertner), writing a sophisticated science story (Carey Goldberg), new models for disrupting public opinion (Jeff Howe), and why science needs storytelling (Jordan Smoller).  Remarks from each speaker were followed by a lively discussion among all attendees around how both scientists and journalists – as well as the public at large – can do more to speak each other’s languages and address key consensus issues. Continue reading »

Steve Hyman: Too Soon for Neuroscience to Transform Legal System

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.

Read more about “Neuroscience and the Law at the AAAS website. 

 

 

 

 

Steven Hyman to Speak on Neuroscience and the Law at AAAS

CLBB faculty Steven Hyman will speak on a panel titled “Neuroscience and the Law” at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in New York on April 25, as part of their “Neuroscience and Society” Series.

The event will discuss the ways in which neuroscience is entering the courtroom; what neuroscience can and cannot tell us about human behavior; and the challenges this emerging knowledge poses for the trier of fact.

Fellow panelists include:

– Alan I. Leshner, Chief Executive Officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Executive Publisher of the journal Science since December 2001 

– Owen Jones, J.D., who serves as Director of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience at Vanderbilt University, with a joint appointment as well as holding the New York Alumni Chancellor’s Chair in Law at Vanderbilt University, where he has a joint appointment as Professor of Biological Sciences.

– Judge Barbara Rothstein, a visiting U.S. District Judge from the Western District of Washington and former Director of the Federal Judicial Center in Washington, D.C. from 2003-2011.

Hyman is director of the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute of Harvard University and MIT and a Distinguished Service Professor at Harvard.

Read more about the panelists and event.