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

Social Behavior: A Penny for Your Shocks

By Hayley M. Dorfman and Joshua W. Buckholtz | Current Biology | July 20, 2015

Summary:

Antisocial behavior is an enormously costly social problem, but its origins are poorly understood. A new study shows that prosocial and antisocial behaviors arise from individual differences in how we represent the value of others’ pain relative to our own potential gain, rather than from variability in the capacity for effortful inhibitory control.

Read the full paper here.

Brain Genomics Superstruct Project Initial Data Release with Structural, Functional, and Behavioral Measures

By Avram J. Holmes, Marisa O. Hollinshead, Timothy M. O’Keefe, Victor I. Petrov, Gabriele R. Fariello, Lawrence L. Wald, Bruce Fischl, Bruce R. Rosen, Ross W. Mair, Joshua L. RoffmanJordan W. Smoller and Randy L. Buckner | Scientific Data | July 7, 2015

Abstract:

The goal of the Brain Genomics Superstruct Project (GSP) is to enable large-scale exploration of the links between brain function, behavior, and ultimately genetic variation. To provide the broader scientific community data to probe these associations, a repository of structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans linked to genetic information was constructed from a sample of healthy individuals. The initial release, detailed in the present manuscript, encompasses quality screened cross-sectional data from 1,570 participants ages 18 to 35 years who were scanned with MRI and completed demographic and health questionnaires. Personality and cognitive measures were obtained on a subset of participants. Each dataset contains a T1-weighted structural MRI scan and either one (n=1,570) or two (n=1,139) resting state functional MRI scans. Test-retest reliability datasets are included from 69 participants scanned within six months of their initial visit. For the majority of participants self-report behavioral and cognitive measures are included (n=926 and n=892 respectively). Analyses of data quality, structure, function, personality, and cognition are presented to demonstrate the dataset’s utility.

Read the full article here.

Free Will and Punishment: A Mechanistic View of Human Nature Reduces Retribution

By Azim F. Shariff, Joshua D. Greene, Johan C. Karremans, Jamie B. Luguri, Cory J. Clark, Jonathan W. Schooler, Roy F. Baumeister & Kathleen D. Vohs | Psychological Science | August 2014

Abstract:

If free-will beliefs support attributions of moral responsibility, then reducing these beliefs should make people less retributive in their attitudes about punishment. Four studies tested this prediction using both measured and manipulated free-will beliefs. Study 1 found that people with weaker free-will beliefs endorsed less retributive, but not consequentialist, attitudes regarding punishment of criminals. Subsequent studies showed that learning about the neural bases of human behavior, through either lab-based manipulations or attendance at an undergraduate neuroscience course, reduced people’s support for retributive punishment (Studies 2–4). These results illustrate that exposure to debates about free will and to scientific research on the neural basis of behavior may have consequences for attributions of moral responsibility.

Read the full paper here.