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 – “Re-Envisioning Pain: How Breakthroughs on the Science of Suffering Could Revolutionize Legal Understanding and Outcomes”

Pain is at the heart of legal areas from tort to torture, and yet legal decision-makers may be relying on scientifically outmoded concepts of pain and its effects. This Symposium brought together legal and medical experts to discuss:

Click to view event poster.

Click to view event poster.

  • Recent scientific breakthroughs in the understanding of pain, including long-term neurological changes
  • The complicated relationship between pain and emotion, and how studying how physical and emotional pain are represented in the brain can help us understand their similarities and differences
  • How updated understanding of the neuroscience of pain can help improve legal outcomes—and where the limits are

The conversation, presented by the CLBB Pain & Suffering working group, with support from the Harvard Mind Brain Behavior Interfaculty Initiative, was facilitated by Judy Foreman, an investigative journalist and author of A Nation In Pain: Healing Our Country’s Greatest Health Problem. Continue reading »

Scientists Chart Spinal Circuitry Responsible for Chronic Pain

Scicasts | December 9, 2014

Pain typically has a clear cause – but not always. When a person touches something hot or bumps into a sharp object, it’s no surprise that it hurts. But for people with certain chronic pain disorders, including fibromyalgia and phantom limb pain, a gentle caress can result in agony.

In a major breakthrough, a team led by researchers at the Salk Institute and Harvard Medical School have identified an important neural mechanism in the spinal cord that appears to be capable of sending erroneous pain signals to the brain. Continue reading »

Scientists Discover Off-Switch for Pain in the Brain

Inquisitr | November 30, 2014

Researchers at St. Louis University have made a promising breakthrough in the field of pain management that could help millions of patients who suffer with chronic pain.

Chronic pain is the leading cause of disability in the United States, reports Medical News Today, affecting more people than cancer, diabetes, and heart disease combined.

According to a study released in the medical journal, Brain, the research team, led by professor of pharmacological and physiological sciences Daniela Salvemini, has found a way to block a pain pathway in the brain of rodents using a receptor called A3. The discovery could mean relief from pain without the adverse side effects of opiate pain killers. Continue reading »

The Brain in Pain: A Tipping Point?

At the 2014 Keystone Symposium on the Brain, a talk by CLBB Faculty David Borsook, MD, PhD, member of the CLBB Pain Working Group addressed the neurobiology of chronic pain. View the original posting and more coverage of the event at Pain Research Forum

Meeting co-organizer David Borsook, Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, US, led off a session on the question of what happens to the brain in chronic pain.

The brain is a state, and that state changes with pain, Borsook said. “Like epoxy—it is gooey when you first mix it, but then it solidifies. Likewise, pain transforms the brain, and we need to understand this transition better—from the premix to the solid state.” Continue reading »

Imaging the Brain, Changing Minds: Chronic Pain Neuroimaging and the Law

On April 24-25, 2014, the symposium, Imaging the Brain, Changing Minds: Chronic Pain Neuroimaging and the Law, took place at the University of Maryland School of Law.

An interdisciplinary collaboration between pain neuroimaging researchers, legal decision-makers, and legal scholars, the symposium’s goal was to create dialogue between these fields, and to make legal actors aware of recent, breakthrough work in neuroimaging that has led to a paradigm shift in understanding chronic pain.  This new science may have the potential to change legal doctrines and shift legal and cultural norms about chronic pain diseases and their sufferers.  Doing so responsibly requires understanding the potential of the science, and also its limits.

CLBB Faculty member, Associate Professor at the University of Maryland School of Law, and pain expert Amanda Pustilnik, JD, was an organizer for this roundtable. The symposium was attended by a selection of law and neuroscience scholars, including Hank Greely, Martha Farah, and the Hon. Nancy Gertner, a CLBB Faculty member and Professor of Practice at Harvard Law School. Greely delivered the keynote, “Neuroimaging, Mind Reading, and the Courts;” the video is available here.

This event was jointly sponsored by the Law & Health Care Program at University of Maryland Carey Law School, the University of Maryland School of Dentistry, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.