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

Is Helplessness Still Helpful in Diagnosing Posttraumatic Stress Disorder?

By Ekaterina Pivovarova, Gen Tanaka, Michael Tang, Harold J. Bursztajn, and Michael B. First | The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease | January 2016

Abstract:

Criteria A2, experience of helplessness, fear, or horror at the time of the traumatic event, was removed from the posttraumatic stress disorder diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. We argue that there is empirical support for retention of A2, a criterion that has clinical value and may improve diagnostic accuracy. Specifically, we demonstrate that A2 has high negative predictive power, aids in the prediction of symptom severity, and can be indispensible to detecting the disorder in children. We examine how augmenting A2 with other peritramautic emotions could improve clinical and diagnostic utility. In our opinion, rather than being eliminated, A2 needs to be reconstructed and included as one criterion of PTSD.

Read the full article here.

WATCH – “Does Brain-Based Lie Detection Belong in American Courtrooms?”

Click to view event poster.

Click to view event poster.

As neuroimaging and other technologies advance, will traditionally-excluded tests of veracity (or lack thereof) find a place in American courtrooms? What is the state of our neuroscience and understanding of brain-based lie detection techniques?

Are these advances ready for “prime time,” or should we proceed with caution? What are the implications of existing research for the legal system and our moral assumptions about lying?

On Tuesday, April 14, leaders in neuroethics, forensic psychology, and neurolaw discussed the state of the science and the implications of neuroscientific advances for ethics and law. Can neuroscientific methods accurately distinguish truth-telling from ling? Are there limitations in our science? If so, can these limitations be addressed sufficiently to meet rules of evidence? If not, will these tests have any role in the courtroom? What are the legal and ethical implications of including or excluding neuroscientific evidence of lying?

This seminar took place from 4:30-6:00pm on Tuesday, April 14 at Harvard Medical School.

Panelists:

giordano 150x150James Giordano, PhD is Chief of the Neuroethics Studies Program at the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics and is Co-direector of the O’Neill-Pellegrino Program in Brain Science and Global Health Law and policy. He is also a professor in the Department of Neurology at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, DC.

 

pivovarova_150x1501-150x134Ekaterina (Kate) Pivovarova, PhD is a Researcher and Assistant Professor in the Law and Psychiatry Division at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Department of Psychiatry. She is also a licensed Clinical Psychologist in private practice. Dr. Pivovarova was the 2013-2014 CLBB Forensic Psychology Research Fellow.

 

shen 150x150Francis X. Shen, PhD, JD is a McKnight Landgrant Professor and Associate Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota, where he directs the Shen Neurolaw Lab. He also serves as Executive Director of Education and Outreach for the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience, and is currently a visiting scholar at the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School.

 

This event, hosted by the Harvard Medical School Center for Bioethics, was co-sponsored by CLBB, The Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics, HLS; Institute for the Neurosciences, BWH; the Mind Brain Behavior Interfaculty Initiative, Harvard University; Center for Brain Science, Harvard University; and the Department of Neurobiology, HMS. Funding is provided by the Mind Brain Behavior Interfaculty Initiative, Harvard University and The Harvard Brain Initiative Collaborative Seed Grant Program. 

Watch video of the entire “Brain-Based Lie Detection” event below, or explore past events on pain, memory, free will, and criminal responsibility, on CLBB’s Vimeo channel.

Will Lie Detectors Ever Get Their Day in Court Again?

By Matt Stroud | Bloomberg | February 2, 2015

This article features interview with CLBB Co-Director Judith Edersheim, JD, MD. Dr. Edersheim’s 2014 paper, “A Polygraph Primer: What Litigators Need to Know,” written with Ekaterina Pivovarova, Justin Baker and Bruce Price, about the accuracy of the polygraph test, is cited.

By the beginning of February 1935, defense and prosecution attorneys in the criminal trial of Tony Grignano and Cecil Loniello were at a crossroads. The two men stood accused of attempting to kill a sheriff in Portage, Wis., and all of the evidence was circumstantial—the word of the sheriff against the word of the defendants. But Judge Clayton F. Van Pelt thought he could change that.

The judge had heard about the work of the Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory at Northwestern University’s School of Law, where Professor Leonarde Keeler had spent more than a decade tinkering with a portable device to measure the responses of skin and blood pressure during questioning. In the hands of a trained expert, Keeler said, the device could help identify whether someone was telling the truth. While the Keeler Polygraph had been a showpiece at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, it had never been used in a criminal trial. On Feb. 2, 1935—exactly 80 years ago—Keeler used his polygraph test and determined that Grignano and Loniello were likely lying. The professor and his machine ended up persuading the jury. Continue reading »

The selective allure of neuroscience and its implications for the courtroom

In “The selective allure of neuroscience and its implications for the courtroom,” a recent feature on The Jury Expert, Adam Shniderman wrote about two recent studies done to examine the reasoning, discrediting tendencies, and preexisting beliefs that inform in lay evaluations of neuroscience. These studies, done by Shniderman and Nicholas Schurich (2014) were conducted on two highly politically and emotionally charged issues – the death penalty and abortion. They concluded that “the biggest determinant of the impact of neuroscientific information on an individual appears to be the individual’s prior attitude about the topic. Thus, neuroscience appears to have a selective, rather than a universally seductive, allure.”

CLBB Forensic Psychiatry Research Fellow Ekaterina Pivovarova submitted an invited response to the piece. Read her response here, or on the site. Continue reading »

Dispatch: “Neuro-interventions and the Law” Conference

Dr. Ekaterina Pivovarova

Dr. Ekaterina Pivovarova

On September 12-14, 2014, the Atlanta Neuroethics Consortium was held at Georgia State University. The topic, Neuro-Interventions and the Law: Regulating Human Mental Capacity, brought together leading scholars on philosophy, neuroscience, law, cognitive and clinical psychology, psychiatry, and bioethics. The participants included Judge Andre Davis, Nita Farahany, Stephen Morse, Francis Shen, Walter Sinnot-Armstrong, Nicole Vincent, and Paul Root Wolpe. The conference panels, talks, and keynotes addressed pressing issues about managing and appropriately utilizing novel neuroscientific technologies as they relate to legal issues. Continue reading »