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

In an Iowa courtroom, an astonishing case of sex and Alzheimer’s

By Sarah Kaplan | The Washington Post | April 7, 2015

They started flirting in choir, the vivacious retiree and the grandfatherly politician, both single after the deaths of their longtime spouses. Less than two years later, they were married in the church where they met, surrounded by a gaggle of children and grandchildren and hundreds of guests dancing the polka. It was an unexpected second chance at love for Donna Lou Young and Henry Rayhons, both past 70 at the time of their wedding.

“They were two good people who were good together,” the couple’s pastor recalled.

After a four-year battle with Alzheimer’s, Donna Lou Rayhons died in a nursing home in August, just four days shy of her 79th birthday. A week later, Henry Rayhons was arrested and charged with sexual abuse. State prosecutors accused him of having sex with his wife while she was incapacitated by dementia. Continue reading »

Older and wiser? Some brain functions improve as we age

By Kay Lazar | The Boston Globe | 6 March 2015

There is hope for aging baby boomers.

The ability to recall names and faces with lightning speed may start to fade in one’s 20s, but our capability to perform other functions, such as learning new words, doesn’t peak until decades later, according to a new study by Boston scientists.

Increasingly, researchers are discovering that the ability to reason, learn, and recall information ebbs and flows over our lifespan, and if a picture were drawn to depict these changes, the image would not be of a single line with a sharp, steep decline, but of a line with many curves that plateau at different stages. Continue reading »

In Alzheimer’s Cases, Financial Ruin and Abuse Are Always Lurking

By Paul Sullivan | January 30, 2015 | The New York Times “Your Money” “Wealth Matters”

Midway through the film “Still Alice,” which tracks the growing grip of Alzheimer’s on a 50-something Columbia University professor, that professor, played by Julianne Moore, stands at a lectern to address an Alzheimer’s conference. She is holding a yellow highlighter and a copy of her speech.

She proceeds to talk about her struggles with the disease and how she never knows what will vanish from her memory and when. It’s a lucid, affecting talk, and the viewer would be hard pressed to know anything was wrong with her, if not for the highlighter. She uses it to track her every word so she doesn’t read the same sentence over and over again.

For anyone who has ever watched a family member disappear into Alzheimer’s, Ms. Moore’s performance is gripping, particularly as her tricks to stall her decline inevitably fail and the later stages of the disease consume her. Yet the movie is also a great vessel to explore many of the financial issues that families need to address when someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or any other disease that causes cognitive impairment.

Continue reading »

When Frontotemporal Dementia Leads to Crime—Prosecution or Protection?

By Jessica Shugart | Alz Forum | January 13, 2015

For some, it starts with stealing candy. For others, it’s a reckless car crash, or a sudden penchant to urinate in public. The type of incident varies, but according to a study published January 5 in JAMA Neurology, more than a third of people with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) act out criminal behaviors. In some cases, the odd conduct is the first clear signal to their loved ones that something is way off. Led by Bruce Miller at the University of California, San Francisco, the study also reported bad behavior in people with Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases; however, those patients’ misconduct tended to surface later in the disease and to a lesser degree than it did in people with FTD. The study raises questions about how the criminal justice system should handle people with FTD and, even more pressingly, concerns about the plight of undiagnosed patients who may be languishing in prisons or on the streets. Continue reading »

MA state lawmaker urges action on elder abuse

By Jenifer McKim | New England Center for Investigate Reporting | October 31, 2014

A state lawmaker is urging Bay State officials to do more to help the growing number of exploited and abused elders in Massachusetts.

Rep. James O’ Day, a Worcester Democrat and chair of the House Elder Affairs Committee, said colleagues should act on a recent state report that documented the rising risks to seniors, especially financial exploitation suffered by women who are 80 years old and older.

The report, by the 19-member Elder Protective Services Commission, laid out a blueprint to help seniors, including better training of people who work with elders and an awareness campaign to educate the public about the potential for abuse. Continue reading »