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 — How Emotions Are Made

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Why do emotions feel automatic and uncontrollable? Does rational thought really control emotion? How does emotion affect disease? How can you make your children more emotionally intelligent?

A new theory of how the brain constructs emotions could revolutionize our understanding of the human mind.

How Emotions Are Made answers these questions and many more, revealing the latest research and intriguing practical applications of the new science of emotion, mind, and brain. Join psychologist and neuroscientist Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett as she discusses her new book and its implications for psychology, health care, the legal system, and more. CLBB Faculty Member Dr. Joshua Buckholtz (of the Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital) will serve as a commentator, while New York Times editor James Ryerson will moderate the conversation and subsequent audience Q&A.

This event will be held on Thursday, April 13, 2017, at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Bornstein Amphitheater, from 7:00-8:30 pm. 

Make sure to RSVP for the event here!

This event is free and open to the public. A brief reception will precede the event from 6:30-7:00 PM.

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Heightened Sensitivity to Emotional Expressions in Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Compared to Social Anxiety Disorder, and Controls

By Eric Bui, Eric Anderson, Elizabeth M. Goetter, Allison A. Campbell, Laura E. Fischer, Lisa Feldman Barrett, and Naomi M. Simon | Cognition and Emotion | September 23, 2015

Abstract:

Few studies have examined potential differences between social anxiety disorder (SAD) and generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) in the sensitivity to detect emotional expressions. The present study aims to compare the detection of emotional expressions in SAD and GAD. Participants with a primary diagnosis of GAD (n = 46), SAD (n = 70), and controls (n = 118) completed a morph movies task. The task presented faces expressing increasing degrees of emotional intensity, slowly changing from a neutral to a full-intensity happy, sad, or angry expressions. Participants used a slide bar to view the movie frames from left to right, and to stop at the first frame where they perceived an emotion. The frame selected thus indicated the intensity of emotion required to identify the facial expression. Participants with GAD detected the onset of facial emotions at lower intensity of emotion than participants with SAD (p = 0.002) and controls (p = 0.039). In a multiple regression analysis controlling for age, race, and depressive symptom severity, lower frame at which the emotion was detected was independently associated and GAD diagnosis (B = –5.73, SE = 1.74, p < 0.01). Our findings suggest that individuals with GAD exhibit enhanced detection of facial emotions compared to those with SAD or controls.

Read the full paper here.

How Pixar’s ‘Inside Out’ Gets One Thing Deeply Wrong

By Lisa Feldman Barrett and Daniel J. Barrett | WBUR | July 5, 2015

Pixar’s Inside Out is the latest in a long tradition of animated entertainment that teaches us about science.

Chemistry, as I learned from Saturday morning cartoons, is about mixing colorful, bubbling liquids in test tubes until they explode. “Roadrunner and Coyote” cartoons—those fine nature documentaries—taught me physics: if you run off a cliff, you’ll hang in mid-air until the unfortunate moment that you look down. Computer science is apparently about robots that kill you. And now, with Inside Out, we finally have cartoon neuroscience.

Your brain, it turns out, is populated with characters for each emotion, and they press buttons to control your expressions. This is all good fun and a sweet movie. What is surprising, however, is that some scientists have taken this model seriously for a century and actually search for these characters in the brain. Not as animated creatures, mind you, but as blobs of brain circuitry.

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