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

The Dialectic Between Empathy and Violence: An Opportunity for Intervention?

By Doriana Chialant, Judith Edersheim, and Bruce Price | The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences | January 11, 2016

Abstract:

The authors provide a comprehensive review of the neurobiology of empathy and compare this with the neurobiology of psychopathic predatory violence—the most extreme deficit of empathy. This suggests that the specific areas of the prefrontal cortex and limbic system, which have been associated with violent behavior, also appear to subserve the capacity for empathy. Damage to these regions may result in the emergence of aggression, but not of empathy, suggesting a structurally inverse relationship between the two. The authors examine the evidence for a dialectic between empathy and predatory violence and explore the implications for early interventions with empathy training in treatment-resistant psychopathy.

Read the full article here.

The Mirror Box: An Eerie Art Project Turned Scientific Study into Empathy

In January, CLBB hosted a panel discussion, “Empathy: The Development and Disintegration of Human Connection,” meant to explore the remarkable capacity of humans to relate to others, what we are learning about how and when this capacity fails, and whether these failures — which can have consequences ranging from therapeutic breaches to unthinkable crimes that defy our understanding — can be rehabilitated.

That last point – whether empathy can be rehabilitated, or taught, is also at the heart of a fascinating melding of art and science that panelist Alice Flaherty recently brought to our attention: The Mirror Box. A contraption designed by artist Megan May Hem Daalder and tried out, in a early form, on the streets of LA, the Mirror Box puts two people face to face, with a semi-transparent mirror between them, giving each an unusual feeling of connection to the other, along with lingering effects often described as “still sharing a face.”

Started in 2010, the project caught the attention of psychologists, neuroscientists, and futurists, who, together with Hem Daalder, began to explore exactly how it works, how empathy differs in different cultures, and how it could be used to improve human relations. Learn more:

Watch: “Empathy: The Development and Disintegration of Human Connection”

Empathy on Vimeo.comOn January 17, 2013, CLBB and the Boston Society for Neurology and Psychiatry hosted an evening event at Brigham and Women’s Hospital to explore and discuss the neuroscience of empathy — the remarkable capacity of humans to relate to others: what we are learning about how and when this capacity fails, and whether these failures — which can have consequences ranging from therapeutic breaches to unthinkable crimes that defy our understanding — can be rehabilitated. Speakers included Massachusetts General Hospital faculty Carl Marci, Director of Social Neuroscience for the Psychotherapy Research Program; Alice Flaherty, Associate Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry; and Helen Riess, Director of the Empathy and Relational Science Program in the Department of Psychiatry; as well as CLBB Director Judy Edersheim.

Watch the individual presentations and panel discussion below, or visit our “Empathy” channel at Vimeo.com.

Continue reading »

Steve Pinker and Josh Buckholtz discuss the neuroscience of violence on PBS special “After Newtown”

As the American public struggles to make sense of the December’s mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the scientific community has been called upon to discuss what we know about the neuroscience of violence and its relationship to such disturbing acts.

Harvard Psychologists Steve Pinker and Joshua Buckholtz, a CLBB faculty member, appear on the PBS special “After Newtown” to talk about the neuroscience of violence and its relationship to mass killings.

Watch NOVA: Neuroscience of Violence on PBS. See more from After Newtown.