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: “Brainwashed? What Neuroscience Can – and Can’t – Tell Us About Ourselves”

Brainwashed? What Neuroscience Can – and Can't – Tell Us About Ourselves While brain science has helped to characterize many aspects of the human experience, there is no consensus about whether it could also be used to help address some of society’s “big” problems.

On Thursday, April 17, 2014, CLBB hosted a conversation at the Joseph B. Martin Conference Center of Harvard Medical School, with experts in psychology, philosophy and neuroscience to debate whether neuroscience has anything useful to add to our understanding of thorny ethical and legal questions, such as whether addiction should be considered a “brain disease,” the nature of free will, and how societies should determine personal responsibility.  Video of the event is included below in its entirety and at our Vimeo page.

A recurring theme of the evening’s discussion was how to determine which level of analysis – from molecules and genes to brain structures and systems to individuals and social systems – is the most important to consider for understanding the mind.  While all panelists agreed that any discussion of the brain’s contribution to behavior should be embedded within a multi-level approach, there was considerable disagreement around whether the brain’s contribution should be considered privileged or not. Continue reading »

In the Human Brain, Size Really Isn’t Everything

Scientists have long suspected that our big brain and powerful mind are intimately connected. Starting about three million years ago, fossils of our ancient relatives record a huge increase in brain size. Once that cranial growth was underway, our forerunners started leaving behind signs of increasingly sophisticated minds, like stone tools and cave paintings.

Viktor Koen for the NYTimes

But scientists have long struggled to understand how a simple increase in size could lead to the evolution of those faculties. Now, two Harvard neuroscientists, Randy L. Buckner and Fenna M. Krienen, have offered a powerful yet simple explanation.

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Landmark Legislative Trends in Juvenile Justice: An Update and Primer for Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists

By Eraka Bath, MD, Shawn Sidhu, MD, and Sofia Stepanyan, BA | July 2013 | Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

Over the past decade, a series of U.S. Supreme Court cases have enhanced the legal rights for youth involved in the juvenile and criminal justice systems. These cases, considered landmark cases in psychiatry and the law, reflect an evolving understanding of the interplay among culpability, neurocognitive development, and adolescent behavior. Fortunately, these legislative trends represent significant gains in improving due-process protections for juveniles and have shifted the pendulum toward a more neurodevelopmental approach in thinking about culpability and rehabilitation in young offenders, a vulnerable population with high levels of psychiatric morbidity. Continue reading »

Watch: Lisa Feldman Barrett discusses the Science of Emotion

Do emotions reside within single regions of the brain?  Are thoughts and feelings handled by separate parts of the brain? Is the Justice system using concepts of emotion and cognition that draw from our current understanding of the brain? If you believe CLBB faculty member Lisa Feldman Barrett, the answer to each of these questions is a resounding no.  Watch her compelling presentation that could change the way you think about the human mind and its complex relationship with behavior.

This presentation was given in the historic Ether Dome at Mass General Hospital on February 7th, 2013, for the first CLBB-sponsored Grand Rounds of the MGH Department of Psychiatry.

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