News and Commentary Archive

Explore recent scientific discoveries and news as well as CLBB events, commentary, and press.


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

Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide Modulates Heat Nociception in the Human Brain – An fMRI Study in Healthy Volunteers

By Mohammad Sohail Asghar, Lino Becerra, Henrik B. W. Larsson, David Borsook, and Messoud Ashina | PLoS ONE | March 18, 2016



Intravenous infusion of calcitonin-gene-related-peptide (CGRP) provokes headache and migraine in humans. Mechanisms underlying CGRP-induced headache are not fully clarified and it is unknown to what extent CGRP modulates nociceptive processing in the brain. To elucidate this we recorded blood-oxygenation-level-dependent (BOLD) signals in the brain by functional MRI after infusion of CGRP in a double-blind placebo-controlled crossover study of 27 healthy volunteers. BOLD-signals were recorded in response to noxious heat stimuli in the V1-area of the trigeminal nerve. In addition, we measured BOLD-signals after injection of sumatriptan (5-HT1B/1D antagonist).


Brain activation to noxious heat stimuli following CGRP infusion compared to baseline resulted in increased BOLD-signal in insula and brainstem, and decreased BOLD-signal in the caudate nuclei, thalamus and cingulate cortex. Sumatriptan injection reversed these changes.


The changes in BOLD-signals in the brain after CGRP infusion suggests that systemic CGRP modulates nociceptive transmission in the trigeminal pain pathways in response to noxious heat stimuli.

Read the full article here.

Reliability Correction for Functional Connectivity: Theory and Implementation

By Sophia Mueller, Danhong Wang, Michael D. Fox, Ruiqi Pan, Jie Lu, Kuncheng Li, Wei Sun, Randy L. Buckner, and Hesheng Liu | Human Brain Mapping | August 20, 2015


Network properties can be estimated using functional connectivity MRI (fcMRI). However, regional variation of the fMRI signal causes systematic biases in network estimates including correlation attenuation in regions of low measurement reliability. Here we computed the spatial distribution of fcMRI reliability using longitudinal fcMRI datasets and demonstrated how pre-estimated reliability maps can correct for correlation attenuation. As a test case of reliability-based attenuation correction we estimated properties of the default network, where reliability was significantly lower than average in the medial temporal lobe and higher in the posterior medial cortex, heterogeneity that impacts estimation of the network. Accounting for this bias using attenuation correction revealed that the medial temporal lobe’s contribution to the default network is typically underestimated. To render this approach useful to a greater number of datasets, we demonstrate that test-retest reliability maps derived from repeated runs within a single scanning session can be used as a surrogate for multi-session reliability mapping. Using data segments with different scan lengths between 1 and 30 min, we found that test-retest reliability of connectivity estimates increases with scan length while the spatial distribution of reliability is relatively stable even at short scan lengths. Finally, analyses of tertiary data revealed that reliability distribution is influenced by age, neuropsychiatric status and scanner type, suggesting that reliability correction may be especially important when studying between-group differences. Collectively, these results illustrate that reliability-based attenuation correction is an easily implemented strategy that mitigates certain features of fMRI signal nonuniformity.

Read the full article here.

The Case for Pain Neuroimaging in the Courtroom: Lessons from Deception Detection

Natalie Salmanowicz | The Journal of Law and the Biosciences | 9 January 2015

From an observer’s perspective, pain is a fairly nebulous concept—it is not externally visible, its cause is not obvious, and perceptions of its intensity are mainly subjective. If difficulties in understanding the source and degree of pain are troublesome in contexts requiring social empathy, they are especially problematic in the legal setting. Tort law applies to both acute and chronic pain cases, but the lack of objective measures demands high thresholds of proof. However, recent developments in pain neuroimaging may clarify some of these inherent uncertainties, as studies purport detection of pain on an individual level. In analyzing the scientific and legal barriers of utilizing pain neuroimaging in court, it is prudent to discuss neuroimaging for deception, a topic that has garnered significant controversy due to premature attempts at introduction in the courtroom. Through comparing and contrasting the two applications of neuroimaging to the legal setting, this paper argues that the nature of tort law, the distinct features of pain, and the reduced vulnerability to countermeasures distinguish pain neuroimaging in a promising way. This paper further contends that the mistakes and lessons involving deception detection are essential to consider for pain neuroimaging to have a meaningful future in court.

Read the full paper here.

Psychiatry and Neurology in the Courtroom: Lost in Translation?

On March 4, 2010, CLBB Co-Directors Judith Edersheim and Bruce Price delivered the Psychiatry Grand Rounds talk at UMass Medical School. The talk discussed the implications the emerging field of cognitive neuroscience may have on the clinical and legal landscapes.

Video of the event is included below in its entirety and at our Vimeo page. Continue reading »

Watch: Picturing Pain in the Brain

In a December 16, 2013 webinar for the Pain Research Forum, presenter Tor Wager, University of Colorado, Boulder, gave a talk titled “Towards fMRI-Based Biomarkers for Pain.”

Following the talk, a distinguished panel discussed important issues raised by Wager’s presentation. The panel included:

  • Vania Apkarian, Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, US
  • Karen Davis, Toronto Western Research Institute, University Health Network; and the University of Toronto, Canada
  • Giandomenico Iannetti, University College London, UK
  • Robert Coghill, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, US (moderator)

Continue reading »