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 Truth About Gun Violence and Mental Illness

By Judith Edersheim | The Huffington Post | August 18, 2015

Written with Olamide Abiose, M.Ed.

The recent shooting tragedies — Lafayette, Chattanooga — and the recent sentencing of Aurora theater shooter James Holmes, have once again thrust mental illness into the center of our national dialogue. A wave of politicians and public figures — from Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), to Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and the National Rifle Association — have proposed legislation encouraging greater public access to mental health records, as key to addressing gun violence. It seems many Americans are operating under Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal’s logic: “Look, every time this happens, it seems like the person has a history of mental illness. We need to make sure that the systems in place actually work.”

While it’s always refreshing to see high-profile calls for a properly functioning mental health system, one has to wonder, where were such calls when we learned that there are ten times as many mentally ill people in jails and prisons than in mental health institutions? Where was the outrage when state budgets slashed funding for psychiatric services, and cut nearly $4.5 billion in services to the mentally ill between 2009 and 2012? Where was the public support for increased access to mental health treatment after The Washington Post recently reported that a person in the throes of a mental health crisis is shot and killed by the police every 36 hours?

Why didn’t we care that the system didn’t work then? Continue reading »

Nearly 1 in 10 Americans have severe anger issues and access to guns

By Christopher Ingraham | The Washington Post | April 8, 2015

Roughly 22 million Americans — 8.9 percent of the adult population– have impulsive anger issues and easy access to guns. 3.7 million of these angry gun owners routinely carry their guns in public. And very few of them are subject to current mental health-based gun ownership restrictions.

Those are the key findings of a new study by researchers from Harvard, Columbia and Duke University. “Anger,” in this study, doesn’t simply mean garden-variety aggravation. It means explosive, uncontrollable rage, as measured by responses to the National Comorbidity Survey Replication in the early 2000s. It is “impulsive, out of control, destructive, harmful,” lead author Jeffrey Swanson of Duke University said in an interview. “You and I might shout. These individuals break and smash things and get into physical fights, punch someone in the nose.” Continue reading »

Myth vs. Fact: Violence and Mental Health

By Lois Beckett | ProPublica | June 19, 2014

After mass shootings, like the ones these past weeks in Las Vegas, Seattle and Santa Barbara, the national conversation often focuses on mental illness. So what do we actually know about the connections between mental illness, mass shootings and gun violence overall?

To separate the facts from the media hype, we talked to Dr. Jeffrey Swanson, a professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Duke University School of Medicine, and one of the leading researchers on mental health and violence. Swanson talked about the dangers of passing laws in the wake of tragedy ― and which new violence-prevention strategies might actually work. Continue reading »