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

Attention Bias to Emotional Faces Varies by IQ and Anxiety in Williams Syndrome

By Lauren M. McGrath, Joyce M. Oates, Yael G. Dai, Helen F. Dodd, Jessica WaxlerCaitlin C. Clements, Sydney Weill, Alison Hoffnagle, Erin Anderson, Rebecca MacRaeJennifer Mullett, Christopher J. McDougle, Barbara R. Pober, and Jordan W. Smoller | Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders | February 17, 2016

Abstract:

Individuals with Williams syndrome (WS) often experience significant anxiety. A promising approach to anxiety intervention has emerged from cognitive studies of attention bias to threat. To investigate the utility of this intervention in WS, this study examined attention bias to happy and angry faces in individuals with WS (N = 46). Results showed a significant difference in attention bias patterns as a function of IQ and anxiety. Individuals with higher IQ or higher anxiety showed a significant bias toward angry, but not happy faces, whereas individuals with lower IQ or lower anxiety showed the opposite pattern. These results suggest that attention bias interventions to modify a threat bias may be most effectively targeted to anxious individuals with WS with relatively high IQ.

Read the entire paper here.

Evaluating the Relationship between Cannabis Use and IQ in Youth and Young Adults at Clinical High Risk of Psychosis

By Lisa Buchy, Larry J. Seidman, Kristin S. Cadenhead, Tyrone D. Cannon, Barbara A. Cornblatt, Thomas H. McGlashan, Diana O. Perkins, William Stone, Ming T. Tsuang, Elaine F. Walker, Scott W. Woods, Carrie E. Bearden, Daniel H. Mathalon, and Jean Addington | Psychiatry Research | November 20, 2015

Abstract:

Among people with psychosis, those with a history of cannabis use show better cognitive performance than those who are cannabis naïve. It is unknown whether this pattern is present in youth at clinical high risk (CHR) of psychosis. We evaluated relationships between IQ and cannabis use while controlling for use of other substances known to impact cognition in 678 CHR and 263 healthy control (HC) participants. IQ was estimated using the Vocabulary and Block Design subtests of the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence. Drug and alcohol use severity and frequency were assessed with the Alcohol and Drug Use Scale, and we inquired participants’ age at first use. CHR were further separated into early and late age at onset of cannabis use sub-groups, and low-, moderate- and high-frequency sub-groups. No significant differences in IQ emerged between CHR or HC cannabis users vs. non-users, or between use frequency groups. CHR late-onset users showed significantly higher IQ than CHR early-onset users. Age at onset of cannabis use was significantly and positively correlated with IQ in CHR only. Results suggest that age at onset of cannabis may be a more important factor for IQ than use current use or use frequency in CHR.

Read the entire paper here.

The Life-or-Death Test

By Maurice Chammah and Dana Goldstein | The Marshall Project | January 29, 2015

Ever since the Supreme Court ruled that prisoners suffering from “mental retardation” — a now outdated term — could not face the death penalty in the 2002 case Atkins v. Virginia, debates about whether a felon qualifies for execution have often revolved around a single number: an IQ score. On Tuesday, Georgia prisoner Warren Hill was executed for the 1990 beating death of a fellow inmate. His attorneys argued unsuccessfully that his IQ of 70 disqualified him for the punishment. This evening, Texas is set to execute Robert Ladd for beating a woman to death with a hammer in 1996. His attorney has pointed out that Ladd’s IQ of 67 would disqualify him from execution in most other states.

Last May, the Supreme Court built on the Atkins decision by ruling that Florida could not exclusively use a simple IQ cut-off when it determined who was fit for execution. “An IQ score is an approxi­mation, not a final and infallible assessment of intellectual functioning,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, demanding a more holistic approach by medical professionals. “Intellectual disability is a condition, not a number.” Continue reading »