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

Dr. Buckholtz to Receive APS Award

CLBB Faculty Member Joshua Buckholtz has been chosen as one of the recipients of the 2016 Janet Taylor Spence Award for Transformational Early Career Contributions. According to the website:

The APS Board of Directors established the Janet Taylor Spence Award to recognize transformative contributions to psychological science by rising stars in the field. The Janet Taylor Spence Award for Transformative Early Career Contributions celebrates the many new and cutting edge ideas coming out of the most creative and promising investigators who embody the future of psychological science.

The Spence award recognizes young researchers who cross traditional sub-disciplinary lines in psychological science and honors contributions that reveal the organization underlying complex behavior by drawing upon multiple fields of psychological science.

The award will be given to the most creative and promising young investigators, like Spence at the beginning of her career.

Congratulations to Dr. Joshua Buckholtz on this outstanding achievement!

Joshua Buckholtz on Imaging, Genetics of Antisocial Behavior & Psychopathy

CLBB Faculty Member Joshua Buckholtz is a featured contributor in the new volume, Neuroimaging Genetics: Principles and Practices, published by Oxford University Press. According to the description, “The work presented in this volume elaborates on the explosive interest from diverse research areas in psychiatry and neurology in the use of imaging genetics as a unique tool to establish and identify mechanisms of risk, establish biological significance, and extend statistical evidence of genetic associations.” Dr. Buckholtz, along with Hayley M. Dorfman, wrote a chapter entitled, “Imaging Genetics of Antisocial Behavior and Psychopathy”, under Part IV of the book.

Check out Neuroimaging Genetics: Principles and Practices today!

Pinpointing Punishment

CLBB Faculty Member Josh Buckholtz is the lead author of a new, pioneering study revealing insights into how humans make decisions about punishment and process blameworthiness. This study has important implications for the field of law and neuroscience, and was made possible in part by support from the Center for Law, Brain & Behavior. Below is an article describing the findings.  Continue reading »

From Blame to Punishment: Disrupting Prefrontal Cortex Activity Reveals Norm Enforcement Mechanisms

By Joshua W. Buckholtz, Justin W. Martin, Michael T. Treadway, Katherine Jan, David H. Zald, Owen Jones, and René Marois | Neuron | September 16, 2015

Summary:

The social welfare provided by cooperation depends on the enforcement of social norms. Determining blameworthiness and assigning a deserved punishment are two cognitive cornerstones of norm enforcement. Although prior work has implicated the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) in norm-based judgments, the relative contribution of this region to blameworthiness and punishment decisions remains poorly understood. Here, we used repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and fMRI to determine the specific role of DLPFC function in norm-enforcement behavior. DLPFC rTMS reduced punishment for wrongful acts without affecting blameworthiness ratings, and fMRI revealed punishment-selective DLPFC recruitment, suggesting that these two facets of norm-based decision making are neurobiologically dissociable. Finally, we show that DLPFC rTMS affects punishment decision making by altering the integration of information about culpability and harm. Together, these findings reveal a selective, causal role for DLPFC in norm enforcement: representational integration of the distinct information streams used to make punishment decisions.

Read the full paper here.

WATCH – “The Policeman at the Elbow: The Neuroscience of Addiction, Self-Control, and Criminal Responsibility”

Click to view event poster.

Click to view event poster.

Do criminal penalties have any deterrent effect on drug addicts – people who already are willing to throw away their jobs, relationships, or even lives for their “fix”?  What does brain science tell us about addicts’ capacities to exert self control and to be held criminally responsible?

On Wednesday, March 4, 2015, a leading neuroscientist of addiction, Joshua Buckholtz, a criminal law scholar, Amanda Pustilnik, and a former judge, Hon. Nancy Gertner, discussed whether the law should reconsider aspects of responsibility and punishment in light of new science about self-control.

The event was held from 12-1pm at Wasserstein Hall at Harvard Law School. Continue reading »