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: The Neuroscience of Hate

April 10, 2019 12:00 PM at Harvard Law School

Description

Human beings are biologically predisposed to divide humanity into ingroups and outgroups, and this comes with a great social cost – the capacity for hate. While we may view ourselves and our communities as benevolent and egalitarian, we often view outsiders as inhuman, unworthy, or alien, allowing us to victimize them in conscious and unconscious ways. What are the psychological and neurobiologic roots of this urge to divide ourselves? How do legal structures enact and justify systemic disadvantage for outsiders?

Panelists at this event discussed structures in the brain and in the law that foster hate. 

VIDEO: Rebecca Saxe, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT, and associate member, McGovern Institute

Panelists

  • Jon Hanson, Alan A. Stone Professor of Law; Faculty Director, The Systemic Justice Project; Director, Project on Law and Mind Sciences at Harvard Law School
  • Rebecca Saxe, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT, and associate member, McGovern Institute
  • Moderator: Judith Edersheim, Co-Founder and Co-Director, Center for Law, Brain & Behavior at Massachusetts General Hospital; Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; attending Psychiatrist, Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital

Part of the Project on Law and Applied Neuroscience, a collaboration between the Center for Law, Brain & Behavior at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School.

WATCH: Trauma at the Border

Description

March 4, 2019 at Harvard Law School

At the center of contemporary political debate are the record numbers of migrant families and children at the U.S.-Mexico border. As these parents and children flee the trauma of violence in their native countries, they are now experiencing the trauma of navigating an increasingly hostile immigration system. What can neuroscience tell us about the effects of these traumatic experiences on the brains of the children and adults? And how might the neuroscience of trauma and brain development affect legal cases? Can advances in mobile neuroimaging provide practitioners with real-time brain evidence of trauma? Does neuroscience have a larger role to play in shaping our nation’s immigration policies? This panel session brought together scientists and lawyers to start a dialogue on neuroscience, trauma, and justice.

Videos

VIDEO: Welcome and Introduction, Francis X. Shen
VIDEO: Charles Nelson III, “The Effects of Early Life Adversity on Development”
VIDEO: Cindy Zapata on the impact of refugees’ trauma on their ability to navigate the legal system
VIDEO: Francis Shen, Concluding Remarks
VIDEO: Audience Q & A

Panelists

  • Charles Nelson, III, PhD, Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School and Director of Research, Developmental Medicine Center, Boston Children’s Hospital
  • Cindy Zapata, JD, Lecturer on Law and Clinical Instructor, Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, Harvard Law School; Leader of 2018 HLS student trip to provide legal services to immigrant families separated in the Karnes Detention Center in Texas
  • Moderator: Francis X. Shen, PhD, JD, Executive Director, Harvard Center for Law, Brain & Behavior, Massachusetts General Hospital and Senior Fellow in Law and Applied Neuroscience, Petrie-Flom Center in Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics, Harvard Law School; Associate Professor of Law and McKnight Land-Grant Professor, University of Minnesota Law School

Learn More

Slides

Read More

Part of the Project on Law and Applied Neuroscience, a collaboration between the Center for Law, Brain & Behavior at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School.

WATCH — New Technologies, New Dilemmas

New technologies with implications for human health and enhancement are developing at breakneck speed, with fundamental changes in genomic medicine, reproductive technology, neuroscience, and even how we die. Each of these technologies raises important questions at the intersection of ethics, law, and politics. What role should the government have in regulating scientific innovation? How should we weigh potential risks and benefits, to individuals, vulnerable populations, and even the environment? Can these technologies be used to promote justice, or do they risk entrenching existing disparities? Glenn Cohen ‘03, faculty director, Petrie-Flom Center at Harvard Law School; Judith Edersheim ‘85, co-founder and co-director, Center for Law, Brain and Behavior, Harvard Medical School; Atul Gawande, executive director of Ariadne Labs; and Eric Lander, president and founding director of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, discussed these pressing questions, and more, from their perspectives as lawyers, scientists, and clinicians. Carmel Shachar ‘10 hosted the panel. Their talk was part of the HLS in the World bicentennial summit which took place at Harvard Law School on Friday, October 27, 2017. Read more: http://200.hls.harvard.edu/

Watch video of the entire event here!

 

States Raising the Age for Adult Prosecution Back to 18

In this article by the American Bar Association Journal, CLBB’s Dr. Judith Edersheim offers insight into how adolescent brain development research has propelled the argument against incarcerating teens with adults. After describing the unique neurodevelopmental occurrences that are a feature of adolescence — and how they might influence behavior –, she comments on the dangers of incarcerating teenagers with older adults:

“If you don’t provide an adolescent with an opportunity to develop a social competency or self-esteem, if you don’t put them in contact with pro-social peers, then you’re setting trajectories which actually might persist through adulthood. Adolescents are really these neurologic sponges for their environment.”

Read the full article, “States Raising Age for Adult Prosecution Back to 18”, published by the ABA Journal on February 1, 2017.

Using Data to Predict Fate: Future Insight or Folly?

Data that can predict future outcomes has the potential to impact society by improving social services, medicine, and law.  How should we use such data? What are the limitations? What are the risks? This upcoming Harvard Mind Brain Behavior panel will discuss the promise and challenge of predictive data. CLBB Co-Director Dr. Judith Edersheim is a featured panelist, and Faculty Member Dr. Joshua Buckholtz will moderate the discussion.

This event will be held on February 9, 2017 in Harvard University’s William James Hall, B1 (33 Kirkland Street, Cambridge, MA), from 5:45-6:45 pm. A reception will follow the event. More information can be found here.

This event is sponsored by the Harvard Mind Brain Behavior Interfaculty Initiative.