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

Why Are Young People So Bad at Coronavirus Social distancing? Blame Their Brains.

CLBB Co-Founder and Co-Director Dr. Judith Edersheim on Why Are Young People So Bad at Coronavirus Social distancing? Blame Their Brains. in USA Today.

When the world began to shelter in place, the news was filled with accounts of groups of teenagers hanging out on the beach and being scolded for their selfishness. Adults told them to grow up and use good judgment and stop being reckless.

But these lectures were utterly ineffective. Even after one spring breaker’s infamous declaration that he wasn’t going to let COVID-19 stop him from partying, and the internet backlash that followed, college students were still going to parties and flouting their recklessness on Twitter with the hashtag #boomerremover

Now that many universities are considering postponing a return to campus until 2021, this problem has returned to the front burner. Why can’t these young adults simply follow the rules like everyone else? As experts in neuroscience and the law, my colleagues and I urge you not to judge these youths too harshly. Their brains are very much to blame.  Keep reading …

 

 

Detecting Dementia: Technology, Aging Brains, and the Law

April 1, 2020 12:00 PM at Harvard Law School

Description

Advances in neuroimaging, genetics, and mobile health apps are creating unprecedented opportunities to detect subtle brain changes that may predict the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. But how much trust should we have in these new technologies, who will have access to them, and how should the law respond when litigants proffer novel evidence of their brain states? This panel will explore technological innovations in dementia detection, and their ethical, social, and legal implications.

Panelists

  • Jonathan Jackson, PhD, is the founding director of the Community Access, Recruitment, and Engagement (CARE) Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, which investigates the impact of diversity and inclusion on the quality of human subjects research and leverages deep community entrenchment to build trust and overcome barriers to clinical trial participation. His research focuses on midlife and late-life health disparities in clinical settings that affect Black populations. Dr. Jackson also works as a cognitive neuroscientist, investigating the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), particularly in the absence of overt memory problems. He serves on Massachusetts General Hospital’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC) and MGH’s Cancer Center Equity Program, specializing in identifying and overcoming barriers to clinical research for people and communities of color. He has become a well-known MGH representative to communities of color and dozens of affiliated organizations, particularly regarding clinical research. Dr. Jackson serves on the leadership team of several organizations focused on community health, as well as local, statewide, and national advisory groups for research recruitment, Alzheimer’s disease, and community engagement
  • Bruce H. Price, MD, is Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain and Behavior. Dr. Price graduated from Harvard University cum laude, and attended the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. In 1994, he was appointed Chief of the Department of Neurology at McLean Hospital. He is an Associate in Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Associate Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School. In 1996, he co-founded the Neuropsychology Fellowship Training Program at McLean Hospital. In 1999, he founded the Behavioral Neurology/Neuropsychiatry Fellowship Training Program at McLean Hospital. He is the Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Neuropsychiatry Fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Co-Founder and Associate Director of the Fronto-Temporal Dementia Fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital. In 2006, the Bruce H. Price, M.D. Award for Clinical and Academic Excellence in Neuropsychiatry and Behavioral Neurology was established in his honor. He supervises approximately 20 psychiatry, neuropsychology, and neurology residents and fellows per year. An internationally recognized leader in the integration of neurology, psychiatry, neurosurgery, and neuropsychology, his research interests include the cognitive and behavioral consequences of neurologic and psychiatric diseases, brain dysfunction in violent and criminal behavior, frontal lobe functions including insight, judgment, empathy, self-awareness, social adaptation, and decision-making, memory disorders, and dementias, complex decision-making, fraud, and undue influence. His fascination with the intersections between medicine, law, and ethics is longstanding.
  • Ipsit Vahia, MD, is a geriatric psychiatrist, clinician, and researcher. He is medical director of the Geriatric Psychiatry Outpatient Services at McLean Hospital and the McLean Institute for Technology in Psychiatry. His research focuses on the use of technology and informatics in the assessment and management of older adults and currently, he oversees a clinical and research program on aging, behavior, and technology. He has published extensively in major international journals and textbooks. Dr. Vahia serves on the American Psychiatric Association (APA) Council on Geriatric Psychiatry and the Geriatric Psychiatry Committee of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. He has served on the board of directors of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry (AAGP) and on the editorial boards of five journals including his current role as social media editor of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. He is a recipient of several prestigious awards including the 2016 AAGP Barry Lebowitz Award and the 2014 APA Hartford Jeste Award.

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: The Next Frontier of Neuroscience and Juvenile Justice

February 26, 2020 12:00 PM at Harvard Law School

Description

In the fifteen years since the United States Supreme Court referred to developmental science in ruling the death penalty unconstitutional for juveniles in Roper v. Simmons, state and federal courts have seen a wave of neuroscience-informed juvenile justice litigation. Advocates have come to see neuroscience as a powerful tool, and the Supreme Court has cited to neuroscience research in subsequent cases further restricting harsh punishments for juveniles in Graham v. Florida and Miller v. Alabama.

But the full potential of neuroscience in juvenile justice has yet to be reached. Advances in neuroscientific understanding of the developing brain, including development in emerging adulthood from ages 18 to 25, are only beginning to enter legal cases. Moreover, advocates are recognizing that to make a more direct and profound impact, group-averaged neuroscience evidence must be complemented by individualized clinical assessments. This panel will discuss scientific and legal developments, and the new innovations they suggest at the intersection of neuroscience and juvenile justice.

VIDEO: The Next Frontier of Neuroscience and Juvenile Justice

Panelists

  • Robert Kinscherff, Faculty, Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology and Associate Vice President for Community Engagement, William James College; Associate Managing Director, Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior, Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Marsha Levick, Chief Legal Officer and co-founder of Juvenile Law Center
  • Leah SomervilleProfessor of Psychology and Director of Graduate Studies in Psychology, Harvard University and faculty, Center for Brain Science

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: 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

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Slides

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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.