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

Imaging the Brain, Changing Minds: Chronic Pain Neuroimaging and the Law

On April 24-25, 2014, the symposium, Imaging the Brain, Changing Minds: Chronic Pain Neuroimaging and the Law, took place at the University of Maryland School of Law.

An interdisciplinary collaboration between pain neuroimaging researchers, legal decision-makers, and legal scholars, the symposium’s goal was to create dialogue between these fields, and to make legal actors aware of recent, breakthrough work in neuroimaging that has led to a paradigm shift in understanding chronic pain.  This new science may have the potential to change legal doctrines and shift legal and cultural norms about chronic pain diseases and their sufferers.  Doing so responsibly requires understanding the potential of the science, and also its limits.

CLBB Faculty member, Associate Professor at the University of Maryland School of Law, and pain expert Amanda Pustilnik, JD, was an organizer for this roundtable. The symposium was attended by a selection of law and neuroscience scholars, including Hank Greely, Martha Farah, and the Hon. Nancy Gertner, a CLBB Faculty member and Professor of Practice at Harvard Law School. Greely delivered the keynote, “Neuroimaging, Mind Reading, and the Courts;” the video is available here.

This event was jointly sponsored by the Law & Health Care Program at University of Maryland Carey Law School, the University of Maryland School of Dentistry, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Painful Disparities, Painful Realities

By Amanda Pustilnik | University of Maryland Legal Studies Research | 10 March 2014

Abstract:

Legal doctrines and decisional norms treat chronic claims pain differently than other kinds of disability or damages claims because of bias and confusion about whether chronic pain is real. This is law’s painful disparity. Now, breakthrough neuroimaging can make pain visible, shedding light on these mysterious ills. Neuroimaging shows these conditions are, as sufferers have known all along, painfully real. This Article is about where law ought to change because of innovations in structural and functional imaging of the brain in pain. It describes cutting-edge scientific developments and the impact they should make on evidence law and disability law, and, eventually the law’s norms about pain. It suggests that pain neuroimaging will solve current legal problems and also open the door to reconsiderations of law’s treatment of other subjective phenomena like mental states and emotions, going to the theoretical heart of legal doctrines about body and mind.

Read the full paper here.