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

Parcellating Cortical Functional Networks in Individuals

By Danhong WangRandy L BucknerMichael D FoxDaphne J HoltAvram J HolmesSophia StoeckleinGeorg LangsRuiqi PanTianyi QianKuncheng LiJustin T BakerSteven M StufflebeamKai Wang  Xiaomin WangBo Hong, and Hesheng Liu | Nature Neuroscience | November 9, 2015

Abstract:

The capacity to identify the unique functional architecture of an individual’s brain is a crucial step toward personalized medicine and understanding the neural basis of variation in human cognition and behavior. Here we developed a cortical parcellation approach to accurately map functional organization at the individual level using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). A population-based functional atlas and a map of inter-individual variability were employed to guide the iterative search for functional networks in individual subjects. Functional networks mapped by this approach were highly reproducible within subjects and effectively captured the variability across subjects, including individual differences in brain lateralization. The algorithm performed well across different subject populations and data types, including task fMRI data. The approach was then validated by invasive cortical stimulation mapping in surgical patients, suggesting potential for use in clinical applications.

Read the full journal article here. 

A Sore Thing

Editorial | Nature | 25 February 2015

This editorial comes to publication at the same time as the Nature news piece “Neuroscience in Court: The Painful Truth.” The piece featured Amanda Pustilnik, the 2014-2015 Senior Fellow in Law & Applied Neuroscience at CLBB and The Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School, the CLBB Pain & Suffering Working Group, and their recent Symposium.

Injuries and illness evoke sympathy, so why do we find it so hard to appreciate another’s pain? Why, as William Shakespeare observed, when we encounter: “A wretched soul, bruised with adversity” do “We bid be quiet when we hear it cry”? One answer is that there is no objective way to measure pain. This is especially true for the enduring nature of chronic pain, when the original physical injury — if there was one — is long gone. Continue reading »

Neuroscience in Court: The Painful Truth

By Sara Reardon | Nature | 25 February 2015

This article features Amanda Pustilnik, the 2014-2015 Senior Fellow in Law & Applied Neuroscience at CLBB and The Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School. Pustilnik’s involvement in the CLBB Pain & Suffering Working Group and their recent Symposium is cited. Nature also published an editorial on pain imaging in the same issue.

Annie is lying down when she answers the phone; she is trying to recover from a rare trip out of the house. Moving around for an extended period leaves the 56-year-old exhausted and with excruciating pain shooting up her back to her shoulders. “It’s really awful,” she says. “You never get comfortable.”

In 2011, Annie, whose name has been changed at the request of her lawyer, slipped and fell on a wet floor in a restaurant, injuring her back and head. The pain has never eased, and forced her to leave her job in retail.

Annie sued the restaurant, which has denied liability, for several hundred thousand dollars to cover medical bills and lost income. To bolster her case that she is in pain and not just malingering, Annie’s lawyer suggested that she enlist the services of Millennium Magnetic Technologies (MMT), a Connecticut-based neuroimaging company that has a centre in Birmingham, Alabama, where Annie lives. MMT says that it can detect pain’s signature using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which measures and maps blood flow in the brain as a proxy for neural activity. Continue reading »

Spark for a Stagnant Search

The New York Times | Carl Zimmer and Benedict Carey | July 21, 2014

One day in 1988, a college dropout named Jonathan Stanley was visiting New York City when he became convinced that government agents were closing in on him.

He bolted, and for three days and nights raced through the city streets and subway tunnels. His flight ended in a deli, where he climbed a plastic crate and stripped off his clothes. The police took him to a hospital, and he finally received effective treatment two years after getting a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

“My son’s life was saved,” his father, Ted Stanley, said recently. When he himself was in college, he added, “those drugs didn’t exist; I would have had a nonfunctioning brain all the rest of my life.”

The older Mr. Stanley, 84, who earned a fortune selling collectibles, created a foundation to support psychiatric research. “I would like to purchase that happy ending for other people,” he said.

Late on Monday, the Broad Institute, a biomedical research center, announced a $650 million donation for psychiatric research from the Stanley Family Foundation — one of the largest private gifts ever for scientific research. Continue reading »