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 — Poverty, Violence, and the Developing Mind

Click poster to RSVP.

Concentrated poverty is on the rise, and an increasing number of children are at risk for exposure to severe violence and dangerous living conditions. What are the implications of trauma exposure for healthy brain development?

During this panel event, Dr. Kerry Ressler (of McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School) will discuss the risks poor, urban environments pose for post-traumatic stress disorder, while Dr. Charles A. Nelson (of Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School) will discuss the effects of “toxic stress” on early childhood development. Carey Goldberg of WBUR will facilitate the conversation and host the Q&A session with the audience. 

This event will be held on Thursday, March 24, 2016, at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Bornstein Amphitheater, from 7:00-8:30 pm.

Make sure to RSVP before the event!

This event is free and open to the public. A brief reception will precede the event from 6:30-7:00 PM.

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Socioeconomic Disadvantage and Neural Development from Infancy through Early Childhood

By Galen Chin-Lun HungJill HahnBibi AlamiriStephen L. BukaJill M. GoldsteinNan LairdCharles A. NelsonJordan W. Smoller, and Stephen E. Gilman | International Journal of Epidemiology | December 16, 2015

Abstract:

Background: Early social experiences are believed to shape neurodevelopment, with potentially lifelong consequences. Yet minimal evidence exists regarding the role of the social environment on children’s neural functioning, a core domain of neurodevelopment.

Methods: We analysed data from 36 443 participants in the United States Collaborative Perinatal Project, a socioeconomically diverse pregnancy cohort conducted between 1959 and 1974. Study outcomes included: physician (neurologist or paediatrician)-rated neurological abnormality neonatally and thereafter at 4 months and 1 and 7 years; indicators of neurological hard signs and soft signs; and indicators of autonomic nervous system function.

Results: Children born to socioeconomically disadvantaged parents were more likely to exhibit neurological abnormalities at 4 months [odds ratio (OR) = 1.20; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.06, 1.37], 1 year (OR = 1.35; CI = 1.17, 1.56), and 7 years (OR = 1.67; CI = 1.48, 1.89), and more likely to exhibit neurological hard signs (OR = 1.39; CI = 1.10, 1.76), soft signs (OR = 1.26; CI = 1.09, 1.45) and autonomic nervous system dysfunctions at 7 years. Pregnancy and delivery complications, themselves associated with socioeconomic disadvantage, did not account for the higher risks of neurological abnormalities among disadvantaged children.

Conclusions: Parental socioeconomic disadvantage was, independently from pregnancy and delivery complications, associated with abnormal child neural development during the first 7 years of life. These findings reinforce the importance of the early environment for neurodevelopment generally, and expand knowledge regarding the domains of neurodevelopment affected by environmental conditions. Further work is needed to determine the mechanisms linking socioeconomic disadvantage with children’s neural functioning, the timing of such mechanisms and their potential reversibility.

Read the full article here.

Childhood adversity and neural development: Deprivation and threat as distinct dimensions of early experience

By Katie McLaughlin, Margaret Sheridan & Hilary Lambert | Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews | November 2014

ABSTRACT:
A growing body of research has examined the impact of childhood adversity on neural structure and function. Advances in our understanding of the neurodevelopmental consequences of adverse early environments require the identification of dimensions of environmental experience that influence neural development differently and mechanisms other than the frequently-invoked stress pathways. We propose a novel conceptual framework that differentiates between deprivation (absence of expected environmental inputs and complexity) and threat (presence of experiences that represent a threat to one’s physical integrity) and make predictions grounded in basic neuroscience principles about their distinct effects on neural development. We review animal research on fear learning and sensory deprivation as well as human research on childhood adversity and neural development to support these predictions. We argue that these previously undifferentiated dimensions of experience exert strong and distinct influences on neural development that cannot be fully explained by prevailing models focusing only on stress pathways. Our aim is not to exhaustively review existing evidence on childhood adversity and neural development, but to provide a novel framework to guide future research.

Read the full paper.

CLBB leads in special issue on “Neuropsychiatry”

CLBB faculty and staff are significant contributors to an in-press special issue of Current Opinion in Neurobiology on Neuropsychiatry. CLBB faculty and psychiatric genetics pioneer Steven Hyman, along with Raquel Gur, is co-editor of this special issue. The also issue includes a paper co-authored by Justin Baker, CLBB associate director, on the use of fMRI in understanding the neurodevelopment of psychosis.

View the issue in-press, and stay tuned for its publication in February 2015.