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

The Neurolaw Revolution: A Lecture by Francis X. Shen

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Rapid advances in the brain sciences offer both promise and peril for the law. In light of these developments, Dr. Francis Shen will explore how neuroscientific analysis of law may revolutionize legal doctrine and practice.

Dr. Shen is the third Senior Fellow in Law and Neuroscience in 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. Dr. Shen directs the Shen Neurolaw Lab at the University of Minnesota, is co-author of the first Law and Neuroscience casebook, and serves as Executive Director of Education and Outreach for the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience.

This event will be held from 4:00-5:30 pm on Wednesday, September 13, at Wasserstein Hall, Milstein East A, Harvard Law School (1585 Massachusetts Ave, 02138). It is free and open to the public. This lecture will be followed at 5:30 pm by the Petrie-Flom Center’s 2017 Open House reception.

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WATCH – “From Troubled Teens to Tsarnaev: Promises and Perils of Adolescent Neuroscience and Law”

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Click to enlarge poster.

The neuroscience of adolescent brain development has had increasing impact on American jurisprudence. The U.S. Supreme Court relied on this neuroscience in Roper v. Simmons (2005) in barring execution for capital crimes committed as a juvenile and in Miller v. Alabama (2012) in holding that mandatory life without possibility of parole for juveniles is also unconstitutional.

On Monday, September 28, 2015, CLBB and the Petrie-Flom Center assembled a panel of developmental scientists, clinicians, and legal scholars for a panel discussion examining the implications of developmental neuroscience for law in specific domains including death penalty mitigation for young adults over age 18 such as the Tsarnaev case, a developmentally informed view of Miranda and Competence to Stand Trial for juveniles, trial of youth as adults, and conditions of confinement in juvenile and adult incarceration.

The panel discussed the promises and perils for constitutional jurisprudence, legal and public policy reform, and trial practice of relying upon a complex body of science as it emerges. Scroll down to view complete video from the event.

This event is 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. 

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WATCH – “Neurology, Psychology & the Law: Notes from the field”

On Thursday, April 23, 2015, CLBB Co-Director Judith Edersheim, JD, MD presented the Psychiatry Grand Rounds at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Dr. Edersheim reviewed the state of the use of neuroscience in law and its role in enhancing the pursuit of justice. 

The Grand Rounds took place at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Watch complete video from the event at this link.

edersheim 150x150 newJudith Edersheim, JD, MD is co-founder and co-director of the Center for Law, Brain & Behavior, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and an attending psychiatrist in the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital.

WATCH – “Does Brain-Based Lie Detection Belong in American Courtrooms?”

Click to view event poster.

Click to view event poster.

As neuroimaging and other technologies advance, will traditionally-excluded tests of veracity (or lack thereof) find a place in American courtrooms? What is the state of our neuroscience and understanding of brain-based lie detection techniques?

Are these advances ready for “prime time,” or should we proceed with caution? What are the implications of existing research for the legal system and our moral assumptions about lying?

On Tuesday, April 14, leaders in neuroethics, forensic psychology, and neurolaw discussed the state of the science and the implications of neuroscientific advances for ethics and law. Can neuroscientific methods accurately distinguish truth-telling from ling? Are there limitations in our science? If so, can these limitations be addressed sufficiently to meet rules of evidence? If not, will these tests have any role in the courtroom? What are the legal and ethical implications of including or excluding neuroscientific evidence of lying?

This seminar took place from 4:30-6:00pm on Tuesday, April 14 at Harvard Medical School.

Panelists:

giordano 150x150James Giordano, PhD is Chief of the Neuroethics Studies Program at the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics and is Co-direector of the O’Neill-Pellegrino Program in Brain Science and Global Health Law and policy. He is also a professor in the Department of Neurology at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, DC.

 

pivovarova_150x1501-150x134Ekaterina (Kate) Pivovarova, PhD is a Researcher and Assistant Professor in the Law and Psychiatry Division at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Department of Psychiatry. She is also a licensed Clinical Psychologist in private practice. Dr. Pivovarova was the 2013-2014 CLBB Forensic Psychology Research Fellow.

 

shen 150x150Francis X. Shen, PhD, JD is a McKnight Landgrant Professor and Associate Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota, where he directs the Shen Neurolaw Lab. He also serves as Executive Director of Education and Outreach for the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience, and is currently a visiting scholar at the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School.

 

This event, hosted by the Harvard Medical School Center for Bioethics, was co-sponsored by CLBB, The Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics, HLS; Institute for the Neurosciences, BWH; the Mind Brain Behavior Interfaculty Initiative, Harvard University; Center for Brain Science, Harvard University; and the Department of Neurobiology, HMS. Funding is provided by the Mind Brain Behavior Interfaculty Initiative, Harvard University and The Harvard Brain Initiative Collaborative Seed Grant Program. 

Watch video of the entire “Brain-Based Lie Detection” event below, or explore past events on pain, memory, free will, and criminal responsibility, on CLBB’s Vimeo channel.

WATCH – “Moral Decisions in the Law: What’s the Brain Got to Do with It?”

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Law – particularly criminal law – is infused with moral judgment and calls upon prosecutors, judges, and and jurors to make morally-informed decisions. But where does morality come from? How do we “do” moral decision-making?

At this lunchtime seminar, experimental philosopher and neuroscientist Fiery Cushman led a fascinating and provocative discussion of the current state of neuroscience research on morality. Dr. Cushman presented his computational models of learning and moral decision-making to describe how we learn what morality is within our own cultures, how we internalize moral rules, and how we make moral judgments about others. Amanda Pustilnik, Senior Fellow in Law and Applied Neuroscience at the Petrie-Flom Center and CLBB, responded.

The event was held on April 8, 2015 at Harvard Law School. Continue reading »