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

NEW DATE: APRIL 9– Crimes of Passion: New Neuroscience vs. Old Doctrine

 

The criminal law often sees love and passion turned into violence. How does this happen? And how should law respond? Many doctrines, most notably the “heat of passion” defense – which historically has been used disproportionately to excuse the crimes of men against women – rely on a distinction between defendants who acted “emotionally” instead of “rationally.” But modern neuroscience has debunked the idea that reason and emotion are two entirely different mental states. This panel will explore how law should respond to this neuroscientific challenge to long-held doctrine.

Panelists:

Lisa Feldman Barrett, PhD, University Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Director of the Interdisciplinary Affective Science Laboratory at Northeastern University; Research Scientist, Department of Psychiatry, Northeastern University; Research Neuroscientist, Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital; Lecturer in Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; Faculty Affiliate, the MGH Center for Law, Brain & Behavior

Judge Nancy Gertner (ret.), Senior Lecturer on Law, Harvard Law School and Managing Director, MGH Center for Law, Brain & Behavior

Jeannie Suk Gersen, JD, PhD, John H. Watson, Jr. Professor of Law

Moderator:

Judith G. Edersheim, JD, MD, 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

WATCH — How Emotions Are Made

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Why do emotions feel automatic and uncontrollable? Does rational thought really control emotion? How does emotion affect disease? How can you make your children more emotionally intelligent?

A new theory of how the brain constructs emotions could revolutionize our understanding of the human mind.

How Emotions Are Made answers these questions and many more, revealing the latest research and intriguing practical applications of the new science of emotion, mind, and brain. Join psychologist and neuroscientist Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett as she discusses her new book and its implications for psychology, health care, the legal system, and more. CLBB Faculty Member Dr. Joshua Buckholtz (of the Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital) will serve as a commentator, while New York Times editor James Ryerson will moderate the conversation and subsequent audience Q&A.

This event will be held on Thursday, April 13, 2017, at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Bornstein Amphitheater, from 7:00-8:30 pm. 

Make sure to RSVP for the event here!

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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WATCH — Battling Blood in the Streets

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Far too many people across the country are left dead, injured, or traumatized by community violence. Communities can be safer when neuroscience, public health strategies, and collective advocacy are aligned in practice and policy. What are the best next steps to fostering a broad science-informed advocacy movement to effectively address community violence? The event took place at 4:00 pm on Wednesday, September 7th, in Wasserstein Hall, Room 1010 at Harvard Law School (1585 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA).

The event was free and open to the public, and was followed by the Petrie-Flom Center’s 2016 Open House.

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Synaptic Gap: 21st Century Brain Science Meets Mental Health Treatment and Policy

CLBB Co-Director Dr. Judith Edersheim will be one of the featured speakers at “Synaptic Gap: 21st Century Brain Science Meets Mental Health Treatment and Policy“, a HUBweek 2016 event that will explore ways to connect the latest advances in neuroscience with mental health treatment and policy. She will be interviewed by award-winning Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen.

The event will take place on Wednesday, September 28th from 7:30am – 4:30pm at Starr Center, 185 Cambridge Street, 2nd Floor.

Make sure to register for the event here!
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Neuroscience and Behavioral Genetics in US Criminal Law: An Empirical Analysis

By Nita Farahany | Journal of Law and the Biosciences | January 14, 2016

Abstract:

The goal of this study was to examine the growing use of neurological and behavioral genetic evidence by criminal defendants in US criminal law. Judicial opinions issued between 2005–12 that discussed the use of neuroscience or behavioral genetics by criminal defendants were identified, coded and analysed. Yet, criminal defendants are increasingly introducing such evidence to challenge defendants’ competency, the effectiveness of defense counsel at trial, and to mitigate punishment.

Read the entire paper here.