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

Should Teens be Held Criminally Responsible?

By Judith Edersheim, Gene Beresin, and Steve Schlozman | September 19, 2013 | PBS’s “Brains on Trial” Science Blog 

Parents of adolescents have long recognized that teenagers have serious difficulties controlling their behaviors, following rules, and avoiding risky situations. In recent years, neuroscience has been able to provide empirical support to this postulate by identifying neural patterns in adolescents that differ from those of adults. However, incorporation of this common and scientifically-supported knowledge to legal questions has been difficult. The courts have began to recognize that maturity is an important facet to consider when deliberating about individual responsibility as it relates to adolescent.

It is also important to acknowledge that maturity is but one aspect that can impact adolescent behaviors. Additionally, experts advocate consideration of family issues, substance abuse, trauma history, academic performance, and other individual and social factors in making determinations about a teenager’s degree of responsibility. Furthermore, as with adults, some of the most important interventions will be those that can offer preventative services and proper treatment of psychiatric problems.

Read the full post on the Brains On Trial website, where you can also find other Neurolaw resources and explore interviews with experts filmed for the show.

Mental Illness and Society: Prisons, Rehabilitation, and Prevention

By Gene Beresin and Steve Schlozman | September 18, 2013 | from PBS’s “Brains On Trial” Science Blog

Over the last 25 years, funding for mental health services in communities, juvenile detention centers, and in prisons has been cut back dramatically. Criminal behavior without question costs more to society than does treating psychiatric illness. Mental health treatment is effective and essential to a sane and modern society, and yet there is deplorable lack of funding or access to these services for huge swaths of our juvenile population.

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Kids at Risk for Violence: Warning Signs of Aggression

By Gene Beresin, Steve Schlozman, and Judy Edersheim | September 17, 2013 | PBS’s Brains On Trial “Science Blog”

Some kids will become violent as adolescents. Many have a very short fuse, and explode over the smallest thing. Others, like a ticking time bomb harbor pent up anger until something pops. And then there are kids who are the scariest – the ones who silently plan to harm others and don’t just fantasize, but really hurt others, verbally or physically.

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What are the warning signs? What can we do if we spot kids early and prevent violence?

If we look at teenagers who have committed violent acts there are thousands with histories of fights, stealing, being the brunt of physical or verbal abuse, and victims of or perpetrators of bullying. Many have had depression, learning disorders, especially language problems. Most have been scapegoated and marginalized. Some were impulsive and just blew a fuse, others planned their offenses.

What can we do about this dilemma?

While we cannot easily identify which kid will be a societal danger, we should take some traits seriously, and if identified, make every attempt toward remediation.

Read the full post on the Brains On Trial website, where you can also find other Neurolaw resources and explore interviews with experts filmed for the show.

PBS and Alan Alda Explore How Neuroscience Could Change Law

This September, a new two-part PBS broadcast hosted by Alan Alda is taking on an issue at the heart of CLBB’s mission: how brain science could improve the criminal justice system.

Speaking with experts including Gene Beresin of Harvard Medical School, Joshua Buckholtz of Harvard University and a CLBB faculty member, Jay Giedd of the National Institute of Mental Health, Joshua Greene of Harvard, Owen Jones of Vanderbilt University and Kent Kiehl of the University of New Mexico, Brains on Trial asks:

– Why is there a need to revamp the criminal justice system?
– What do we already know about neuroscience in the courtroom?
– What can future courtrooms expect from neuroscience?

The website for the production includes law and neuroscience resources as well as information about the numerous experts who contributed.

Brains on Trial will air September 11 and 18 on PBS. On September 17, the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT will host an event with Alan Alda discussing the production and the issues.’

RSVP for the 9/17 event at MIT with Alan Alda, Steven Morse, Nancy Kanwisher, Josh Greene, and Bob Desimone.

Go to the official page for Brains on Trial.

Read more about Brains on Trial.

 

Steve Pinker and Josh Buckholtz discuss the neuroscience of violence on PBS special “After Newtown”

As the American public struggles to make sense of the December’s mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the scientific community has been called upon to discuss what we know about the neuroscience of violence and its relationship to such disturbing acts.

Harvard Psychologists Steve Pinker and Joshua Buckholtz, a CLBB faculty member, appear on the PBS special “After Newtown” to talk about the neuroscience of violence and its relationship to mass killings.

Watch NOVA: Neuroscience of Violence on PBS. See more from After Newtown.