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

Law and neuroscience: recommendations submitted to the President’s Bioethics Commission

Owen D. Jones, Richard J. Bonnie, B. J. Casey, Andre Davis, David L. Faigman, Morris Hoffman, Read Montague, Stephen J. Morse, Marcus E. Raichle, Jennifer A. Richeson, Elizabeth Scott, Laurence Steinberg, Kim Taylor-Thompson, Anthony Wagner and Gideon Yaffe | Journal of the Law and Biosciences | June 2014

It has become increasingly clear that implications for criminal justice—both negative and positive—emerge from the rapid, important, and challenging developments in cognitive neuroscience, the study of how the brain thinks. Two examples will illustrate.

First, lawyers are ever more frequently bringing neuroscientific evidence into the courtroom, often in the forms of testimony about, and graphic images of, human brains. This trend has produced many new challenges for judges as they attempt to provide fair rulings on the admissibility of such technical evidence, consider its proper interpretation, and assess whether the probative value of such testimony may be outweighed by its potentially prejudicial effect on juror deliberation, and hence on trial outcomes.

Second, the fast expansion of new imaging and analytic techniques has generated the hope that neuroscience, properly deployed, might help to further the goals of criminal justice. For example, given that the criminal justice system already makes predictions about future antisocial conduct for purposes of sentencing and parole, some believe that neural markers might eventually improve the accuracy of those predictions. Continue reading »

Bioethics Commission Plays Early Role in BRAIN Initiative

Calling for the integration of ethics across the life of neuroscientific research endeavors, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) released volume one of its two-part response to President Obama’s request related to the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. The report, Gray Matters: Integrative Approaches for Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society, includes four recommendations for institutions and individuals engaged in neuroscience research including government agencies and other funders.

“Neurological conditions—which include addiction, chronic pain, dementia, depression, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, stroke, and traumatic brain injury, among other conditions—affect more than one billion people globally. Neuroscience has begun to make important breakthroughs, but given the complexity of the brain, we must better understand it in order to make desired progress,” said Amy Gutmann, Ph.D., Bioethics Commission Chair. “But because research on our brains strikes at the very core of who we are, the ethical stakes of neuroscience research could not be higher.  Ethicists and scientists should be together at the table in the earliest stages of research planning fostering a fluent two-way conversation.  Too often in our nation’s past, ethical lapses in research have had tragic consequences and derailed scientific progress.” Continue reading »