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 limited right to alter memory

By Adam Kolber | Journal of Medical Ethics | 2 May 2014

We like to think we own our memories. If we could ever dampen or erase a memory, the decision to do so, it may seem, should be ours and ours alone. On occasion, for example, patients unexpectedly regain consciousness while undergoing major surgery. Many are horrified by the experience and subsequently develop post-traumatic stress disorder. If there were a way to avoid such trauma by blocking or erasing the memory of one’s own surgery, surely patients should ordinarily be given the opportunity to do so. Indeed, intraoperative awareness presents a rare opportunity to erase a memory with limited downside.

But while we should certainly have rights to alter memories,1–3 our freedom of memory has limits. Some memories are simply too valuable to society to allow us the unfettered right to change them. Imagine a patient who regains consciousness during surgery and realises she is being raped by one or more members of her surgical team. If futuristic memory erasure could eliminate her horrifying memories, it could spare her from debilitating post-traumatic stress. But memory erasure might also eliminate the only opportunity to prosecute the offenders.

Read the full article here.

The Imparity of Mental Health Care in Prison

Trapped-Mental-Illness-in-Prison-034For many, jails are the only place to access mental health care, but once inside, the conditions of prison life may exacerbate mental illness and reduce the likelihood of rehabilitation. Mentally ill people should have access to care in prison, and advocacy for mental health care should extend beyond the concerns of prison conditions.

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Can Neuroscience Predict Human Behavior?

In the years to come, neuroscience may evolve to yield solid predictions about how genetics and brain conditions, in all of their complex aggregates and interactions, can influence a specific individual’s particular choices at particular times. But for now, the tools of neuroscience should not be accorded the deference of mathematical certainty.

Read the piece on Huffington Post.