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

Brain Matters: Reporting from the Front Lines of Neuroscience

During summer 2014, WBUR ran a special series on the current state, potential, and limitations of neuroscience. The series covered:

Part 1: Are we entering a golden age of neuroscience?

Brain Images: New Techniques And Bright Colors
5 Ways The Brain Stymies Scientists And 5 New Tools To Crack It, an interview with CLBB Faculty member Steve Hyman
Unlocking The Brain: Are We Entering A Golden Age Of Neuroscience?
11 Young Neuroscientists Share Their Cutting-Edge Research
Continue reading »

International Neuroethics Society to meet at SfN 2013 in San Diego

This year, the International Neuroethics Society (INS) will hold their annual meeting on Friday, November 8th, in conjunction with the Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, which will be held in San Diego, California.

“The field of ethics is continually having to evolve to keep up with the rapid pace of scientific discovery. This meeting brings together all the players to share leading innovations and hear first-hand where neuroethics is headed next,” said Dr. Steven E. Hyman, CLBB faculty member and this year’s INS President.

The one-day meeting will include three sessions to address questions like “Can we create a morality pill?”, “Should we trust Brain-Computer Interfaces to help us make end of life decisions?”, and “Can neuroscience help us distinguish between criminality and rehabilitation potential?”.

See the entire program and register for the meeting at their website.

New Book Discusses Misuses of Neuroscience

Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience, a new book by psychiatrist Sally Satel and psychologist and professor Scott O. Lilienfeld, argues that current real-world applications of neuroscience may be misguided and even harmful.

“Never before has the brain so vigorously engaged the public imagination,” the authors write in the book’s introduction, a development that both delights and dismays them, as much of what enters the popular discussion, they argue, “offers facile and overly mechanistic explanations for complicated behaviors.”

The book goes on to consider current neuroscientific capabilities, their uses, and, crucially, their limitations.

Satel is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, a lecturer at Yale University School of Medicine, and a practicing psychiatrist. Lilienfeld is a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at Emory University.

CLBB faculty Steven E. Hyman and Jeffrey Rosen have endorsed Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience:

“Satel and Lilienfeld have produced a remarkably clear and important discussion of what today’s brain science can and cannot deliver for society. As a neuroscientist, I confess that I also enjoyed their persuasive skewering of hucksters whose misuse of technology in the courtroom and elsewhere is potentially damaging not only to justice but also to the public understanding of science.”—Dr. Steven E. Hyman, Director of the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

Brainwashed challenges the much-hyped claim that neuroscience will transform everything from marketing to the legal system to our ideas of blameworthiness and free will. Satel and Lilienfeld bring much needed skeptical intelligence to this field, giving neuroscience its due while recognizing its limitations. This is an invaluable contribution to one of our most contested debates about the ability of science to transform society.”—Jeffrey Rosen, Professor of Law, George Washington University and Legal Affairs Editor, The New Republic

 

Steve Hyman: Too Soon for Neuroscience to Transform Legal System

Brain science is discovering more about the inner workings of the mind that we’ve ever known before—but we’re still a long way from being able to apply those findings toward predicting or even understanding individuals’ behavior, experts say.

Speaking at a discussion on “Neuroscience and the Law” organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C., CLBB faculty member Steven Hyman, Director of the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research, Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, emphasized the practical limitations of current research.

In cases of violent crime, for example, even if a brain scan found abnormal activity in a region associated with impulse control or emotion regulation, it would show only correlation, not causation, meaning the information would have little use in court. “I would never tell a parole board to decide whether to release somebody or hold on to somebody based on their brain scan as an individual, because I can’t tell what are the causal factors in that individual,” he said.

“I think we’re going to understand a lot more,” Hyman said. “But it’s really early days.”

Also participating in the April 25 event, the first of a series on “Neuroscience and Society” organized by AAAS in partnership with the Dana Foundation and co-sponsored by the International Neuroethics Society and the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience, were Judge Barbara Rothstein, a visiting U.S. District Judge from the Western District of Washington state and past director of the Federal Judicial Center in Washington, D.C., and Owen D. Jones, director of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience and a professor of both law and biology at Vanderbilt University.

Read more about “Neuroscience and the Law at the AAAS website. 

 

 

 

 

Steven Hyman to Speak on Neuroscience and the Law at AAAS

CLBB faculty Steven Hyman will speak on a panel titled “Neuroscience and the Law” at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in New York on April 25, as part of their “Neuroscience and Society” Series.

The event will discuss the ways in which neuroscience is entering the courtroom; what neuroscience can and cannot tell us about human behavior; and the challenges this emerging knowledge poses for the trier of fact.

Fellow panelists include:

– Alan I. Leshner, Chief Executive Officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Executive Publisher of the journal Science since December 2001 

– Owen Jones, J.D., who serves as Director of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience at Vanderbilt University, with a joint appointment as well as holding the New York Alumni Chancellor’s Chair in Law at Vanderbilt University, where he has a joint appointment as Professor of Biological Sciences.

– Judge Barbara Rothstein, a visiting U.S. District Judge from the Western District of Washington and former Director of the Federal Judicial Center in Washington, D.C. from 2003-2011.

Hyman is director of the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute of Harvard University and MIT and a Distinguished Service Professor at Harvard.

Read more about the panelists and event.