News and Commentary Archive

Explore recent scientific discoveries and news as well as CLBB events, commentary, and press.


The Center for Law, Brain & Behavior puts the most accurate and actionable neuroscience in the hands of judges, lawyers, policymakers and journalists—people who shape the standards and practices of our legal system and affect its impact on people’s lives. We work to make the legal system more effective and more just for all those affected by the law.

Daniel Schacter Elected to National Academy of Sciences

Daniel L. Schacter, Ph.DDaniel Schacter, PhD, Harvard Professor of Psychology and CLBB faculty member, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Members are elected to the Academy each year “in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.” A widely accepted mark of excellence in science, membership is considered one of the highest honors a scientist can receive.

Dr. Schacter is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Psychology at Harvard; Director of Harvard’s Schacter Memory Lab; and an award-winning author whose books include The Seven Sins of Memory and Searching for Memory: The Brain, The Mind, The Past. He is also an active member of the Center for Law, Brain and Behavior faculty. In January he appeared on a panel organized by CLBB, “Memory in the Courtroom: Fixed, Fallible or Fleeting?” to discuss distortion of memory, how the courts are beginning to take into account decades of psychological research, and how neuroscience may play a role in the future.

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Conference: The Future of Law and Neuroscience

On Saturday, April 27, the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience presented “The Future of Law and Neuroscience,” a one-day conference a law and neuroscience curriculum specifically designed for lawyers, at the Conrad Chicago Hotel in Chicago.

CLBB co-director Judith Edersheim moderated a panel titled “Neuroscience in the Courtroom,” featuring Dr. Nita Farahany, Professor of Law, Professor of Genome Sciences & Policy at Duke University, and Professor Hank Greely, Deane F. and Kate Edelman Johnson Professor of Law at Stanford Law School; Director, Center for Law and the Biosciences; Professor (by courtesy) of Genetics, Stanford School of Medicine; Chair, Steering Committee of the Center for Biomedical Ethics; and Director, Stanford Interdisciplinary Group on Neuroscience and Society.

Additional panels include “Brain Basics: Neuroscience and Neuroimaging for Lawyers,” “Neuroscience and Juvenile Justice,” and “Decision Making.”

Topics covered at the conference included: An introduction to cognitive neuroscience (including brain imaging techniques) for lawyers; neuroscience and criminal justice; the developing brain; memory and lie detection; and evidentiary issues surrounding neuroscientific evidence.

The conference is co-sponsored by the American Bar Association, Vanderbilt Law School, and the Gruter Institute for Law and Behavioral Research.

More info here.

Listen: Nancy Gertner Discusses Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s Prosecution—And Defense

As Boston recovers from the bombing of the Boston Marathon, the dramatic pursuit of suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and the ultimate capture of the younger brother, Dzhokhar, the next chapter of the story — its legal handling — is only beginning.

Former Federal Judge, current Harvard Law Professor, and CLBB faculty member Nancy Gertner joined fellow Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz on Radio Boston to discuss some of the most pressing issues in the case, including how to ensure a fair trial, whether the death penalty will be sought, and Dzhokhar’s Miranda Rights.

View the criminal complaint and a read a transcript of the legal proceedings from Tuesday’s initial appearance of Tsarnaev before the Court at Radio Boston.

Evaluation of the Capacity to Appoint a Healthcare Proxy

ABSTRACT: The appointment of a healthcare proxy is the most common way through which patients appoint a surrogate decision maker in anticipation of a future time in which they may lack the ability to make medical decisions themselves. In some situations, when a patient has not previously appointed a surrogate decision maker through an advance directive, the healthcare team may ask whether the patient, although lacking the capacity to make a healthcare decision, might still have the capacity to appoint a healthcare proxy. In this article the authors summarize the existing, albeit limited, legal and empirical basis for this capacity and propose a model for assessing capacity to appoint a healthcare proxy that incorporates clinical factors in the context of the risks and benefits specific to surrogate appointment under the law. In particular, it is important to weigh patients’ understanding and choice within the context of the risks and benefits of the medical and interpersonal factors. Questions to guide capacity assessment are provided for clinical use and refinement through future research.

Source: The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 21:4, April 2013, pp. 326-336.By Jennifer Moye, Ph.D., Charles P. Sabatino, J.D., Rebecca Weintraub Brendel, M.D., J.D.

[Read the full paper]


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.