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

Older Adults with Depression and Mild Cognitive Impairment are More Vulnerable to Accelerated Brain Aging, Pitt Study Says

University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences Media Relations | August 7, 2014

People who develop depression and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) after age 65 are more likely to have biological and brain imaging markers that reflect a greater vulnerability for accelerated brain aging, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The findings were published online in Molecular Psychiatry.

Older adults with major depression have double the risk of developing dementia in the future compared with those who have never had the mood disorder, said senior investigator Meryl A. Butters, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry, Pitt School of Medicine. But there’s no clear explanation for why a treatable mood disorder like depression leads to increased risk for dementia, a progressive brain disease. Until now, most studies have examined only one or two biomarkers to get at this question. Continue reading »

WATCH: CLBB’s study on brain stimulation and decision-making

By Carey Goldberg | WBUR CommonHealth | August 7, 2014
(part of the Brain Matters series)

The final installment of WBUR’s Brain Matters series featured work from two CLBB faculty, Joshua Buckholtz and Joshua Greene. The tDCS research by Buckholtz discussed below was made possible through a grant from CLBB’s Law and Neuroscience Pilot Fund program, which supports scientists to engage in innovative research at the interface of neuroscience and the law.

Harvard brain scientist Joshua Buckholtz has never forgotten a convict he met back when he was an undergrad conducting psychological tests in prisons. The man had beaten another man nearly to death for stepping on his foot in a dance club.

“I wanted to ask him,” he recalls, “‘In what world was the reward of beating this person so severely, for this — to me — minor infraction, worth having terrible food and barbed wire around you?’ ”

But over the years, Buckholtz became convinced that this bad deed was a result of faulty brain processing, perhaps in a circuit called the frontostriatal dopamine system. In an impulsive person’s brain, he says, attention just gets so narrowly focused on an immediate reward that, in effect, the future disappears. Continue reading »

Fault trumps gruesome evidence when it comes to meting out punishment

By David Salisbury | Vanderbilt University Research News | 3 August 2014

Issues of crime and punishment, vengeance and justice date back to the dawn of human history, but it is only in the last few years that scientists have begun exploring the basic nature of the complex neural processes in the brain that underlie these fundamental behaviors.

Now a new brain imaging study – published online Aug. 3 by the journal Nature Neuroscience has identified the brain mechanisms that underlie our judgment of how severely a person who has harmed another should be punished. Specifically, the study determined how the area of the brain that determines whether such an act was intentional or unintentional trumps the emotional urge to punish the person, however gruesome the harm may be. Continue reading »

U.S. Inquiry Finds a ‘Culture of Violence’ Against Teenage Inmates at Rikers Island

By Benjamin Weiser and Michael Schwirtz | The New York Times | 5 August 2014

In an extraordinary rebuke of the New York City Department of Correction, the federal government said on Monday that the department had systematically violated the civil rights of male teenagers held at Rikers Island by failing to protect them from the rampant use of unnecessary and excessive force by correction officers.

The office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, released its findings in a graphic 79-page report that described a “deep-seated culture of violence” against youthful inmates at the jail complex, perpetrated by guards who operated with little fear of punishment.

The report, addressed to Mayor Bill de Blasio and two other senior city officials, singled out for blame a “powerful code of silence” among the Rikers staff, along with a virtually useless system for investigating attacks by guards. The result was a “staggering” number of injuries among youthful inmates, the report said. Continue reading »

A Look at How We Process Painful Experiences

By Douglas Quenqua | The New York Times | August 4, 2014

A tiny part of the brain keeps track of painful experiences and helps determine how we will react to them in the future, scientists say. The findings could be a boon to depression treatments. Continue reading »