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.

In US Prisons, Psychiatric Disability Is Often Met by Brute Force

By Kanya D’Almeida | Truthout | July 18, 2015

They called it the “shoe leather treatment” because that was exactly what it was: 10 or 11 guards, sometimes more, would form a circle around the patient and kick him unconscious. Then they’d drag him across the room, strip him naked and throw him in a tiny room with just one window to allow in the snow, and leave him there to freeze.

That was in 1961 in Pennsylvania’s Farview State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.

Twenty years later, the routine abuse that took place there became the subject of a memoir by Bill Thomas who survived 10 years in that institution before breaking out and eventually testifying before a Special State Senate Committee Inquiry on the practices of administrators, guards and even doctors at Farview State Hospital.

The facility has since been closed down, as were thousands of others like it during the wave of “deinstitutionalization” in the 1960s and ’70s. Some state mental hospitals remain, but they are much less prevalent than they once were.

However, the shoe leather treatment lives on in jails and prisons around the country, which have become surrogate institutions for people with mental illnesses and where violence, neglect and abuse of prisoners labeled with psychiatric disabilities is on the rise.

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The Neural Representation of Typical and Atypical Experiences of Negative Images: Comparing Fear, Disgust and Morbid Fascination

By Suzanne Oosterwijk, Kristen A. LindquistMorenikeji Adebayo, and Lisa Feldman Barrett | Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience | July 14, 2015


Negative stimuli do not only evoke fear or disgust, but can also evoke a state of “morbid fascination” which is an urge to approach and explore a negative stimulus. In the present neuroimaging study, we applied an innovative method to investigate the neural systems involved in typical and atypical conceptualizations of negative images. Participants received false feedback labeling their mental experience as fear, disgust or morbid fascination. This manipulation was successful; participants judged the false feedback correct for 70% of the trials on average. The neuroimaging results demonstrated differential activity within regions in the ‘neural reference space for discrete emotion’ depending on the type of feedback. We found robust differences in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex and the lateral orbitofrontal cortex comparing morbid fascination to control feedback. More subtle differences in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex and the lateral orbitofrontal cortex were also found between morbid fascination feedback and the other emotion feedback conditions. The present study is the first to forward evidence about the neural representation of the experimentally unexplored state of morbid fascination. In line with a constructionist framework, our findings suggest that neural resources associated with the process of conceptualization contribute to the neural representation of this state.

Read the full article here.

The Migraine Brain in Transition: Girls versus Boys

By Vanda Faria, Nathalie Erpelding, Alyssa Lebel, Adriana Johnson, Robert Wolff, Damien Fair, Rami Burstein, Lino Becerra, and David Borsook | PAIN | July 13, 2015


The prevalence of migraine has an exponential trajectory that is most obvious in young females between puberty and early adulthood. Adult females are affected twice as much as males. During development, hormonal changes may act on predetermined brain circuits increasing the probability of migraine. However, little is known about the pediatric migraine brain and migraine evolution. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), we evaluated 28 children with migraine (14 females and 14 males) and 28 sex-matched healthy controls to determine differences in brain structure and function between: (a) females and males with migraine, and (b) females and males with migraine during earlier (10-11 years old) vs later (14-16 years) developmental stages compared to matched healthy controls. Compared to males, females had more gray matter (GM) in the primary somatosensory cortex (S1), supplementary motor area (SMA), precuneus (PCu), basal ganglia (BG), and amygdala, as well as greater PCu functional resting state connectivity to the thalamus, amygdala and BG, and greater amygdala functional resting state connectivity to the thalamus, anterior midcingulate cortex, and SMA. Moreover, older females with migraine had more GM in the S1, amygdala, and caudate compared older males with migraine and matched healthy controls. This is the first study showing sex and developmental differences in pediatric migraineurs in brain regions associated with sensory, motor, and affective functions, providing insight into the neural mechanisms underlying distinct migraine sex phenotypes as well as their evolution that could result in important clinical implications increasing treatment effectiveness.

Read the full article here.

LISTEN – Dr. Edersheim on the Adolescent Brain

CLBB Co-Director Dr. Edersheim appeared on an episode of The Checkup, a health podcast by WBUR and Slate. In an episode entitled “Teenage Zombies”, Dr. Edersheim offers insight into how adolescent brain structure and developmental changes influence decision-making and behavior. She discusses how these changes intersect with the legal system, and raises important questions about how the juvenile justice system affects healthy neurodevelopment. Listen to her commentary, shortly after the 15:20 minute mark:

Listen to the full episode of The Checkup here.

Brain Genomics Superstruct Project Initial Data Release with Structural, Functional, and Behavioral Measures

By Avram J. Holmes, Marisa O. Hollinshead, Timothy M. O’Keefe, Victor I. Petrov, Gabriele R. Fariello, Lawrence L. Wald, Bruce Fischl, Bruce R. Rosen, Ross W. Mair, Joshua L. RoffmanJordan W. Smoller and Randy L. Buckner | Scientific Data | July 7, 2015


The goal of the Brain Genomics Superstruct Project (GSP) is to enable large-scale exploration of the links between brain function, behavior, and ultimately genetic variation. To provide the broader scientific community data to probe these associations, a repository of structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans linked to genetic information was constructed from a sample of healthy individuals. The initial release, detailed in the present manuscript, encompasses quality screened cross-sectional data from 1,570 participants ages 18 to 35 years who were scanned with MRI and completed demographic and health questionnaires. Personality and cognitive measures were obtained on a subset of participants. Each dataset contains a T1-weighted structural MRI scan and either one (n=1,570) or two (n=1,139) resting state functional MRI scans. Test-retest reliability datasets are included from 69 participants scanned within six months of their initial visit. For the majority of participants self-report behavioral and cognitive measures are included (n=926 and n=892 respectively). Analyses of data quality, structure, function, personality, and cognition are presented to demonstrate the dataset’s utility.

Read the full article here.