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

Amanda Pustilnik to Help Develop Standards for Legal Uses of Brain Imaging

The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) has convened a pioneering working group to develop international standards for the legal uses of brain imaging, a group that will include CLBB Faculty Member and former Fellow in Law & Applied Neuroscience, Amanda Pustilnik. This will be the first body to set international standards for legal and policy uses of brain imaging, advancing law, policy, and human outcomes in the pain area. Additionally, it will provide a model for how to set standards in all areas where law may turn to brain imaging relating to the brain’s production of sensation, affect, and behavior. This initiative was in part prompted by the ideas raised at CLBB’s recent conference,  “Visible Solutions: How Neuroimaging Helps Law Re-envision Pain”.

Congratulations to Amanda Pustilnik for being part of this trailblazing effort!

WATCH: “Raising the Age of Juvenile Court in Connecticut”

During a speech in November at the University of Connecticut Law School, Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy proposed that his state raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction through age 20, and that a separate process be developed for handing cases for defendants and offenders under the age of 25.

His proposal mirrors recommendations by Harvard Kennedy School researchers, and if enacted, would make Connecticut the first state in US history to raise the age of juvenile, or family, court jurisdiction beyond age 18.

Join the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management at Harvard Kennedy School on Monday evening, January 25, 2016 at 6:30 in Wiener Auditorium for A Conversation with Dannel P. Malloy on Raising the Age of Juvenile Court in Connecticut’, moderated by Vincent Schiraldi, and hear why Gov. Malloy proposed to raise the age of family court to 21.

Featuring

Event Details

  • Monday, January 25, 2015 – 6:30 PM
  • Harvard Kennedy School | Wiener Auditorium, Taubman Building, Ground Floor 
    79 JFK Street, Cambridge | Directions

About this Event

This event is sponsored by the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management (HKS), MGH Center for Law, Brain & Behavior, the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy (HKS), the Criminal Justice Program of Study, Research & Advocacy (HLS), and the student-led Criminal Justice Professional Interest Council (HKS). Continue reading »

Common Brain Mechanisms of Chronic Pain and Addiction

By Igor Elman and David Borsook | Neuron | January 6, 2016

Abstract: 

While chronic pain is considered by some to be a CNS disease, little is understood about underlying neurobiological mechanisms. Addiction models have heuristic value in this regard, because both pain and addictive disorders are characterized by impaired hedonic capacity, compulsive drug seeking, and high stress. In drug addiction such symptomatology has been attributed to reward deficiency, impaired inhibitory control, incentive sensitization, aberrant learning, and anti-reward allostatic neuroadaptations. Here we propose that similar neuroadaptations exist in chronic pain patients.

Read the rest of the paper here.

Transcriptional Profiles of Supragranular-Enriched Genes Associate with Corticocortical Network Architecture in the Human Brain

By Fenna M. KrienenB. T. Thomas YeoTian GeRandy L. Buckner, and Chet C. Sherwood | PNAS | December 10, 2015

Abstract:

The human brain is patterned with disproportionately large, distributed cerebral networks that connect multiple association zones in the frontal, temporal, and parietal lobes. The expansion of the cortical surface, along with the emergence of long-range connectivity networks, may be reflected in changes to the underlying molecular architecture. Using the Allen Institute’s human brain transcriptional atlas, we demonstrate that genes particularly enriched in supragranular layers of the human cerebral cortex relative to mouse distinguish major cortical classes. The topography of transcriptional expression reflects large-scale brain network organization consistent with estimates from functional connectivity MRI and anatomical tracing in nonhuman primates. Microarray expression data for genes preferentially expressed in human upper layers (II/III), but enriched only in lower layers (V/VI) of mouse, were cross-correlated to identify molecular profiles across the cerebral cortex of postmortem human brains (n = 6). Unimodal sensory and motor zones have similar molecular profiles, despite being distributed across the cortical mantle. Sensory/motor profiles were anticorrelated with paralimbic and certain distributed association network profiles. Tests of alternative gene sets did not consistently distinguish sensory and motor regions from paralimbic and association regions: (i) genes enriched in supragranular layers in both humans and mice, (ii) genes cortically enriched in humans relative to nonhuman primates, (iii) genes related to connectivity in rodents, (iv) genes associated with human and mouse connectivity, and (v) 1,454 gene sets curated from known gene ontologies. Molecular innovations of upper cortical layers may be an important component in the evolution of long-range corticocortical projections.

Read the full article here.

Juvenile Crime is Down and High School Graduation is Up: Good News or Distraction?

By Robert Kinscherff, Senior Fellow in Law and Applied Neuroscience

At first glance it seems like unequivocal good news: Juvenile crime rates are at approximately the same levels as the early 1970’s and high school graduation rates have risen from 65 percent four years ago to 82 percent in 2013-2014. But, a closer look suggests a different picture under the surface of this aggregate national data.  Continue reading »