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.

Common Measures for National Institute of Mental Health Funded Research

By Deanna M. Barch, Ian H. Gotlib, Robert M. Bilder, Daniel S. Pine, Jordan W. Smoller, C. Hendricks Brown, Wayne Huggins, Carol Hamilton, Adam Haim, and Gregory K. Farber | Biological Psychiatry | February 19, 2016


One of the most encouraging, but also the most challenging, aspects of current research on psychopathology is the diversity of measures used to assess constructs across research studies and programs. Clearly, this diversity reflects the creativity and generativity of our field and the continual growth of our science. At the same time, however, this diversity also makes data harmonization across studies difficult, if not sometimes impossible. The National Human Genome Research Institute recognized this conundrum in the field of genetics and started an initiative referred to as consensus measures for Phenotypes and eXposures (PhenX) to identify and recommend a small number of measures for each of 21 broad research domains that could be used as common assessments to facilitate integration across genome-wide association studies (1, 2, 3 and 4). These measures are made available to the scientific community, at no cost, in the PhenX Toolkit ( Subsequently, the PhenX consensus process was used to identify measures in support of substance abuse and addiction (SAA) research, adding depth to the toolkit in this area. This project was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) with the participation of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Perhaps due to a growing awareness of the need to share data across studies to increase statistical power and study impact, a number of other common data element programs have been underway, including the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (5), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Toolbox (6), the Neurological Quality of Life (7), the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Common Data Elements program (8 and 9), and the NIH Common Data Elements program ( The program staff at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), as well as its funded researchers, have also recognized the challenges posed by a lack of common measures across studies. The NIMH has taken note of this recent emphasis on larger scale studies to address core questions about the mechanisms of psychopathology and recent attempts at data harmonization across studies of psychopathology that address similar issues. Accordingly, the NIMH felt that it was time to identify brief, low-burden measures that NIMH-funded researchers could include in their studies to increase cross-study data compatibility. The goal of the current report is to briefly describe the genesis and development of the PhenX project, to outline the process that the Mental Health Research Panel used to select a set of common measures, to describe the measures themselves, and to outline the goals associated with including these measures in future studies.

Continue reading the full report here.

Attention Bias to Emotional Faces Varies by IQ and Anxiety in Williams Syndrome

By Lauren M. McGrath, Joyce M. Oates, Yael G. Dai, Helen F. Dodd, Jessica WaxlerCaitlin C. Clements, Sydney Weill, Alison Hoffnagle, Erin Anderson, Rebecca MacRaeJennifer Mullett, Christopher J. McDougle, Barbara R. Pober, and Jordan W. Smoller | Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders | February 17, 2016


Individuals with Williams syndrome (WS) often experience significant anxiety. A promising approach to anxiety intervention has emerged from cognitive studies of attention bias to threat. To investigate the utility of this intervention in WS, this study examined attention bias to happy and angry faces in individuals with WS (N = 46). Results showed a significant difference in attention bias patterns as a function of IQ and anxiety. Individuals with higher IQ or higher anxiety showed a significant bias toward angry, but not happy faces, whereas individuals with lower IQ or lower anxiety showed the opposite pattern. These results suggest that attention bias interventions to modify a threat bias may be most effectively targeted to anxious individuals with WS with relatively high IQ.

Read the entire paper here.

Working Memory Filtering Continues to Develop into Late Adolescence

By Matthew R. Peverill, Katie A. McLaughlin, Amy S. Finn, and Margaret A. Sheridan | Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience | February 16, 2016


While most measures of working memory (WM) performance have been shown to plateau by mid-adolescence and developmental changes in fronto-parietal regions supporting WM encoding and maintenance have been well characterized, little is known about developmental variation in WM filtering. We investigated the possibility that the neural underpinnings of filtering in WM reach maturity later in life than WM function without filtering. Using a cued WM filtering task (McNab & Klingberg, 2008), we investigated neural activity during WM filtering in a sample of 64 adults and adolescents. Regardless of age, increases in WM activity with load were concentrated in the expected fronto-parietal network. For adults, but not adolescents, recruitment of the basal ganglia during presentation of a filtering cue was associated with neural and behavioral indices of successful filtering, suggesting that WM filtering and related basal ganglia function may still be maturing throughout adolescence and into adulthood.

Read the full article here.

Healthy Adolescent Performance on the MATRICS Consensus Cognitive Battery (MCCB): Developmental Data from Two Samples of Volunteers

By William S. Stone, Raquelle I. Mesholam-Gately, Anthony J. Giuliano, Kristen A. Woodberry, Jean Addington, Carrie E. Bearden, Kristin S. Cadenhead, Tyrone D. Cannon, Barbara A. Cornblatt, Daniel H. Mathalon, Thomas H. McGlashan, Diana O. Perkins, Ming T. Tsuang, Elaine F. Walker, Scott W. Woods, Robert W. McCarley, Robert Heinssen, Michael F. Green, Keith Nuechterlein, and Larry J. Seidman | Schizophrenia Research | February 16, 2016


The MATRICS Consensus Cognitive Battery (MCCB) fills a significant need for a standardized battery of cognitive tests to use in clinical trials for schizophrenia in adults aged 20–59. A need remains, however, to develop norms for younger individuals, who also show elevated risks for schizophrenia. Toward this end, we assessed performance in healthy adolescents. Baseline MCCB, reading and IQ data were obtained from healthy controls (ages 12–19) participating in two concurrent NIMH-funded studies: North American Prodromal Longitudinal Study phase 2 (NAPLS-2; n = 126) and Boston Center for Intervention Development and Applied Research (CIDAR; n = 13). All MCCB tests were administered except the Managing Emotions subtest from the Mayer–Salovey–Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test. Data were collected from 8 sites across North America. MCCB scores were presented in four 2-year age cohorts as T-scores for each test and cognitive domain, and analyzed for effects of age and sex. Due to IQ differences between age-grouped subsamples, IQ served as a covariate in analyses. Overall and sex-based raw scores for individual MCCB tests are presented for each age-based cohort. Adolescents generally showed improvement with age in most MCCB cognitive domains, with the clearest linear trends in Attention/Vigilance and Working Memory. These control data show that healthy adolescence is a dynamic period for cognitive development that is marked by substantial improvement in MCCB performance through the 12–19 age range. They also provide healthy comparison raw scores to facilitate clinical evaluations of adolescents, including those at risk for developing psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia-related conditions.

Read the entire paper here.

Relationship between M100 Auditory Evoked Response and Auditory Radiation Microstructure in 16p11.2 Deletion and Duplication Carriers

By J.I. BermanD. ChudnovskayaL. BlaskeyE. KuschnerP. MukherjeeR. BucknerS. NagarajanW.K. ChungE.H. Sherr and T.P.L. Roberts | American Journal of Neuroradiology | February 11, 2016


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Deletion and duplication of chromosome 16p11.2 (BP4–BP5) have been associated with developmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorders, and deletion subjects exhibit a large (20-ms) delay of the auditory evoked cortical response as measured by magnetoencephalography (M100 latency). The purpose of this study was to use a multimodal approach to test whether changes in white matter microstructure are associated with delayed M100 latency.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Thirty pediatric deletion carriers, 9 duplication carriers, and 39 control children were studied with both magnetoencephalography and diffusion MR imaging. The M100 latency and auditory system DTI measures were compared between groups and tested for correlation.

RESULTS: In controls, white matter diffusivity significantly correlated with the speed of the M100 response. However, the relationship between structure and function appeared uncoupled in 16p11.2 copy number variation carriers. The alterations to auditory system white matter microstructure in the 16p11.2 deletion only partially accounted for the 20-ms M100 delay. Although both duplication and deletion groups exhibit abnormal white matter microstructure, only the deletion group has delayed M100 latency.

CONCLUSIONS: These results indicate that gene dosage impacts factors other than white matter microstructure, which modulate conduction velocity.

Read the full article here.