News and Commentary Archive

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

Mission

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.

Mental Health Moonshot: Unlocking Federal Funds for Psychedelics Research

 April 12, 2021, 12:00 PM

The U.S. needs a mental health moonshot.  

Inspired by the Apollo moon landing, moonshots are ambitious projects with monumental goals. The U.S. has a history of funding moonshots with federal tax dollars, and the Human Genome Project is one recent example. More recently, in 2016, President Obama and Vice President Biden announced the national Cancer Moonshot to dramatically improve the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. That year, Congress allocated $1.8 billion to fund the project.   

The U.S. needs an equally ambitious moonshot to address worsening mental health and substance use crises, leading causes of death exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there are significant barriers to researching a promising new class of drugs for treating mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders: psychedelic compounds, such as psilocybin and MDMA, which are tightly controlled by the Drug Enforcement Administration. In 2019, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez introduced a bipartisan bill to ease restrictions, which was rejected by the House of Representatives.

This panel discussed the need for an ambitious federally-funded mental health moonshot built around psychedelics and analyzed the obstacles to achieving it.   

Panelists

  • Introduction: Carmel Shachar, Executive Director, The Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School
  • Mason Marks, Assistant Professor of Law, Gonzaga University; Fellow in Ethics of Technological and Biomedical Innovation, Edmond J. Safra and Petrie-Flom Centers, Harvard University
  • Dr. Jerrold F. Rosenbaum, Advisory Board Member, Center for Law, Brain & Behavior (CLBB); Psychiatrist-in-Chief Emeritus and Director, Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders; and Director, Center for Neuroscience of Psychedelics, Massachusetts General Hospital 
  • Melissa Lavasani, Founder and Executive Director, Plant Medicine Coalition
  • Franklin King IV, MD, Psychiatrist, Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders; and Director, Training and Education, Center for Neuroscience of Psychedelics, Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Moderator: Elyssa Spitzer, JD, Senior Fellow in Law and Applied Neuroscience, CLBB and the Petrie-Flom Center 

View the fully captioned event video

This event is part of the Project on Law and Applied Neuroscience, a collaboration between the Center for Law, Brain & Behavior at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School. 

Policing and the Brain: How Neuroscience Can Contribute to Police Reform

March 31, 2021, 12:00 PM

The language of medical science has been used by law enforcement to justify police brutality. For example, a police officer present at the killing of George Floyd suggested that Floyd might have been experiencing “excited delirium,” a term that, while not recognized by major medical associations, is sometimes used by law enforcement to describe aggression resulting from illicit substance use.  

Though there is potential for problematic and biased use of medical science by law enforcement, could neuroscience hold promise for shaping evidence-based reforms?  

This panel on March 31st explored this question through a discussion of recent neuroscience research into emotions and the brain, and the significance of this research for police reform efforts. 

Panelists

  • Introduction: Carmel Shachar, Executive Director, The Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School
  • Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett, PhD, University Distinguished Professor, Northeastern University and Chief Scientific Officer, Center for Law, Brain & Behavior (CLBB)
  • Judge (Ret.) Andre M. Davis, JD, Advisory Board Member, CLBB; Circuit Judge (ret.), the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit; and City Solicitor (ret.), Baltimore City Department of Law 
  • Dr. Altaf Saadi, MD, MSc, Neurologist, Massachusetts General Hospital and Instructor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School
  • Moderator: Elyssa Spitzer, JD, Senior Fellow in Law and Applied Neuroscience, CLBB and the Petrie-Flom Center 

Learn more about the issues.

Watch the fully captioned event video

This event is part of the Project on Law and Applied Neuroscience, a collaboration between the Center for Law, Brain & Behavior at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School. 

Teaching Law and Neuroscience: A Book Launch for the 2nd Edition of the Law and Neuroscience Casebook

March 15, 2021, 12:00pm-1:00pm ET | Center for Law, Brain and Behavior

In 2014 the first Law and Neuroscience casebook was co-authored by Owen Jones, Jeffrey Schall, and CLBB Executive Director Francis Shen. Publication of the casebook and momentum in the field of neurolaw have contributed to the emergence of law and neuroscience courses in schools across the country. This year marks the publication of the second edition of the Law and Neuroscience casebook. Reflecting the speed at which the field is developing, 45% of cases and publications in the second edition were published since the first edition in 2014. The new edition includes over 600 new references and citations to recent developments, with 260 new readings, including 27 new case selections. 
This event served as a book launch for the new edition, and featured a dialogue between the co-authors of the casebook and two professors who are currently teaching from the new materials: CLBB Managing Director Judge (Ret.) Nancy Gertner, who introduced the first Law & Neuroscience course at Harvard Law School, and neuroscientist Dr. Sally Bernardina Seraphin, who created the first Law and Neuroscience course at Trinity College in Hartford, CT. All are welcome to watch the recording of the event to learn more about the field of neurolaw.

‘I’m extremely controversial’: the psychologist rethinking human emotion

The Guardian | September 25, 2020

CLBB Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett is featured in this article for her pathbreaking work on how the emotions and the brain.

Highlight: “Barrett argues that the universal components of human experience are not emotions, but changes on a continuum of arousal on the one hand, and pleasantness and unpleasantness on the other. The term for this is “affect”. It is a basic feature of consciousness, and people in different cultures learn to mold this raw material into emotional experiences in different ways. So you can have high arousal and high pleasantness, and your brain might construct ‘ecstasy’, or low arousal and high unpleasantness and you might create ‘misery’.”

Read the full article here.

Full of fear, but fun … riding a rollercoaster in Domodedovo, Russia. Photograph: Gavriil Grigorov/Tass

TED MED Talk: Every Story Is A Brain Story

Boston, MA | September 2020 

CLBB Executive Director Francis Shen’s TED MED 2020 talk — Why Every Story is a Brain Story — is now available for viewing online. In this talk Dr. Shen explores how neuroscience can transform the law. TED MED 2020’s theme was “Make Way for Wonder” and Dr. Shen commented: When I make way for wonder, I see the law and the legal system not as they are, but as they can become.

Click here to view the full video.