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.
On October 6, 2020, the 24th Judicial District Court in Louisiana held a Miller re-sentencing hearing in State of Louisiana v. Lawrence Jacobs, to determine Mr. Jacobs’ eligibility for parole. Jacobs was 16 when he was convicted of murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Describing the expert testimony of CLBB Associate Managing Director Dr. Robert Kinscherff as “the most helpful evidence” in the case, the court found that Jacobs’ offense had the features of transient immaturity and that Jacobs had demonstrated a capacity for embracing a positive way of life. The Court ruled that Jacobs was immediately eligible for parole. See the court’s opinion in this case here:
Highlight in the opinion: “The court finds that the most helpful evidence presented during the hearing was that which bore specifically upon defendant’s chances of rehabilitation… as Dr. Kinscherff, stated in his testimony, we don’t have to guess as to defendant’s capacity for embracing a positive way of life; we can see how he has developed.”
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’.”
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.
Attorneys and legal scholars are increasingly recognizing the implications of advances in neuroscience for doctrine and practice in areas such juvenile and emerging adult justice, criminal sentencing, brain injury litigation, elder justice, evidence law, disability law, and much more.
With this new support from the Dana Foundation, more professors and practitioners will be able to stay updated on these developments through three complementary streams: the Law and Neuroscience Bibliography, founded and hosted by the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience; the Neurolaw News, an email newsletter, providing critical updates in the bibliography, events, opportunities, and also curated by the Research Network; and a new Case Updates series disseminated by the MGH Center for Law, Brain & Behavior.
Providing leadership for this unique partnership are Professors Francis X. Shen and Owen D. Jones. Co-authors, along with Vanderbilt neuroscientist Jeffrey Schall, of Law and Neuroscience (2nd ed., 2020), Shen and Jones are amongst the nation’s leading authorities on neurolaw.
At Vanderbilt, Prof. Jones is the Glenn M. Weaver, M.D. and Mary Ellen Weaver Chair in Law, Brain, and Behavior; Professor of Law; Professor of Biological Sciences; and Director, MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience.
Dr. Shen the Executive Director of the MGH Center for Law, Brain & Behavior, Instructor in Psychology at Harvard Medical School, Senior Fellow in Law & Applied Neuroscience at the Petrie-Flom Center at Harvard Law School, and Executive Director of Education & Outreach for the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience. He is also is a law professor and faculty member in the Graduate Program on Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota, where he directs the Shen Neurolaw Lab.
“We are very grateful to the Dana Foundation for this support,” said Dr. Shen. “There are many exciting developments happening in the field of law and neuroscience, but few outlets regularly reporting on them. This partnership will allow us to sustain the great work of the Research Network on Law and Neuroscience, while expanding coverage of case developments through the Center on Law, Brain, and Behavior. This is an exciting, innovative partnership.”
The Dana Foundation is a private philanthropic organization dedicated to advancing understanding about the brain in health and disease through research grants and public outreach. The Foundation funds and coordinates programs on a range of brain and brain health topics for diverse audiences, including the globally successful Brain Awareness Week campaign. Its website, Dana.org, offers free articles, fact sheets, and lesson plans about brain function and health, all reviewed and approved by neuroscientists.
About the Partners
The Center for Law, Brain & Behavior at Mass General Hospital 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. The Center provides expert training, tools and counsel, helping members of the legal community understand and apply the most relevant brain science to the cases, courtroom procedures and policies they influence. Since its founding in 2008, CLBB has demonstrated the clear benefits of accurately applied neuroscience: better decisions aligned with science lead to better outcomes aligned with justice.
The Research Network on Law and Neuroscience, supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, addresses a focused set of closely-related problems at the intersection of neuroscience and criminal justice: 1) investigating law-relevant mental states of, and decision-making processes in, defendants, witnesses, jurors, and judges; 2) investigating in adolescents the relationship between brain development and cognitive capacities; and 3) assessing how best to draw inferences about individuals from group-based neuroscientific data.
The Shen Neurolaw Lab at the University of Minnesota Law School translates advances in brain science into better law and policy. The Lab motto is Every Story is a Brain Story. Recognizing that the promise of brain science must be balanced against the perils of premature and inappropriate uses, the Lab conducts research to better enable lawyers, courts, and policymakers to understand what, precisely, neuroscience can (and cannot) offer.
CLBB 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.
CLBB supports a wide range of actors across the legal ecosystem, including judges, lawyers, standard-setting authorities, case workers, pretrial administrators, parole and enforcement agents, and financial planners. We also support those working across the media landscape who can accurately inform the public about the brain, human behavior and the justice system.
The Center is led by accomplished legal and medical experts—practitioners, researchers and thought leaders—based at Harvard Law School, Mass General Hospital, Harvard Medical School and other leading institutions of learning.
Since our founding in 2008, we have demonstrated the clear benefits of accurately applied neuroscience: better decisions aligned with science lead to better outcomes aligned with justice.
Fellows will be mentored by an interdisciplinary team with expertise in law, neuroscience, medicine, ethics, and public policy. Start Date September 2021.
Please use this form http://clbb.mgh.harvard.edu/ejw/ if you are interested in a formal inquiry about pursuing an Equal Justice Works fellowship hosted by the Center for Law, Brain & Behavior (CLBB).
All formal inquiries will be reviewed on a rolling basis, and competitive candidates will receive a follow-up communication for an interview with CLBB leadership.
Please note that this is *not* the application for the Equal Justice Works fellowship, but rather a preliminary step for CLBB to identify a strong candidate to support as a host.
In your cover letter, you should clarify how your interests, personal background, and professional / educational experience are a good fit for our work at the intersection of neuroscience and juvenile and emerging adult justice.
For background on the work of CLBB relevant to the Equal Justice Works fellowship, please view this webinar hosted by CLBB Executive Director Dr. Francis Shen, JD, PhD. Also review the CLBB information sheet.