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.

Video: Steven Pinker: “The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century”

On Thursday, November 20, 2014, at the Bornstein Amphitheater at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, CLBB and the Boston Society for Neurology and Psychiatry co-sponsored a talk by Steven Pinker, renowned Harvard cognitive psychologist, linguist, and popular author, to discuss his most recent book, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. Video of the event is included below in its entirety and at our Vimeo page. Continue reading »

Watch: “Free Will: What Can Physiology Explain?”

While we may believe that we choose and direct our movements consciously, the physiology of human motor control provides compelling evidence that this sense of conscious decision – free will – is a perception only.

On Thursday, October 2, 2014, at the Bornstein Amphitheater at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, CLBB and the Boston Society for Neurology and Psychiatry co-sponsored an event exploring how an understanding of human motor control can contribute to the question of free will. Video of the event is included below in its entirety and at our Vimeo page. Continue reading »

Dispatch: “Neuro-interventions and the Law” Conference

Dr. Ekaterina Pivovarova

Dr. Ekaterina Pivovarova

On September 12-14, 2014, the Atlanta Neuroethics Consortium was held at Georgia State University. The topic, Neuro-Interventions and the Law: Regulating Human Mental Capacity, brought together leading scholars on philosophy, neuroscience, law, cognitive and clinical psychology, psychiatry, and bioethics. The participants included Judge Andre Davis, Nita Farahany, Stephen Morse, Francis Shen, Walter Sinnot-Armstrong, Nicole Vincent, and Paul Root Wolpe. The conference panels, talks, and keynotes addressed pressing issues about managing and appropriately utilizing novel neuroscientific technologies as they relate to legal issues. Continue reading »

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. 

Brain Science and Criminal Justice: Promise, Peril, and a Path Forward

CLBB Executive Director Dr. Francis Shen presented his work on the ethics of emerging neurotechnologies and their criminal justice implications to the Science Policy Group at UC Berkeley. The Science Policy Group is composed of policy-minded scientists who are committed to bridging gaps between science, technology, policy, and equity. 

Brain Based Justice Reform: Psychiatry, Neuroscience and the Law

CLBB Co-Director and Co-Founder Judith Edersheim, JD, MD presented at the 3rd Annual Carol W. Taylor Grand Rounds, sponsored by the Massachusetts General Hospital Psychiatry Academy. 


Dr. Edersheim explained that for centuries, the law has been premised on a now outdated model of mental activity which is derived from a combination of philosophical theories of mind and stereotyped inferences from observed behavior. Modern neuroscience, with its ability to reveal the neurobiologic foundations of human behavior, has begun to influence legal standards, with the potential to revolutionize the law and promote just legal outcomes. This lecture briefly reviewed current legal conceptions of mental activity and the use of case studies to demonstrate how recent discoveries in the fields of adolescent neurodevelopment and the neurobiology of substance use have already begun to advance fairness and equity in the legal system. Watch the lecture here

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.