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.

U.S. Inquiry Finds a ‘Culture of Violence’ Against Teenage Inmates at Rikers Island

By Benjamin Weiser and Michael Schwirtz | The New York Times | 5 August 2014

In an extraordinary rebuke of the New York City Department of Correction, the federal government said on Monday that the department had systematically violated the civil rights of male teenagers held at Rikers Island by failing to protect them from the rampant use of unnecessary and excessive force by correction officers.

The office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, released its findings in a graphic 79-page report that described a “deep-seated culture of violence” against youthful inmates at the jail complex, perpetrated by guards who operated with little fear of punishment.

The report, addressed to Mayor Bill de Blasio and two other senior city officials, singled out for blame a “powerful code of silence” among the Rikers staff, along with a virtually useless system for investigating attacks by guards. The result was a “staggering” number of injuries among youthful inmates, the report said. Continue reading »

5 Disorders Share Genetic Risk Factors: Jordan Smoller in the NYT

Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, major depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, though seemingly unrelated, share several common genetic glitches, according to a study published by The Lancet this week, with CLBB faculty Jordan Smoller as lead author.

In the largest genetic study yet of psychiatric disorders, Smoller, in collaboration with the Cross-Disorder Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, analyzed genetic data from more than 60,000 people worldwide. Among their findings were that the five disorders shared abnormalities in two genes used in a major signaling system in the brain. What, if any, disorder those abnormalities might lead to is believed to depend on environmental or contributing genetic factors.

The findings could contribute to a new protocol for treating mental illness that would rely more heavily on genetic information and less on observed and reported symptoms.

The New York Times reported on the study, quoting Dr. Smoller: “What we identified here is probably just the tip of an iceberg,” said Dr. Jordan Smoller, lead author of the paper and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. “As these studies grow we expect to find additional genes that might overlap.”

Read full article in the New York Times.

View interview with Dr. Smoller on CBS This Morning: